A Debt of Gratitude

13th January 2016 in MPAs

The MPA Coalition which was formed to protect fishermen’s livelihoods to during the process of establishing a network of marine protected areas, is to say farewell to its Chairman, Dr Stephen Lockwood. MPAC’s work has moved on to a new phase in which a site-specific focus and detailed work on management measures within MPAs has moved to the forefront.

A Debt of Gratitude

In MPAC’s letter of thanks to Dr Lockwood it says:

“I am sure that the others in the MPAC coalition would want to use this occasion to convey our very profound gratitude to you for your work with us on finding a rational way forward on the implementation of a network of MPAs in UK waters. In England and Wales it is hard to fully recollect fully the scale of the danger that was posed when the nature conservation agencies were in an empire building phase, and the government was in thrall to the a superficial view that MPAs were the means to regenerate fish stocks and the marine environment generally. There was a very real danger at one stage of very large scale displacement of fishing activity on a ridiculously short timescale on the basis of close to zero evidence.

The gravitas, as well as insight and expertise, which you brought to MPAC were an important part of the rebalancing exercise that was at the core of our approach. From the outset, MPAC made plain that it was not opposed to the role that MPAs could play in protecting vulnerable marine features and habitats. We were however, vigorously opposed to a superficial and slightly hysterical headlong rush towards establishing MPAs as a tick-box exercise, displacing fishermen from their customary grounds in the meantime. You helped us immensely in ensuring that this measured and proportionate approach was understood.

The result of MPAC’s work was that, ultimately, government was obliged to use an evidence-based approach to identify exactly what it was that it was protecting; and to engage in close dialogue those potentially affected by the establishment of MPAs. The irony is that the approach that initially we envied in Scotland seems to have dissipated, as the government there seems to have unlearned these important lessons.

In getting government to take seriously the issue of displacement, with its potentially devastating consequences for both the fishermen of this country and the marine environment, we both owe you a debt of gratitude. “

Dr Stephen Lockwood, MPAC Chairman