Suffolk Marine Pioneer

Suffolk Marine Pioneer

This page outlines the essentials of the Suffolk Marine Pioneer. Detailed articles, including on the value of nature, the outputs of the Pioneer and the photography competition can be found in the menu on the right hand side of the screen.

The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was selected to host one of the four Pioneer projects commissioned to inform and influence how the country manages the natural environment into the future. The Suffolk Marine Pioneer is trialling the implementation of the ‘natural capital approach’ as part of the  Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, announced by Theresa May on Thursday 11th January 2018. The Suffolk Marine Pioneer is exploring how the natural capital approach works in practice be examining Suffolk’s marine features, habitats and processes that provide a valued benefit to the people living and working at the coast.

The natural environment provides us with many benefits we enjoy in our day-to-day lives, many of which we don’t fully appreciate. It can however, only do this if the environment is healthy and functional. The scale and rate at which we have been changing our environment, even in protected area, like AONB, is putting the functionality of the natural world at risk. This means the value we derive from our environment is threatened, potentially making our lives much poorer.

Whether we realise it or not, humans have always taken benefit from nature and we’ve used it to make our lives better. These benefits might be obvious -  like fish from the sea, or timber from trees. More commonly however, it is very difficult to understand and value such benefits. This is because they are often indirect or require a combination of different processes to realise.  It is because nature is difficult to value that it is often given a default value of zero when it comes to economic decision making, and so very often written off.

The idea behind the natural capital approach is to ensure the benefits we obtain from the natural environment are valued and can be accounted for in decision making.  The natural capital theory states that if we can recognise the value of nature in our decision making we are much more likely to protect the function of nature that provides our benefit.

This logic underpins the Government’s plan for the leaving the natural environment in a better state in 25 years’ time that it is now. The Suffolk Marine Pioneer offers business, community and the public sector a chance to lead the way forward to a better, greener tomorrow.


Why is the Marine Pioneer set in Suffolk?

DEFRA established the Pioneer projects with the aim of testing new and novel mechanisms to management the natural environment. The Pioneer projects test these mechanisms across important environments throughout England.Two sites were selected for the Marine Pioneer, One in Suffolk and one in North Devon.

 The Suffolk coast was chosen for a number of reasons, not least because of the diversity and  variety of environment that exists within Suffolk. Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Chair, Cllr David Woods makes the case very well; “The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is delighted to be one of the forerunners to test the 25 Year Environment plan. The Suffolk Marine Pioneer offers an opportunity to recognise the long and successful history of environmental innovation on the Suffolk Coast and a chance to share learning more widely.  The richness and diversity of our local marine environment, allied with the skills and experience of those working for it presents the ideal setting for the Marine Pioneer to take steps to reach the goal of leaving the natural environment in a better state than we found it.


Who is working on the Marine Pioneer?

The Marine Pioneer is being coordinated strategically by the Marine Management Organisation and is directed locally by the Suffolk Pioneer Steering Group. The Steering group comprises of representatives from the conservation sector, local government, fisheries organisations and the statutory nature conservation bodies who have been instrumental in defining how the Suffolk Marine Pioneer will deliver.

The Pioneer is delivering it’s objectives by working with a number of local initiatives, most notably the established Suffolk Estuary Groups, notably the Deben Estuary Partnership, The Blyth Estuary Management Group, The Alde & Ore Partnership and the River Deben Association.  In supporting this work, the Pioneer has been working with a range of research institutions to provide scientific data to inform the case for natural capital.  Essex University, The University of Cambridge, UEA, CEFAS, amongst others have all contributed greatly to the Pioneer’s understanding of how a natural capital approach works in practice.


How will the Marine Pioneer deliver?

The Pioneer is working with communities, businesses and the public sector to explore ways in which joint working can produce multiple  benefits for the local environment, people and business.

 The Suffolk Marine Pioneer will share its examples of best practice and any recommendations it has with its sister pioneer projects in Devon, Cumbria and Manchester as well as with government who are looking to develop their 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state than it was around the findings of the Pioneer.


When is the Pioneer going to make an impact?

The Suffolk Marine Pioneer was established to inform the development and implementation of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan,  The Pioneer started work in June 2017 with  funding to deliver findings and recommendations over 3 years to March 2020. The outputs of the Pioneer are expected to feed into local and national learning, with the possibility of each recommendation made within Suffolk influencing positive changes for the entire country over the next 25 years.


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