Seeking balance

The objective of the ‘Seeking Balance’ project, run in 2013-15, was to develop and trial a new and more effective way of getting a higher number of more diverse stakeholders involved in thinking about management measures for new MPAs to support decision-making. The aim was to help develop a set of recommended management measures that had been thought through and understood by the local community.

The project focused on the two new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) at Kingmere and Beachy Head West in Sussex. Both these sites were designated in November 2013 and both are used by multiple stakeholders and are very important to the people who use them.

Marine Conservation Zones, by their nature, create an opportunity for management measures to be designed to accommodate and manage multiple uses of the sites while protecting specific species or habitats.

Given that management measures in these sites can impact on activities and livelihoods both positively and negatively project partners shared a commitment to ensure that affected people were involved and had a chance for their voice to be heard.

We created a documentary film based on interviews with 41 people across Sussex which was screened at 6 workshops between Littlehampton and Hastings. Interviews included a section focusing on sense of place and the non-monetary aspects of participants’ relationship with the coast and sea in Sussex, which revealed some of the common ground and shared value that exists between different stakeholders in the region. Capturing these values and presenting them in the film screened at each workshop meant that they were present in deliberation and some participants reflected that this was beneficial in supporting improved dialogue with others that they had not engaged with before.

The outcomes of these workshops and follow up meetings with particular groups helped the local regulator, the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) to develop management proposals for the two sites. These proposals were approved by the IFCA Committee and eventually set as byelaws which came into force in 2017.

This project exemplified effective collaborative working. While MCS and other partners brought resource and a particular skillset to the work, the local IFCA was the critical partner that made it possible for community views and values to be reflected in the resulting management measures for sites. They embraced the opportunity to adopt approaches that took into account of a broader range of criteria and values and fully engaged in all aspects of the planning and development of the project.


The ‘Seeking Balance’ in Sussex in 2013-15 was a collaborative project led by the Marine Conservation Society working with the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), and local stakeholders with support from Community Voice Consulting, the Scottish Association of Marine Science and the University of the Highlands and Islands. The project was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, UK Branch with support from the Bromley Trust and the Green Britain Foundation.

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