MCS and Finding Sanctuary provide seminar on Marine Protected Areas in Guernsey on 8 April 2009

April 14th, 2009 by Alderney Wildlife Trust

The Alderney Wildlife Trust prepared notes on the MPA seminar, which

Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt, Biodiversity Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), and Tom Hooper, Project Manager for Finding Santuary spoke at a seminar on Marine Protected Areas on 8 April 2009.  These notes have been prepared by the Alderney Wildlife Trust.

Dr Solandt’s presentation concentrated largely on the currently developing position in regards to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This included the current range and variety of types of protection currently used, from voluntary to mandatory. Also to be considered was the scale of protection both within UK and European waters and the requirements through both European and new UK legislation, especially in light of the newly passed Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

Pertinent points that might be drawn to general attention:

  • Currently around 2% of British waters receive some protection, whether statutory or voluntary.
  • There are a wide range of conservation designations for MPA’s, some of which are requirements of wider European legislation, others are UK wide or local designations, of which some are voluntary gentlemen’s agreements:
    • European Protected Sites (47 sites). The term ‘European marine sites’ is the collective term for Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that are covered by tidal water and protect some of our most special marine and coastal habitats and species of European importance. SACs contain animals, plants and habitats that are considered rare, special or threatened within Europe while SPAs protect important bird species. European marine sites form part of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network.
    • Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs). There are 3 in the UK of which only one, Lundy, is in England. Lundy MNR will become a Marine Conservation Zone under the Marine Bill.
    • Subtidal Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Although most SSSIs are on land there are some which extend into the marine environment.
    • Voluntary Marine Protected Areas; several voluntary MPAs have been established by local groups or councils. Activities may be managed by voluntary codes of conduct.
  • The UK is currently under-performing in its European obligations on the designation of protected areas; however, it is still outperforming most other European countries.
  • France is currently searching for sites to designate; areas being looked at include significant sections of the Bay of St. Malo. Designation is planned by 2011.
  • Different designations obviously mean different levels of protection, however, there is growing, strong evidence that MPA’s can have a significant impact on non-migratory species with case studies being presented from Lundy, the Mediterranean and the United States.
  • Size of MPA’s has a significant impact in the range of species protected, with large sites necessary to impact migratory species, especially white fish such as bass, mullet etc. However, there is evidence to show that small sites can impact non-migratory fish species as well as shell fish, invertebrates and flora.
  • Clear evidence was given to show that areas removed from scallop dredging produced not only larger scallops but also much greater muscle mass and fecundity, which in turn has been shown to have knock-on benefits to areas surrounding the MPA.
  • Some new evidence was presented from Lundy which might be seen to identify the potential recruitment benefits of sanctuaries to surrounding waters.
  • Case studies from the Georges Bank off the coastline of the United States show a clear correlation in benefits to local fisherman. After the initial loss of fishing grounds and the necessary resizing of local fishing fleets, fishermen saw a dramatic increase in catch size for effort expended as fishing practices are more focused around the MPA’s boundaries.
  • Sites designated with local support also showed significantly greater success in most cases than those
    pushed through without local interaction or backing. Further a significant number of designated sites
    experience poaching which reduced their effectiveness and muddied potential results.
  • Under the terms of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill there will be a requirement for 4 regional networks
    of MPA’s to be established, using criteria currently being defined by the JNCC and Natural England,
    covering a total area 10% by 2012. These networks will be labelled Marine Protected Zones and their
    designation will be orchestrated by the regional development bodies, Finding Sanctuary representing the
    South West area
  • Designation will be undertaken by a steering group made up of the interest groups who, making use of the
    guidelines supplied, will discuss and then approve all designations required before 2011.
  • Once a site is designated its success will be monitored however it is unlikely to have its designation
  • Interested parties need to be involved in mapping the current uses of their waters to help identify the
    marine resource and impacts of designation. The current approach is much broader than the traditional
    meeting between parent body and government department, with an interactive website allowing all users to
    map out their activities for consideration. Further to this, members of the Finding Sanctuary team are
    meeting users throughout the region to map out in person the local fields of usage interests.
  • Perhaps clearest of all the messages was that for successful designation of a MPA to take place the interested
    parties need to have a clear objective, aims and goals for the designation.

Summing up

After the presentations discussion was held around the room. This raised several points of consideration concerning the relevance of large area MPA’s to such a relatively small area of Bailiwick waters, the potential implications to renewable energy and the requirements for monitoring.  The following list details just some of the points that might be considered:

  • To what extent do existing gentlemen’s agreements and fishing restrictions pre-empt the creation of MPAs. (Need a detailed break down of Guernsey and Alderney’s current legal and voluntary agreements)
  • Guernsey Sea fisheries and Harbour authority is already carrying out some special mapping of marine resources using a combination of SeaZone and ArcView, systems available on both islands, though currently this is restricted to a small area of the total marine resources use.
  • What are the benefits of MPAs that we are looking for? E.g. increasing marine biodiversity as a whole, Increasing fish stocks, shellfish, lobster crab.
  • To be nationally recognised as an area/island whereby we create protection for our wildlife/marine life.

What next?

The presentation helped to clarify the emergent situation around MPAs in regards to both the UK and European Union as a whole. Being sandwiched between two participating partners the Channel Islands will be affected by the future actions of France and the UK whether it opts to consider the adoption of aspects of the new Marine Bill or not and should therefore consider these implications carefully. It would seem inappropriate to simply ignore the developing situation and not take a clear stance on the way forward for an island planning to establish significant marine renewable development, as well as sending out a very mixed message concerning the Island’s approach to its waters.

It is proposed that both speakers be invited to repeat their presentations in each of the island’s to open forum
meetings; it would be a significant step in the right direction if politicians could be present as well as more
members of the commercially interested parties and recreational interest groups.

The seminar notes prepared by the Alderney Wildlife Trust may be downloaded as a PDF file.

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