The natural capital approach brings together environmental, social and economic information into one assessment framework, and focusses on making explicit how the different components of the environment are important for people. This holistic framework, with its emphasis on the value of the environment, has the potential to support many areas of marine decision-making. However, natural capital is a relatively new concept for marine management, and examples that demonstrate successful use of the approach in practice are lacking.
In our new report 'Case studies on the natural capital approach in marine decision making: The development of fisheries management byelaws' (JNCC Report No. 685), we document some real-world marine management applications.
The report presents three short case studies to demonstrate how the natural capital approach is beginning to be used to support specific management strategies: how the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) used the natural capital approach in developing a near-shore trawling byelaw to protect kelp habitats; how the Isles of Scilly IFCA is following suit for a byelaw to protect subtidal sandbanks and reefs; and offshore, we explore the emerging incorporation of the natural capital approach in conservation advice and consultation documents for Marine Protected Area management.
These case studies show how different organisations have applied the natural capital approach at different stages of the decision process, from adoption of the overarching conceptual framework and language, to specific methods used to collate supporting evidence (which include in particular those developed as part of Defra’s Marine Pioneer Programme).
The successful outcome of the Sussex IFCA byelaw review further demonstrates that the natural capital approach is sufficiently robust to support the development of legally enforceable management measures in the marine environment. More generally, the report shows that organisations have embraced the concepts the approach encapsulates and have used them for communicating the need for, and aims and objectives of, management measures.