Tomorrow the Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee will consider two motions (SM-15336 and SM-15335) recommending that the Scottish Parliament annuls crucial fishing laws that are designed to recover the health of Scotland’s inshore waters. This is a very significant moment in the long cause for reform in the management of our seas and marine conservation. For decades the environmental health of our seas has been in decline, ecosystems have been modified and in some cases simplified. MPAs are an opportunity to remedy this. (Read our briefing).
There are just a few days left to push for important measures that will help to recover areas of seabed on the West coast. There is currently very limited specific protection from bottom-towed fishing in our inshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This is due to change soon, but there is still an ongoing discussion about what areas should be off-limits to bottom-towed fishing methods.
Before the New Year, the Scottish Government announced another consultation on revised measures for fisheries management in three MPAs (Wester Ross, Small Isles and Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura).
Our campaign members contend that with the right management in place, MPAs will not only help to recover important seabed habitats, but provide secondary benefits in the form of increased fishing opportunities and positive displacement to areas that could not previously be fished. … [Continue Reading]
You may remember we have been looking at case studies of where marine protected areas (MPAs) have resulted in clear improvements to biodiversity and increases in stocks of commercial fish, as we think about how Scottish MPAs should be managed to try and deliver the same benefits. Our first case study was on a series of MPAs in Norway, along the Skagerrak coast, designated for the protection and recovery of lobster and cod. In just four years, there was a clear increase in the size and number of lobster and cod found within the protected area, compared to a non-protected control site.
The researchers have continued to study the cod in … [Continue Reading]
The last few years have seen some major changes in the way we regulate our seas (see our ‘2015 – a year in tweets’ blog). 2016 looks to be no different, not least because we are now beginning to see designated Marine Protected Areas taking effect. As you will read in other sections of this newsletter, there has been extensive consultation on the management of fisheries in certain inshore MPAs.
On the 27th January, the Rural Affairs Committee is set to consider fishing orders for a number of inshore MPAs and these new regulations – if approved by the Committee – are set to come into force by 8th February. However, today it was announced that motions to annul both the South Arran MCO and the omnibus Inshore Fishing Order were submitted. The motions (S4M – 15337 and S4M – 15336) were lodged by Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor.
This will prompt a Committee debate – it is essential that our political representatives are given a clear understanding of the depth of … [Continue Reading]
The Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) have set out detailed proposals for reforming fisheries management in the Clyde. There are just a few days left now to submit your own views to this preliminary consultation.
For many years now, the Clyde has been the hotbed of debate; why has the fishery changed so dramatically in the past century? What caused the decline of landable-sized whitefish? There are many views, but one thing that most agree upon is that the Clyde (and its fishery) could be in better shape. The Clyde used to be the envy of Europe, with amazingly diverse – and seemingly limitless populations of – fish and shellfish, supporting commercial fisheries, sea angling festivals and hobby fishing. Now it is widely regarded as a heavily modified ecosystem that is out of balance: whitefish are no longer catchable in the same numbers, and the two remaining stocks, prawns and scallops, are arguably monocultures that have in part resulted from incredibly powerful catch methods, such as trawling and dredging, but which also have significant issues with bycatch and impacts on seabed habitats. … [Continue Reading]
There are moves afoot to consider better protection for the marine ecosystems in Scotland’s deep sea. It’s not widely realised, but most of Scotland IS deep sea’ (our territorial waters are five times our country’s land mass, and much of this is beyond the Continental shelf). Our deep sea marine ecosystems are dark, low mobility areas, where nothing moves or grows very fast, but we are now beginning to realise it contains – and sustains – a fantastic diversity of life. We are only just beginning to survey this vast sub-sea area, let alone understand its importance for the wider ecology of our seas.
It is for this reason that the deep sea probably most epitomises the notion of “out of sight out of mind” in our society. So many issues are hidden … [Continue Reading]
Myth 1: Broad Bay proves that MPAs do not work
The myth: the experience of Broad Bay (on the coast of Lewis) is sometimes publicly cited as providing strong evidence that MPAs do not work.
