North Devon and Torridge Councils: Blue Biosphere Natural Capital Accelerator

Blue Biosphere is a net-zero economic development programme led by the North Devon UNESCO World Biosphere, collaborating across Torridge and North Devon to stimulate marine and catchment jobs and raise social mobility through development of Blue Carbon projects, improved fisheries management, marine conservation, as well as Blue Growth targeted to deliver high-value jobs to the coastal community.

The challenge

The Government’s ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’ (25YEP) underlines the value of the environment to people’s existence, livelihoods and wellbeing, but also the degraded state of the environment and our need to restore it rapidly. However, current marine and coastal governance and management is dispersed. Planning and delivery are not integrated across policies or organisations in a systematic way and coordination and investment to implement marine policy is lacking at a local level where it is most needed to achieve national goals. Blue Biosphere aims to address some of these issues.

The solution

Blue Biosphere will deliver:

  • Biosphere Blue Carbon - Torridge and North Devon has an opportunity to create a thriving blue carbon sector (CO2 removed from the atmosphere by oceans) through delivering innovative habitat projects such as seagrass, saltmarsh, oyster reefs and kelp forests.  Costal Restoration Fund (CRF) activities include geographical site analysis, investment case and commercial strategy, building evidence to extend to other UK coastal areas.
  • 3D Biodiverse Ocean Farming - UK aquaculture currently generates +£1 billion, growing 8% per year.  With declining capture fisheries due to extractive practices, and the food security agenda, this activity seeks to reinvent UK aquaculture using innovative models proven elsewhere. 3D ocean farming uses the full water column to create multiple food crops and a rich marine ecosystem. Furthermore, aquaculture is one of the few industries that can underpin economic growth in coastal communities. Aquaculture is underexploited in the South West, especially on the Atlantic coast. This innovative approach creates year-round employment and a model that can be extended elsewhere.  CRF activities include an aquaculture site analysis, investment case and growth strategy.
  • “No-Take and Harvest” - Lundy’s Marine Conservation Zone (173km2) is the UK’s first marine reserve. Its ‘No-Take Zone’ prohibits all fishing, allowing stocks to recover and overspill into the surrounding waters for harvesting and locking carbon in sediment. CRF activities will pilot, explore the viability and define this commercial model to enable it to be replicated around our shorelines. If successful, this system will enhance fisheries, generate carbon and biodiversity revenues and develop tourism in coastal areas.
  • Middle Dock Appledore.(proposed) - Derelict Middle Dock has a 99m quay frontage and is positioned alongside Harland and Wolff Appledore, providing several strategic supply chain and skills development opportunities. This advanced feasibility will seek to place the site within the South West’s marine economy and become a pivotal addition to the emerging offshore renewable sector.
  • Local Supply Chain Analysis - To optimise economic impact, we will develop the local marine supply chain and infrastructure to ensure Devon’s north coast marine sector is ‘levelled up’ in line with the South West Marine Plan.
  • Smart Biosphere Pilot - To unlock new natural capital revenue and the digital economy, we need better ecosystem outcome verification (e.g., soil carbon). CRF activities expand a UK Government-funded Smart Biosphere initiative to a catchment-scale pilot across Torridge to achieve this using AI, remote sensing, big data and earth observation.
  • Aspiration Engagement - A programme of community engagement to raise aspirations to work in the blue economy.

The Blue Biosphere is a community-scale intervention that raises aspirations and opportunities, breaking the cycle of social immobility for our coastal community.

The impact

Blue Biosphere will demonstrate the power of the environment as an economic driver, allowing local access to high paying job opportunities as well as creating SMEs and developing local supply chains. It will support local farms and habitat restoration.

Lessons learned

Too early to say.


Donna Sibley, Sustainability and Climate Officer: