MAFF is responsible under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) for licensing all deposits in the seas around England and Wales. The purpose of licensing is:
• to protect the marine environment, the living resources which it
supports and human health;
• to prevent interference with legitimate uses of the sea.
Through the FEPA licensing system MAFF implements commitments under the global London Convention 1972 as well as the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic.
During the 1990s the UK has phased out the sea dumping of most types of waste, including industrial waste, and by the end of 1998 disposal at sea of sewage sludge will also have ceased. From then on, dredged material from ports and harbours will be the only type of material routinely licensed for disposal at sea, apart from a small amount of fish waste. A scientific assessment of the potential impact on the marine environment is made before any licence is granted and monitoring is undertaken to assess the effects of material deposited at sea. As part of the licensing process, the Ministry seeks comments of local authorities, English Nature/the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency and the Crown Estate in respect of the establishment of new disposal sites.