Our response: It is simply not right to draw these conclusions. MPAs can – and do – work. The background and reasons are set out below:
- The large sea area lying between the Lewis mainland and the Eye Peninsula, known as ‘Broad Bay’ or Loch A Tuath has been closed to mobile gear* fishing all year round since 1989. (Currently closed under The Inshore Fishing (Prohibition of Fishing and Fishing Methods) (Scotland) Order 2004)
- Broad Bay was an important spawning and nursery ground for flatfish species, in particular the European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa). The prohibition of mobile gear was implemented in an attempt to protect these grounds and increase plaice abundance.
- The closure of broad bay was not to manage scallop fishing or protect scallop habitats.
- There has been no dedicated survey to study scallop or fish population abundances and distribution conducted within the bay.
- Six tows within Broad Bay were added onto the 2007 west coast scallop dredge survey. The results of these isolated observations indicated low scallop abundance.
- Assumptions regarding the population dynamics of scallops, or any other fish species, in Broad Bay cannot be drawn from these results.
* trawl, Danish seine or similar net, purse seine, ring net or dredge (including a suction dredge)
Read our series of blogs that reviews the complex, exciting and growing evidence base that MPAs can have secondary fisheries benefits, as well as helping to recover marine biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Myth 2: The MPAs will negatively affect coastal communities
The myth: there is concern management of fisheries in MPAs could lead to job losses in already fragile coastal communities. These concerns have been outlined via evidence led at the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee in 2015.
Our response: This is a really important issue for Scottish fishermen and it is essential that it is fully understood for the public benefit. Environmental regulation is not just about protection and is not setting out to needlessly restrict commercial activity. It is our view that the concerns expressed must be considered in the round by acknowledging the benefits of MPAs – and the associated reform to fisheries management – for local areas. Some sectors of the fishing industry are heartened by the prospect of greater restrictions on bottom-towed fishing methods, as this will both enable seabed recovery, fishing of otherwise inaccessible waters, spill-over of fish and shellfish to nearby areas and potentially help to reduce gear conflict. Other marine tourism operators are also very supportive of MPAs – by looking after our environment better wildlife tourism can thrive, and tourism fills our local guesthouses, restaurants (to which many fishermen supply their catch), shops and attractions. These benefits have been identified by studies of MPAs in other countries and the Scottish Government has also acknowledged these likely benefits. We contend that some of the projections about economic consequences supplied by the fishing industry are not based on a sound methodology and over-estimate negative impacts. A study, commissioned by the Marine Conservation Society has highlighted this context. However, that does not mean that there will be no short-term impacts – indeed it is absolutely vital that any fishing businesses that may be affected by the management measures (for example, by displacement or the need for diversification) are supported by access to funding, such as the European Marine Fisheries Fund.
2015 has been quite a year for Scotland’s seas. Back in January there was significant concern that new marine protected areas would become paper parks, with little management to actually reverse the declining health of our marine environment. With the #DontTakeTheP (out of MPAs) campaign, throughout the year we have edged closer to meaningful management that could see our amazing, rich and fragile seabed habitats better protected so that our seas return to better health. This issue is by no means over and 2016 will be an equally important year. A lot of other stuff has happened too… a ruling about data release for fish farms, new marine regions, the adoption of the National Marine Plan, a moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification and some fantastic marine wildlife sightings that are a reminder of just how important our seas are.
Below are some tweets for a wee whistlestop overview of 2015. … [Continue Reading]
Environmental organisations have today welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement on managing fishing within Scotland’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). The MPAs include some of the most vulnerable marine wildlife sites in Europe and some of the 30 areas designated in the summer of 2014 to protect a range of habitats and species including flameshell beds and the common skate. However, until now the areas have been at risk of potentially irreversible damage from some fishing activities. The new proposals for fisheries management in the MPAs will … [Continue Reading]
Placing proportionate limits on bottom-towed fishing could help boost long-term jobs in fragile rural communities, as well as protect the environment, contend a coalition of Scottish charities. The Scottish Government is due to announce measures for managing fishing in several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) later this month. Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Taskforce has written to the Scottish Parliament with the findings of an economic review which highlights the benefits that protection of seabed habitats could provide.
Drawing on the report, the environmental groups say that if the Scottish Government … [Continue Reading]