Major research initiative to support marine economy deal with future shocks

 Credit Louisa Evans

Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Louisa Evans

A new research programme will investigate and strengthen the resilience, wellbeing and sustainability of UK coastal communities.

Sustainable Development and Resilience of UK Coastal Communities (ROCC), led by the University of Exeter, is one of six new projects to receive a share of £9.2 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The UKRI funding aims to “build the marine economy while protecting ecosystems and communities”.

ROCC will focus on diverse marine sectors in Devon and Cornwall to develop evidence, tools and partnerships that can be replicated around the UK.

It will develop a “nexus perspective” for resilience, wellbeing and sustainability – meaning that any solution for one objective must equally consider the other two areas.

“Coastal communities have been left behind by the UK’s national development agenda, and face accelerating and new risks from climate change, COVID-19 and Brexit,” said Principal Investigator Dr Louisa Evans, of the University of Exeter.

“Many people in coastal communities rely on ocean resources, including fisheries and offshore renewable energy, and their identities depend on the health of the marine environment and the benefits these ecosystems provide to society.”

“Our ROCC programme will identify how people and livelihoods can be more resilient to environmental, regulatory and socio-cultural change, while also improving the wellbeing of coastal communities and the health of the marine environment. We will deliver these triple benefits across different projects and policies, ranging from sustainable seafood and marine apprenticeship schemes to coastal heritage decision-making and marine conservation policy “

Dr Evans added: “Marine resources and coastal heritage are some of the country’s greatest assets.

“I am over the moon to have this opportunity to work with Defra and local, regional and national partners to help coastal communities and marine ecosystems thrive now and in the future.”

Partners involved in ROCC are: Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Marine Management Organisation, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, Cornwall Council’s Strategic Historic Environment team, Devon Maritime Forum, and Sole of Discretion.

Caroline Bennett, of Sole of Discretion, said: “Sole of Discretion CIC is delighted to be working alongside Louisa and her team at the University of Exeter to help bring about resilience for our coastal communities, and to develop fisheries with a lower environmental footprint for the conscientious consumer and beyond.”

Steven Guilbert, of Devon Maritime Forum, said: “We work collectively toward shared solutions and the sustainable management of the region’s marine resources.

“The nexus approach that we will co-develop in ROCC has the potential to not only inform, but to revolutionise, how we work and how we approach multi-sectoral dialogue.

“It will allow us to speak across and better integrate our key areas of interest, namely: blue growth, marine conservation, and climate and coastal change, which in turn can lead to more effective and sustainable policy outcomes for the marine environment in Devon and the wider South-West peninsula.”

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