Chief executive Barrie Deas, explains why Marine Protected Areas aren't the solution to managing fisheries.
Former Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw recently led the charge to resurrect the campaign for the immediate designation and implementation of 127 marine conservation zones around the UK. In a confused and somewhat bizarre article in the Independent, he made the argument that marine protected areas were the solution, not just for not just managing fisheries but for just about everything other ill on the planet, including climate change.
I felt compelled to respond, pointing out that over-selling marine protected areas as a panacea was not wise, either for fisheries or for the marine environment.
MPAC, (the Marine Protected Areas Fishing Coalition) brought together fishing interests, including the main UK federations and a number of European fishing organisations, to oppose exactly this kind of hasty, poorly-considered rush to implement marine protected zones. MPAC was successful in persuading both the Government and the statutory nature conservation bodies, that marine protected areas have an important role to play but if they are to be of benefit they must be based on good evidence of what it is we are trying to protect, what that protection should consist of, and dealing adequately with the issue of displacement of fishing activity, where that is an issue.
Even some of the environmental organisations privately conceded that their battle cry of “MPAs Now” was not just anti-fishing but anti-science and weakened their position.
Taking time to gather evidence and to get things right, as opposed to an empty tick-box exercise has been the current Government’s approach and it is the right one. It is important that it continues throughout the process of implementing both domestic and European marine protected areas.
Marine protected areas, even areas closed completely to fishing, have an important role to play in some circumstances and the NFFO has in the past supported both where appropriate.
It is the shallow, populist, anti-science and anti-fishing lobby, now apparently led by the likes of Ben Bradshaw and Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall, that we take issue with.