Marine ‘Econology’ is a prerequisite for the successful integration of the Integrated Maritime Policy. It concerns the integration of economic development and ecological sustainability. The objective is to attain and maintain a balance between economic development and the protection of the environment. This approach will be adopted in the development of the Blue Economy.
This balance can be reached through the consolidation of regulatory studies. Marine Knowledge is a key component in providing the information for the sustainable use of natural resources in the marine and coastal environments, and to ensure effective and sustainable plans for exploitation.
Maritime Spatial Planning
Coastal and marine related economic activities, if not properly managed, have the potential to produce undesirable environmental outcomes, particularly if such activities are not assigned well to the most suitable offshore locations. .
The European Parliament and the Council adopted Directive 2014/89 establishing a European framework for maritime spatial planning in an effort for Member States to develop national maritime spatial plans by 2021. The scope of the National legislation is to improve transparency in the planning process so as to encourage investments and facilitate a balanced approach between relevant sectors and stakeholders. This will be achieved by deploying maritime spatial planning as a mechanism to ensure coherence between environmental, societal and economic objectives. The plans will be subject to reviews every ten years.
The intensive use of Maltese waters for cultural, social and economic purposes, all, indicate that Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is needed both to improve the synergy and efficiency between users and also to avoid the degradation of natural resources, and conflicts in their exploitation. Maritime spatial planning is complimentary to integrated coastal zone management, which helps in facilitating an interaction between land- and sea-borne activities. MSP and ICZM are implemented in a coordinated way with a view to sustainable development of the coastal and maritime areas. These tools become even more vital when considering future projects such as sustainable land reclamation. Planning is only one element of the marine spatial management process. This process includes additional elements of implementation, enforcement, monitoring, evaluation, research, public participation, and financing—all of which must be present to carry out effective management over time. The Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED, 2015) is intended to replace the Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands of 1990 and is to provide a strategic spatial policy framework. This framework will incorporate both environment protection and also development up to the year 2020, thereby complimenting Government’s social, economic and environmental objectives vision for the same period.
Special Marine Protection Areas
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are specialised designated zones of the seas and coasts where marine life is protected and preserved. Marine Protected Areas are essential for healthy functioning and resilient ecosystems. MPAs are intended to protect and restore the ecosystems in our seas and around our coasts whilst ensuring that the species and habitats thrive.
Special marine protected areas (SPAs) include zones which include underwater cultural heritage, (e.g., wrecks, ruins, submerged landscapes, wells and traces of marine exploitation but also caves and natural formations which have resulted from natural disasters.
The effective management of MPAs will lead to employment and economic activities exceeding the costs involved for the proper management of the respective sites.
The Government is committed to establishing and maintaining Marine Protection Areas, whilst collaborating with neighbouring countries to establish MPAs in high seas. This will increase economic opportunities through proper management of resources.
The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) promotes sustainable use of water, based on long-term protection of available water resources and aims at enhancing protection and the improvement of the aquatic environment, through specific measures for the progressive reduction and phasing-out of discharges, emissions and losses of priority hazardous substances.
The prime objective of Marine Strategy Framework Directive is to achieve “Good Environmental Status” of the Marine Environment up to 2020. These goals need to be achieved within the context of sustainable development whilst also enabling the growth of the economic sectors. Malta has already carried out an initial assessment on its environmental status finalised in 2013. This initial assessment has identified threats, mitigating factors to establishing quantitatively what good environmental status means for Malta. A distinct lack of data has been identified as one of the main factors which negate efforts towards achieving GES.
Malta is actively participating in the Mediterranean region to promote regional coherency in pollution control and prevention. The Mediterranean, as a region, has lagged behind in achieving environmental objectives which has subsequently resulted in an increased level of pollution. The need to intensify all efforts therefore and address the various sources of marine pollution increases in urgency, e.g., in relation to persistent organic pollutants, nitrates, hydrocarbons, lost or abandoned fishing gear and others. In addition, EU environmental related legislation such as the Marine Strategy Framework, and Maritime Spatial Planning Directives both require the application of an ecosystem-based approach. Such an approach is intended to promote the sustainable development growth of the maritime and coastal economies through sustainable resource application. Implementing an ‘Ecosystem-based approach’ requires specific sea-basin scientific knowledge and data. Data resources are then interpreted into information to guide the national approach to the sustainable development of its offshore, and also, in the case of Malta to establish a regionally-harmonised based approach, i.e., The Sea-Basin Strategy for the Western Mediterranean. .This is a challenging endeavour, but Malta will support the establishment of a macro-regional Sea-Basin Strategy for the West Mediterranean that will lead to an enhanced level of cooperation between the respective States with the aim of achieving sustainable economic development and prosperity within the region.
1. A legislative framework with an overarching goal of promoting the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources to provide a foundation for the holistic management of all marine resources. . All parties concerned must be legally bound to consistently undertake their business activities in accordance with established overriding goals.
2. Optimal Zoning is a key underpinning element to achieve the envisioned sustainable exploitation of finite natural resources. In an effort to achieve this goal, it is imperative that the National Maritime Spatial Plans being implemented by the National Planning Authority are incorporated as a part of the Integrated Maritime Policy objectives, in a coordinated and balanced manner.
3. Feasibility studies will be properly undertaken to ascertain successful, coherent and sustainable development of growth opportunities. These will include environmental impact assessments on potential innovative development opportunities such as land reclamation and LNG bunkering
The sphere of Environmental protection provides an opportunity to develop Marine Protected Areas. These will in turn, lead to opportunities in the coastal, marine and nautical tourism and scientific research sectors amongst others. MPAs offer economic benefits too which can be derived and sustained through a balanced use of resources whilst at the same time through sustainable management protecting the integrity of the ecological systems.