Marine Planning and Marine Protected Areas


UK Fishermen’s Information Mapping Project (UKFIM) (2012-13)

Fish plotters are routinely used in the industry in order to plan and run fishing operations. The data is unparalleled in its level of detail on the spatial operation of fishing vessels. In circumstances of increasing competition for marine space and the need for more systematic marine planning ( see blog), it offers a valuable source of information for evidencing the location and interpreting the importance of fisheries.

Working alongside the Crown Estate, we gathered and processed a broad spectrum of fish plotter data, sourced from both the domestic industry and that from neighbouring European states, for integration into the Crown Estate’s GIS system to enable systematic analysis of the data. The data is now available to support leasing functions within the Crown Estate and for prospective developers to better understand fisheries within potential locations of marine development.

The project also supported the fitting of inshore VMS systems on board small scale vessels in order to support their evidencing needs.

Fishing Spatio-Temporal Pressures and Sensitivities Analysis for MPAs (2013-14)

This project sought to advance methodologies to understand the spatial distribution, footprint and intensity of fishing activities in the context of marine planning and MPA fisheries management planning. This included analysis and comparison of VMS records together with fish plotter data from UKFIM in order to validate applications of the former and to assess the extent to which fishing grounds can be delineated using both sets of data.

Gear experts were also brought together to define gear component specifications for fisheries operating on the Dogger Bank and develop a methodology for translating the operation of gear components into physical seabed pressures.

The project was undertaken in collaboration with Cefas and Seafish under the Fisheries Challenge Fund.

Download the report development of fishing layers from VMS data

Download the report comparison of fishing information from VMS data and on-board plotter systems

Download report on the workshop on the physical effects of fishing activities on the Dogger Bank

Fishing Industry Multibeam Sidescan Sonar Marine Habitats Survey Trial (2011-12)

Involving the fishing industry in gathering evidence and in the monitoring of MPAs provides a potential means to offset the impact of more restrictive fisheries management measures, whilst also encouraging buy-in to the management of the site. The multibeam side scan trial was a pilot to help to gauge the feasibility of fishing vessels being used for this type of seabed survey.

Download report

Changes to Fishing Practices around the UK as a result of the Development of Offshore Wind Farms (2014-15)

Although the scale of offshore wind farm planning in UK waters is considerable, there is currently little concrete evidence about the extent to which fishing activity will re-locate within the vicinity of installations and under what conditions. A definitive answer is only possible by examining the activities of the fishing industry once projects have been installed.

The NFFO conducted a pilot study on behalf of the Crown Estate focusing on the Eastern Irish Sea offshore wind farm installations. Findings suggest that fishing activity within OWF boundaries has changed, primarily because fishermen are fearful of fishing gear becoming entrapped by seabed obstacles such as cables, cable crossing points and rock armouring, and wary of vessel breakdown with the consequent risk of turbine collision. However, fishing was found to co-exist with OWFs. A small number of fishermen claimed to operate demersal trawl gear in cable-free corridors between the turbines (for example where interarray cables ran parallel to the trawl tracks). Other fishermen thought confidence to operate inside OWFs would increase as experience and knowledge of those who do increased. Measures suggested by respondents that could help to increase the level of co-existence between the fishing and offshore wind farm industry included: better knowledge of seabed hazards and their location; fishing-friendly methods of cable protection; monitoring of risks and exposure; and regular communication and knowledge exchange between wind farm developers / maintenance companies and fishers.

Download report

Supporting Risk-Based Assessments of Fisheries in MPAs (2015)

This project aimed to support the evidence base underpinning risk assessments of fisheries operating in the vicinity of MPAs. The research provided greater insight into the environmental impacts of fisheries in two main ways – one assessing how fishing activity affects MPA habitats, the other assessing how environmental conditions do the same.

Firstly, it trialled ways to reduce uncertainties in understanding the distribution and intensity of mobile gear fishing activities while also analysing the effects of fishing gears on habitats and species. Secondly, it modelled the physical disturbance of seabed sediments from wave and tidal action that influences the habitats of the MPAs. This provides further insight into the environmental context in which the fishing activities are taking place, ensuring that disturbance from fishing is considered in the context of levels of natural disturbance that the habitats and species are adapted to.

Press release

Research outputs include:

Final Report

Final Report Appendices

Assessment of Shrimp Trawling Activity in The Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC

Assessment of Otter Trawling Activity in Margate and Long Sands SCI

Assessment of Beam Trawling Activity in North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef SCI