Developing a participatory approach to the management of fishing activity in UK offshore Marine Protected Areas
Successfully involving the fishing sector and stakeholders in decision-making over the…
MPAC, the Coalition established to ensure that fishing gets a fair hearing in the establishment of a network of marine protected areas in UK waters, has written to the UK Fisheries Minister and also to devolved administrations, challenging lazy assumptions about the use of No Take Zones within marine protected areas.
Following designation, management measures within MPAs may run from light monitoring to complete closure, depending of the conservation status of the feature being protected and the threat posed by various activities. It is fishing industry concerns that No Take Zones are being sneaked into place without serious thought or evidence that are now being highlighted by MPAC.
The Coalition’s Chairman, Dr Stephen Lockwood:
The Coalition goes on to challenge the sloppy thinking behind NTZs by drawing attention:
The Coalition does not presume to challenge the utility and efficacy of NTZs that have been established in other parts of the world. Ministers have been told however that we do, challenge the uncritical inference that a measure that works in another marine bio-geographic region will be no less beneficial in the NE Atlantic. Invariably, the examples given (not least by Prof Callum Roberts, a member of the Science Advisory Panel) to justify the designation of NTZ are drawn from tropical or subtropical reef habitats. We would not question that towed gear has the potential to cause physical disruption to such habitats but, in NE Atlantic waters, we do not have reef-dependent commercial-fish communities as are found in the tropics. In addition, and as found by Prof Michel Kaiser’s study off south Devon, it is extremely rare for static gear in UK waters to affect non-target species. Indeed, within the Lundy reserve no demonstrable adverse effect has been found relating to the use of static gear.
Yet as recently as January, senior officers within Natural England were citing the Lundy NTZ experience as justification for widespread introduction of such sites in UK waters.
The scientific facts gathered during a study commissioned by Defra and NE show that, at best, the claims made by NE and others are overstated.
The evidenced arguments put forward by the Coalition have been advanced to ensure that ministers appreciate that the Coalition’s concerns about the arbitrary introduction of NTZ are well founded. The fishing industry can be persuaded to accept restrictions on its activities where a specific scientific case has been presented, argued and found substantive. What it cannot accept is the imposition of restrictions on a whim – as appears to be the case with MCZ ‘reference areas’.
The Coalition urges the Minister to reconsider the introduction of reference area/No Take Zones:
Rogers, S.I. (1997). A Review of Closed Areas in the United Kingdom Exclusive Economic Zone. Sci. Ser., Tech. Rep., CEFAS, Lowestoft, (106), 20pp
Hoskin, M. G., R. A Coleman, & L. von Carlshausen (2009). Ecological effects of the Lundy No-Take Zone: the first five years (2003-2007). Report to Natural England, DEFRA and WWF-UK.