MPAs work – challenging Broad Bay and other myths

04 Jan 2016

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.


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