Natural England - Sustainable use of the sea

Sustainable use of the sea

Natural England is working, with others, to achieve the UK government vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas that are used sustainably.

As the government’s adviser on the England’s inshore marine environment, our purpose is to provide advice to ensure that our marine environment is protected and enhanced for both its intrinsic value and as a resource for sustainable use.


Wind farms

By harnessing the wind to generate electricity, marine renewable developments will play a major role in helping the UK government to deliver its targets. Areas covering 1400 sq. km of seabed have been made available through two rounds of windfarm development, with a third announced in January 2010.

Six offshore windfarms have been built, which are generating 3.5 GW of renewable energy. There are a number of others either under construction or planned for the near future, to provide a further 5.5 GW of energy. Round 3 is set to deliver a massive 25GW of energy, with construction due to begin in 2014. (All figures from Crown Estates)

Wave and tidal energy

In addition to wind turbines, other marine renewable energy devices are designed to extract energy from waves or tidal streams and transfer it (usually in the form of electricity) to land.

  • Tidal power devices are beginning to be deployed with a small tidal current turbine near Lynmouth in Devon and a second tidal energy device being installed in the Humber. This follows the recent installation of the much larger 1.2MW Strangford Lough turbine (Northern Ireland).

  • There are currently very few practical wave devices in operation, with even the most advanced being still at the demonstration stage. Test site facilities for wave and tidal renewable energy devices include Orkney (European Marine Energy Centre) and Cornwall (Wave Hub).

Natural England’s role in renewables at sea

Natural England supports marine renewable energy generation as part of a strategic approach to emissions reduction.

Natural England is working with all concerned, including through close and early engagement with developers and producing guidance, to ensure that marine renewable projects are designed and built in the right location and in the right way to avoid significant impacts on wildlife, natural features and landscape.

We aim to work with developers to identify solutions that avoid, reduce or compensate for potentially damaging impacts and aim to secure a sustainable development along with the appropriate protection of important habitats and species.

We are also interested in the potential benefit of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy farms to marine stewardship in general and specific issues such as marine protected areas.

Severn Barrage

Natural England has been fully engaged with the government-led Severn Tidal Power Feasibility study and has been providing DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) with advice and evidence relevant to the natural environment. The study seeks to decide, in the context of the Government’s energy and climate change goals and the alternative options for achieving these, on what terms Government could support a tidal power scheme in the Severn Estuary.

The Severn Estuary is a unique and internationally important site with the second highest tidal range in the world and has internationally important populations of wintering birds, rare fish populations and important coastal habitats. It is internationally designated as a Special Protection Area, a candidate Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site.

Sea fisheries

Fishing is one of the most widespread activities in the marine environment.

The most common methods of fishing involve towed fishing gear such as trawls or dredges pulled through water. Depending on the species to be caught, these can be either demersal (towed on the seabed) or pelagic (towed clear of the seabed). In shallower, inshore waters, static fishing methods are more common, such as the use of baited pots or traps, baited hooks on set lines and fixed nets.

Natural England has an interest in marine fisheries, in particular on the impacts of different fishing activities on marine habitats and species. We are supporting legislative and management measures to ensure that vulnerable or endangered species, particularly BAP species, for example common or white skate, are protected.

We are also strongly committed to helping government and fisheries managers to develop more sustainable approaches to fisheries management generally. We need to ensure that designated sites, and in particular European Marine Sites are not negatively impacted by fishing activities.

Natural England is working with the other country agencies (Joint Nature Conservation Comittee, Scottish Natural Heritage and Countryside Council for Wales), the Marine Management Organisation, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities and Defra to contribute to the development of sustainable fisheries.