MPA Coalition warns that MCZ Process has reached “Critical Stage”

17th May 2011 in MPAs

The MPA Fishing Coalition, the body set up to ensure that the fishing industry has a strong voice as a network of marine protected areas are established in UK waters, has warned that the process of implementing marine conservation zones has reached a critical stage.

“Time for the Industry to pull together”

The MPA Fishing Coalition, the body set up to ensure that the fishing industry has a strong voice as a network of marine protected areas are established in UK waters, has warned that the process of implementing marine conservation zones has reached a critical stage.

Following a recent meeting between the Coalition and Natural England and senior Defra officials, Coalition Chairman Dr. Stephen Lockwood said:

“The Coalition has successfully drawn attention to major flaws in the process that has been set in train by Defra and Natural England to designate MCZs. The most critical of these is the rushed timeframe and sheer scale of the process.

“We have to be honest and admit that despite repeated meetings with officials and the Minister, in which the consequences of a rushed process have been spelt out, the Coalition has not been successful in persuading the Minister to adopt a more reasonable timeframe. The four regional projects are now rapidly approaching the time when their recommendations on site designations will be put forward. The attached chart gives for the first time, an overview of the current state of play. Although there may still be a few adjustment this chart gives a fairly reasonable idea of the designated areas for marine conservation zones (MCZ) around England, alongside the European Natura sites. We have yet to see what the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales propose for their coastal and offshore waters.

“It is absolutely vital for the industry to appreciate that the really crucial period is immediately ahead of us when decisions are made on what sort of management measures should apply within the MCZs and exactly where no take zones (NTZ) are to be established.

“Management measures may range from light monitoring to complete closure, so there is everything to fight for. Our arguments for an incremental, steady approach that allows time for evidence to be gathered and proper discussions with the people potentially affected, are even more valid when it comes to management measures. We are hopeful that this point is now getting through.

“Looking back at what the Coalition has achieved in its short lifetime it is possible to say that:

  • It has established itself as the UK body with which the statutory nature conservation agencies, Defra and the devolved administrations must have dialogue on MPAs at a high strategic level
  • It has drawn wide support from all parts of the UK fleet, big and small vessels, north, south, east and west. It has also secured strong support from Dutch, Irish, French and Belgian fishing organisations who share our concerns.
  • We have been able to point to deficiencies in the representativeness in the regional projects and some of the gaps have been filled as a result.
  • Along with others, the Coalition has secured a review of the quality of the process and science used to underpin recommendations for marine protected zones. There is limited knowledge about the marine environment, especially when it comes down to a very local scale. The authorities have a duty to use the very best information and robust quality control procedures and the Coalition has been able to hold both Defra and natural England to account on these.
  • After repeatedly raising the issue there is now a growing appreciation of the issue of displacement. If fishing vessels are displaced from their customary fishing grounds the impact may not only be felt in local communities but on adjacent grounds and sometimes in quite distant areas. Not only that but they can be displaced into pristine areas previously never, or only very lightly fished. There are therefore economic, social and ecological reasons to take this issue very seriously.
  • We now have secured some level of understanding that with close discussion and good information it is possible to protect vulnerable features within MPAs without displacing fishing operations by careful, focussed design of boundaries and management measures.

“As the Coalition approaches this critical stage it is vital that its work continues. Be assured that very few in the fishing industry will remain unaffected, directly or indirectly, by marine protected areas, marine conservation zones, reference areas, no take zones, or whatever other name the statutory conservation bodies choose to use. Our task is to ensure that they are introduced in a way that is fair to the fishing industry and minimises their impact.”

Despite our wide membership the Coalition’s activities are funded by voluntary contributions. Today we are re-launching our fighting fund to ensure that our work continues through the critical management phase. Invest in your future and contribute to the good work of the MPA Fishing Coalition. If you are confident that MPAs/MCZs/NTZs will have no impact on your fishing operations you are exempt. Otherwise, you should send your contribution to:

MPA Fishing Coalition

Fighting Fund

30 Monkgate

York

YO31 7PF