Improving the evidence for fisheries management decisions in Marine Protected Areas


The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) has contracted leading marine environmental consultancy, ABPmer and Ichthys Marine Ecological Consulting, to contribute to the evidence base for fisheries management decisions in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The project, supported with funding from Seafish
and the European Fisheries Fund, is aiming to develop understanding of the effects
of fishing gears on conservation features at selected MPA sites in order to inform
the design of appropriate site management measures.

The Government’s revised approach to fisheries
management in European Marine Sites (EMSs) in English inshore and offshore
waters assesses the impact of fisheries on protected features and aims to introduce
management measures where necessary by 2016.

Interactions between fishing gear and EMS
conservation features are subject to an assessment; conducted on a precautionary
basis at a site-specific level Such assessments must be evidence-based but
there are uncertainties around the impacts of some gear types on some
designated features, the spatial extent of some features and of fishing

The project is exploring whether site-specific
evidence about fishing gears and their operation can be collected cost
effectively to improve decision making.
In consultation with fishermen and other fisheries stakeholders, shadow assessments
for fishing activity in three sites before and after the collection of site-specific
data to assess whether the improved level of information can lead to more
targeted management decisions. A range
of methodologies are being trialed to reduce uncertainty and to contribute to the
evidence base for assessing fishing activity.

The sites and fisheries considered by the project

  • Beam trawling in North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef
  • Shrimp trawling in The Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC;
  • Otter trawling in Margate and Long Sands SCI.

Dale Rodmell, Assistant Chief Executive of the NFFO
said: “Ensuring there is an appropriate evidence base is crucial to the
successful management of Marine Protected Areas that protect both conservation
features of concern, whilst supporting sustainable fishing livelihoods to
remain viable and prosper. By helping to
bring to bear our fishing industry activity data and knowledge, we hope to
demonstrate a win-win approach to protected area management.”

Suzannah Walmsley, Principal Fisheries Consultant
at ABPmer said: “We are delighted to be undertaking this work for the
Although substantial amounts of literature are
available regarding the interaction between fishing gear and the associated
target habitats, limited information for management exists for specific gear/habitat interactions, distinguishing
between natural and fishing disturbances and their effects, and on ways to
minimise the impacts different components of fishing gear have on the seabed. The results of this project will have
benefits for both conservation interests and for the future of the fishing
industry by determining more definitively the risk posed by fishing activities
to EMS conservation features.”

The project will hold a Fishing Gear Impacts
Workshop on 16-17 September 2015, where leading international gear experts,
ecology experts, regulators, advisers and industry will come together to
consider the impacts of the specific gears in use in the sites. The outputs of
the workshop will feed into the assessments to be able to better assess the
impacts of the gears in use on the habitats and species present in the sites.