Report 349
Collation and Mapping of data for the Irish Sea Pilot
Report to Defra by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Lumb, C., Webster, M., Golding, N., Atkins, S. and Vincent, M.A.
© Defra 2004

Executive Summary

This report sets out the aims of the data and mapping element of the Irish Sea Pilot and the experience of acquiring data from partner organisations. It considers some of the key issues arising from this work and develops a series of Irish Sea Pilot recommendations for data collation and mapping. The report includes a catalogue of the spatial data sets acquired.
Data collation & mapping
The Pilot identified and prioritised those data sets that were considered most relevant to testing the marine nature conservation framework. Data on coastal boundaries, geophysical and hydrographical characteristics, protected areas, natural resources and human uses of the Irish Sea were acquired and mapped using a geographic information system (GIS) (see data catalogue, Annex 1). Public, private and non-government organisation (NGO) sector bodies contributed data and some were collated by contractors or used under license. Difficulties were encountered in obtaining habitat, species and human activity data associated with lack of availability, incompatible formats and cost. There was reluctance of both public agencies (because of internal costs) and private sector (commercial value) data holders to release information. Data acquisition was continued beyond the scheduled deadline (31 March 2003) to address some of the difficulties but was concluded at 31 May 2003 in order to move on to other tasks. The information available on habitats, species and human activities was patchy or of poor quality. Complete Irish Sea coverage was not obtained for some data topics. Many of the data sets identified and collated by the Pilot would be needed to inform regional sea planning and management, but the catalogue is not intended to comprehensively scope data requirements for this purpose.


A wide consultation on the report was undertaken during August and September 2003. Responses to the consultation have been taken into account in this final report and recommendations.
Conclusions and recommendations


Strategic, ecosystem based and sustainable planning and management of human activities in the marine environment is dependent on access to appropriate and adequate information and data. The Pilot collated geophysical, hydrographical, nature conservation, ecological and sectoral human use data and used GIS analysis. While intertidal and near-coast biological information was found to be satisfactory, data were sparse for most offshore localities to a degree which would constrain good decision-making. Furthermore, some survey data were not available to the Pilot, either because they were held in an inappropriate format or because the data owner declined to release it.
The recommendations from the report of the Pilot on data collation and mapping are:
  1. A standard electronic marine and coastal map/chart base should be established, extending seamlessly across the coastline, which can be used at a range of scales from the Regional Sea (1:1,000,000 or less) to local level (1:10,000 or greater). Consideration should be given to a strategic funding mechanism to enable the necessary harmonisation.
  2. A national marine information network should be established, based on harmonisation rather than integration. There is likely to be a key role for a number of institutions and bodies having the capability of managing data in the long-term, and providing public access to it, each managing and providing access to specific datasets to common standards. Data standards should be developed, where possible jointly with the other countries bordering Regional Seas and with the European Union, in order to facilitate the establishment and operation of this system. A mechanism to co-ordinate this will need to be established.
  3. All marine data collected with public funds, or as a consequence of Government or Public agency contracts, should be held electronically to agreed formats and standards and placed in the public domain within specified timescales. These data should be contributed to a national marine information system once established. Public funds made available to universities, research institutes or other organisations should be subject to these conditions.
  4. Environmental data collected by the private sector for the purpose of complying with a regulatory procedure (e.g. for Environmental Impact Assessment) should be collected to agreed formats and placed in the public domain within specified timescales.
  5. Improved co-ordination of data collection activities needs to be achieved, including in relation to research activities, in order better to meet the needs of society and to make the most efficient use of available resources. This should include much clearer identification of the specific data collection responsibilities of public bodies. In the UK, Defra should take the lead in developing improved co-ordination, including in relation to liaising with neighbouring countries. A greater degree of collaboration between survey organisations should be promoted and encouraged.
  6. Information on the sources, availability, extent and attributes of datasets (comprehensive metadata) for the marine environment needs to be easily and widely accessible.


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Please cite as: Lumb, C., Webster, M., Golding, N., Atkins, S. and Vincent, M.A., (2004), Collation and Mapping of data for the Irish Sea Pilot, JNCC Report 349