The Irish Sea Maritime Forum was developed following a seminar series sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) entitled “Transnational Partnership Working in Support of Marine Spatial Planning in the Irish Sea”. This aimed to connect the findings of an ESRC/NERC Trans-disciplinary Seminar Series which had taken place previously on ‘New Approaches to Managing Ecosystem Services in the Marine Environment’ to the emerging marine spatial planning arrangements for the Irish Sea in order to facilitate improved transnational stakeholder collaboration.
The objectives of the project were:
1. To disseminate the partnership working findings of the recent ESRC/NERC Trans-disciplinary Seminar Series to a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in marine spatial planning for the Irish Sea;
2. To explore how transnational partnership working might assist national level marine spatial planning activity in the Irish Sea;
3. To draw upon wider European experience of transnational partnership working related to marine spatial planning in order to inform discussion about possible new arrangements in the Irish Sea context;
4. To review existing transnational partnership initiatives in the Irish Sea in order to consider how these relate to the future needs of marine spatial planning and to identify potential gaps; and
5. To develop an agreed plan of action to foster improved transnational partnership working in support of national level marine spatial planning and a joined up approach to action in the Irish Sea.
These objectives guided the content of two stakeholder workshops which were held in Liverpool and Dublin in 2011. Following the two meetings, an overview report was prepared by Sue Kidd of Liverpool University; this includes summaries of stakeholder discussions and next steps to be taken by stakeholders to facilitate further transnational partnership working in the Irish Sea.
As an outcome of these workshops, the Irish Sea Maritime Forum was launched at a very successful event held at the landmark Titanic Belfast on 28th June 2012. Attended by 80 delegates from around the Irish Sea, the Key Note Address was delivered by the Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood MLA. Delegates were updated on marine planning in each of the administrative areas in the Irish Sea, with talks from Eugene Nixon of the Irish Marine Institute, Anna Donald, Head of Marine Planning and Strategy, Marine Scotland, Steve Brooker, Head of Marine Planning, Marine Management Organisation, Liz Charter, Chair of Marine Spatial Planning Officer Group, Isle of Man Government and Dr Anthony Quinn of the Irish Planning Institute. Although no-one from the Welsh Government was able to attend information on the state of play in Wales had been sent and this was included in the delegate packs. In the afternoon Flo Clucas, Leadership Group for the Atlantic Forum updated delegates on forthcoming opportunities in EU funding and regional seas strategy and Dr Stephen Atkins of the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority gave an interesting and sometimes challenging perspective on Irish Sea working which prepared the delegates well for the workshop session that followed.