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Celebrating the end of the Celtic Seas Partnership


The end of March marked the end of WWF’s flagship marine project: the Celtic Seas Partnership. For me as the Project Manager this marked the end of an era. It was incredibly satisfying for me to see the culmination of such inspirational work from the hundreds of people involved in the project in the UK, Ireland and France.

The sea is a part of our culture and our identity

The sea means different things to different people- for some it is a source of food or income, for others it is a place to relax and enjoy. Over the course of the project we’ve worked with a huge diversity of sea-users, from the fishing industry to tourism operators, government officials and marine scientists. The main thing that all these people have in common is they want to see a healthy marine environment.

Why are the Celtic Seas important?

The Celtic Seas surround the UK, Ireland and north-western France. This area includes a wide range of habitats and is home to some amazing wildlife, from whales, dolphins, sharks and seals to cold-water corals and slow-growing maerl beds. Some 23 million people live in the Celtic Seas region, and many more across Europe depend on the area for their livelihoods and wellbeing.

It is estimated that the region supports 400,000 jobs and is worth £15 billion per year to the economies of France, Ireland and the UK. The Celtic Seas haven’t always been managed in the most sustainable way. Increasing demand for resources, ineffective management and climate change have all caused environmental damage and put some vulnerable species and habitats at risk. This then puts industries and peoples’ jobs at risk as a healthy economy needs healthy seas. In the Celtic Seas Partnership project we worked closely with the people that use the sea to develop new approaches to managing their activities in a more sustainable way. From working with these people, it was clear to see that they cared passionately about making sure the Celtic Seas are healthy and properly looked after.

Newlyn, Cornwall ©Jiri Rezac / WWF-UKNewlyn, Cornwall ©Jiri Rezac / WWF-UK

What did the project achieve?

The Celtic Seas Partnership has achieved a great deal since it began in 2013. As well as holding over 20 workshops, we’ve produced a number of best practice guidelines to support people in better managing their activities in the Celtic Seas and carried out a ground-breaking study to look at future trends in the Celtic Seas. The future trends study highlighted that this is an important time for the Celtic Seas – the seas are predicted to get much busier  and this could cause conflict and damage the environment if managed badly. If managed well this could create many more jobs and increase the contribution that the Celtic Seas make to the economy. For this to happen management decisions need to be made in an open and transparent way, involving everyone that will be affected.

Visit the Celtic Seas Partnership website for a closer look at the resources we produced.

What did the people involved think?

An independent evaluator carried out a final evaluation of the project. They found that what people valued most was the unique opportunity to meet and work with others from different sectors and different countries. The project also helped to improve people’s understanding of marine policy and empower them to get involved in shaping policy. This has created a better environment for implementing the policy which should in turn bring environmental improvements in the future.

Blue Shark near sea surface.

Watch out for our new SEAS programme…

Following on from the Celtic Seas Partnership, WWF will be moving on to work on the UK SEAS programme. The SEAS programme will  protect precious marine wildlife and places across the UK by improving the way that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are managed.

Thank you to our partners and funders

The €4 million project was made possible thanks to a range of organisations and individuals. We delivered the project with our partners the University of Liverpool, SeaWeb Europe, The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly in Ireland and the Natural Environment Research Council (BODC). The EU’s environment-funding instrument LIFE+ was the principal backer, and there was additional support from the Peter Dixon Charitable Trust, Next, Marks & Spencer, the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and many others (including almost £400,000 in legacy bequests).

The generous funding we received from prominent backers reflects the importance of the region’s maritime heritage, as well as a growing national interest in marine conservation.

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