An environmentalist with an outstanding track record of leading nature and conservation organisations will be at the helm of the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.

Elaine Hayes has been appointed interim chief executive of the UK’s first ever National Marine Park.

She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience working across the charity, government and the business sectors, both for conservation and the marine environment.

She said: “This is my dream job. It is the opportunity of a lifetime to use all my knowledge and expertise to bring about this country’s first ever Marine Park, here in the Ocean City. This is a park for the people where they can be involved in shaping and improving the marine environment for themselves and future generations.”

Elaine’s career has seen her involved in the development of marine legislation to protect the seas, she successfully lead the development of the Devon & Severn IFCA as Chair for eight years and as the former chair of Seafish – the Sea Fish Industry Authority – she is acutely aware of the challenges fishing ports such as Plymouth also face.

Elaine has managed North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team and has been a special advisor to the Blackdown Hills for the last six years,so is well versed in caring for protected landscapes. She also has extensive experience of working on grass roots wildlife and marine projects such as Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. 

She said: “Key for me is instilling a love of the sea in everyone. You can’t expect people to protect an environment they don’t love. The sheer scale of ambition all tied up in the National Marine Park is hugely exciting for me and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

Council Leader Nick Kelly said: “We are pleased to welcome Elaine on board. The vast breadth and range of experience Elaine brings to this exciting and pivotal role will enable significant progress to be achieved over the next couple of years and commence the delivery of our aspirations for our National Marine Park.”

The ‘Park in the Sea’ aims to

  • Support the ongoing enhancement of our world class natural environment and heritage landscape
  • Get the entire city and surrounding communities involved with the Sound
  • Increase access to our heritage so everyone can enjoy the benefits
  • Provide new employment opportunities and career pathways in sustainable future ocean jobs
  • Position Plymouth as a UK top day-visitor destination
  • Champion health and wellbeing with a new generation of engaged volunteers, communities and champions.
  • Support the positive transition to net zero carbon by 2030.

The interim chief executive will guide the NMP into being a legal entity in its own right as well as further develop relationships with over 100 organisations involved in the Sound and establish a marine parks operating model.

Councillor Tudor Evans OBE, Leader of the Opposition, added: “This role is about balancing the needs of all users of Plymouth Sound, and there are a lot of them, all with different interests. It’s great to see someone with such as broad range of passions and experience take up the post.”

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, said: “The National Marine Park should bring people together to enhance the economic, environmental and social values of Plymouth Sound. It is a fantastic opportunity to connect society and the sea. The challenge will be how to effectively enhance one aspect without adversely affecting another in a sustainable way, and navigating that course will require knowledge and understanding from a range of perspectives. We are delighted to be welcoming Elaine as the new CEO and look forward to working with her.”

Charles Clover, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Blue Marine Foundation said: “Plymouth Sound is one of the richest marine environments in the country and the National Marine Park is designed to celebrate those special qualities in a way that benefits all and creates a precedent that can be used elsewhere, so this is a very important job for Plymouth, for its marine environment and for the nation as a whole. I am delighted that someone with Elaine Hayes’s broad range of experience is taking it on.”

Earlier this year the Council NMP project team outlined its ambition to create five ‘gateways’ to the park, each with a particular focus that will inspire more people to explore, connect and enjoy the sea. They include:

  • Tinside – for health and wellbeing activities
  • National Marine Aquarium – a hub for nature and the environment
  • Mountbatten – active recreation
  • Mount Edgcumbe – learning about the Sound’s epic history including over 600 wrecks that lie beneath the waves
  • Smart Sound – digital harnessing the power of the latest digital technology

Big conversations are in the pipeline over the next two years with a full engagement programme being developed to ensure everyone has their say in what they would like to see as part of the National Marine Park.

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