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Unlike on land where SACs, SPAs and RAMSAR sites are underpinned by legislation allowing for the designation and management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), there is no existing legislative framework for implementing the Habitats Directive in marine areas. The Habitats Regulations state that the relevant authorities may establish a management scheme for a EMS (Regulation 34). The management scheme is intended to provide a mechanism for relevant authorities to set the framework within which their activities will be managed, either voluntarily or through legislation, to achieve the nature conservation objectives of the site, and thereby give effect to their statutory duties under Habitats Regulation 3 (3) and 3 (4).

The scheme will encourage the wise use of an area without detriment to the environment, based on the principle of sustainability. European marine sites have been selected with many activities already taking place and it is recognised that these are normally compatible with the conservation interest at their current levels.

It is not the aim to exclude human activities from European marine sites, but rather to ensure that they are undertaken in ways that do not threaten the nature conservation interest. Only those activities that would cause deterioration or disturbance to the features for which a site has been designated need to be subject to restrictions under a management scheme.

The management scheme for the Severn Estuary European Marine Site does not set out to be a static management scheme, but an ongoing process that aids decision-making and continually evolves to take into account changing issues and legal obligations. It considers whether activities are causing adverse effects and, if so, how such activities can be regulated by relevant authorities to prevent damage to the site. It is hoped that recognition of any damaging practices will lead to a change for the long term sustainability of the site, which will fulfil the requirements of the Habitats regulations, but also allow the Severn Estuary to be a resource for future generations.

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