The UK MPA Project began with a review of the HPMA report issued by Richard Benyon in 2020. This report identified a number of gaps and need for increased protection for a range of existing MPAs around the UK.

Following the analysis of the HPMA report, a working group was convened of the regulators and enforcement community for candidate sites, including national and local bodies, in order to identify the key stakeholders and their requirements. It is important that the project was community led to ensure that the enforcement outcomes meet the objectives for each individual MPA within the unique context it resides.

With an understanding of the planned scope and desired outcomes of the project, the working group submitted recommendations for sites where trialling the technology and enforcement approach would be most beneficial. Each site submission included the problems faced by the site, site specific context such as what is under protection, what management is in place, and what policies and bylaws existed. The submissions were scored based on the answers provided and five sites were selected with differing characteristics where demonstration of increased enforcement potential would lead to improved environmental outcomes.

For each site, research into current practices and capacity was conducted, and a strategic risk assessment carried out that reviewed all historical satellite and remote sensing data available to help inform the patterns and trends of activity in and around the site. In addition, a compliance review was conducted to identify possible historical non-compliance to inform hotspots of activity, seasonal trends, and any other useful insights that would inform future enforcement planning. To complement this approach, social research helped to increase understanding from a user perspective and interviews with key stakeholders gave a fuller more realistic view of activity and impact. This also highlighted some of the socio-economic impacts of MPA designation on those who rely on the marine environment for a living. You can read a summary of these assessments in the Risk and Technology Assessment Report.

With risk assessments completed it was possible to develop detailed intelligence led site-specific approaches to support enforcement initiatives selecting from the available data sources to detect the identified threats, and build a timeline of application that focused resources on the times and locations of highest risk in order to ensure the strongest enforcement outcome. Enforcement outcomes required were specific to each site and developed from compliance theory. You can find more detail in the Technology Trial Plan Report.

For each site the plan was then carried out, deploying satellite resources, drones, and other remote sensing technologies to identify suspected non-compliant activities and qualify the technology’s veracity for enforcement.

The final step was to collate the results of all of the trials in order to deliver a report with key recommendations for how enforcement practices could be enhanced with advanced technology to increase environmental outcomes and accelerate marine protection to reverse biodiversity decline and restore ocean health. The Final Project Report was delivered to the working group and broader policy stakeholders.

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