The European Regional Development Fund has made an award of EUR5,825,462 for the completion of the third and final phase of the Channel Habitat Atlas for Marine Resource Management (CHARM), a project in which the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent has played a major role.
The primary aim of this atlas is to act as a contemporary reference source for the Channel's marine environment and to provide decision-makers with the necessary information to help in the management of marine ecosystems and living resources, including 16 fish species. It has long been considered essential that France and the UK have a common vision for the protection of these ecosystems and for the utilisation of their shared marine resources, which are presently suffering the consequences of decline in certain species.
Since 2004, DICE has led a series of Anglo-French projects to create an atlas containing all known data relating to the English Channel's marine biological resources. The first phase of the project (CHARM 1) involved mapping the Eastern part of the Channel, and the second (CHARM 2) extended its ambit to the mid-Channel. Now, with the funding for the third phase firmly in place, the partnership will be able to extend its remit to the entire Channel, and involve a new and even wider range of cross-channel partners.
Stuart Harrop, Professor of Wildlife Management Law at DICE and Project Leader of the previous two phases of CHARM, said: 'The English Channel is the world's most crowded shipping lane, and also contains vital marine and other extractive resources, such as gravel and aggregate, of great economic importance to Europe. Policies and laws in this context relating to fisheries, resource use, water quality, pollution and shipping derive from international and European Union sources in addition to UK and French regulation.
'With all of these pressures, close and informed collaboration between the UK and France in this complex geographical and regulatory area is vital to protect the Channel's resources. The Atlas is a single and dynamic source designed to present regulators, policymakers and researchers with most of the information required to enable the resources of the English Channel to be utilised sustainably and thus to be maintained for future generations.'
Professor Harrop also explained that in the spirit of cross-channel collaboration fostered by CHARM, management of CHARM 3 will pass to the Institut Francais de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer, DICE's original French counterpart. 'Nevertheless,' he added, 'DICE staff will play a key role in examining spatial planning strategies in the Channel and assessing European fisheries polices and regulation in the light of existing law, and implementation of law and policy, by both France and the UK.'
Professor John Baldock, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Kent, said: 'The success of this project very clearly shows DICE's ability to network and build partnerships, while exploiting our position as part of the 'UK's European university.''