The Trust’s Oceans of Value project is taking an innovative approach to the challenge of capturing the range of values that are placed on the marine environment.

Scotland’s marine environment is incredibly diverse and provides a range of services that society benefits from, known as ecosystem services. Due to the range of benefits provided, different people place different values on the marine environment. These often relate to the direct, more noticeable benefits people experience, such as food, employment, recreation, and wellbeing.

There are also many indirect, ‘hidden’ benefits that must be considered. These include carbon capture by blue carbon habitats, nursery grounds for fish and other organisms, and coastal protection (e.g. kelp forests can reduce erosion caused by storms).

Capturing the range of values that are placed on the marine environment can be challenging. The Trust’s Oceans of Value project has taken an innovative approach to this challenge. It set out to compare two different approaches to identifying key values associated with the marine environment: a natural capital approach and the Community Voice Method.

Work focused on the seas surrounding the Orkney Islands (out to 12 nautical miles from Orkney’s coastline), which is one of the most well-studied marine environments in Scotland. Orkney is also one of the next regions in Scotland to develop a Regional Marine Plan. This plan is intended to manage all marine activity in the region and ensure environmental sustainability.

Marine Natural Capital Assessment

Natural capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets, which include geological resources, soil, air, water and all living things. Through mapping and assessing the condition of these assets, it is possible to identify which ecosystem services they provide, who the beneficiaries are, the value of those services, and what category they fall into (e.g. environmental, economic, social, and cultural).

By mapping out the natural capital assets in Orkney’s marine environment, and identifying the ecosystem services they provide, it would be possible to identify which assets are of most importance to the community, businesses and industries in Orkney. An assessment of the health of these assets and the threats they face would further provide key information for marine planners.

The Trust’s Oceans of Value project was developed to investigate whether natural capital assessments could be applied to the marine environment. The Natural Capital Assessment of the Orkney Marine Region report is a first of its kind attempt to carry out a natural capital assessment of a marine region.

The results highlight that:

  • sustaining fish populations is a key ecosystem service provided by most marine habitats;
  • despite Orkney being a relatively well-studied marine area, there is a lack of suitable data available to inform natural capital assessments and develop clear, location-specific conclusions;
  • marine natural capital assessments can provide the framework for delivering key objectives of marine spatial plans (in this case Regional Marine Plans), but further investment in data collection and monitoring is required to fulfil this potential.

Summary report: Natural Capital Assessment of the Orkney Marine Region Area

Full report: Natural Capital Assessment of the Orkney Marine Region Area

Stakeholder valuations – Community Voice Method

To capture the different values members of Orkney’s community place on the marine environment, we set out to interview a range of stakeholders in a process known as the Community Voice Method. The includes the following stages:

  • Video interviews with stakeholders
  • Analytical assessment of interview transcripts to identify key phrases
  • The development of a short film, based on the analysis results
  • Running a workshop where the film is presented and further feedback is captured
  • Final report of findings

Through this approach, it is our intention to capture key information on how different stakeholders value the marine environment (why it is important to them), how the environment has changed in their lifetime, and how they would like to see it managed in the future.

The film and final report of the Community Voice Method component of this project are expected to be completed by December 2022.

Stakeholder views on the consultation process

The Oceans of Value project also provided funding to support a Masters student at Heriot Watt University’s campus in Stromness. Alice Bucker’s thesis provides valuable insights into the public consultation process itself and how stakeholder opinions are captured.

The thesis complements the other components of the Oceans of Value project very well, as it critiques the current approach to identifying values and provides insights into public perception, existing challenges, and opportunities for improvement.

Read the thesis: Consultation in land and marine planning: understanding methods and public opinion

More information

To find out more about the Oceans of Value project please contact Stakeholder Engagement Officer Rebecca Crawford. Email

The Oceans of Value project is funded by the Calouste Glbenkian Foundation and the John Ellerman Foundation, with additional support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.





Orkney coastline © Rebecca Walker
Kirkwall Harbour © Mike Pennington

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