The effectiveness of particularly sensitive sea areas as a protective measure: A case study of the Wadden Sea PSSA
: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Southampton Solent University for the degree of Master of Philosophy

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) are designated by the International Maritime Organisation in order to offer protection to marine areas that are vulnerable to the impacts of international shipping and maritime activities. The concept of PSSAs dates back to 1978, however it was not until 1990 that the Great Barrier Reef became the first designated PSSA. Since then the guidelines for designation of an area as a PSSA have been amended several times. However the question of whether designated PSSAs are afforded greater protection from shipping is debateable. This research attempts to establish whether the PSSA designation is an effective protective mechanism. This was investigated by undertaking an evaluation of the Wadden Sea PSSA, which was designated in 2002.
    A framework was developed that enabled an evaluation of the Wadden Sea PSSA. To develop the evaluative framework existing international and regional environmental protection agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and IUCN Marine Protected Areas were reviewed to identify the processes involved for identification and assessment of protected areas. The findings of this exercise informed the choice of the pressure, state, response basis for the evaluation and the identification of an indicator suite in order to assess the environmental quality of the area. Indicators utilised were those that had a clear shipping signal and which were also of high relevance to the Wadden Sea PSSA.
    The findings of the evaluation of the Wadden Sea were somewhat inconclusive. Whilst the Wadden Sea has been monitored for environmental quality for many years and appears to be in a healthy state it is unclear whether this is directly linked with the designation of the area as a PSSA and/or the suite of other multiple protective designations currently in place. With respect to the PSSA specifically, there was no baseline data which could form the basis of a detailed spatial or temporal analysis, there was disparity and inconsistency of data available and a general lack of data with a clear shipping signal. From the evaluation undertaken it was clear that major issues when trying to measure the effectiveness of a PSSA were firstly, the lack of requirement for undertaking a comprehensive risk analysis of the proposed PSSA prior to designation which would provide clear and appropriate baseline data. Secondly, the lack of a formal monitoring and assessment programme to be instigated at the time of designation, which would ensure appropriate data was available for temporal and spatial analysis. Finally a major issue related to the lack of stakeholder knowledge and understanding of the location, function and purpose of a PSSA once the designation had been agreed and put in place.
    Date of AwardJun 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Nottingham Trent University

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