MPAs are designated areas of our oceans, seas and coasts where species and habitats are protected through legal or other effective means from activities that are damaging or cause disturbance. Fishing activities which do not have a significant impact on wildlife will be unaffected, some fishing activities might need to be restricted in certain areas, but if so, it may be possible to find wildlife-friendly ways to keep working.
Seafish supports the concept of MPAs which can play an important role in protecting the biodiversity and productivity of our seas.
However, MPAs need to have clear and measurable objectives, as MPAs designed for fisheries management may be quite different to those designed to protect marine biodiversity. There could be some win-wins - for example where a habitat in need of protection also provides an important nursery area for a commercial fish species.
There are a number of types of MPAs. A 'Nature Conservation' MPA is an area identified for biodiversity protection, its primary objective usually relates to the conservation and recovery of marine wildlife and habitats. A 'Fisheries MPA' is a tool for fish stock management, whereby an MPA prohibits fishing in a particular area to allow a population of fish to replenish itself.
In reality, marine fisheries and the marine environment are so closely and inextricably linked that protecting one often means protecting the other, and sites may be protected by a number of designations.
The UK fishing industry can play an important role in understanding the marine environment and so aid the development and management of MPAs. Seafish has developed an 'Environmental toolkit' (in collaboration with Natural England) to show fishermen how they can collect video evidence to demonstrate the compatibility of fishing in MPAs.
This can be found here: /retailers/responsible-sourcing/environmental-toolkit-
This work has recently extended to trials of a new underwater video system, to test whether fishermen themselves can monitor environmental conditions in MPAs and collect the requisite data to an agreed standard.
Seafish has also issued comprehensive guidance on assessing the economic impact of restricted fishing areas such as MPA's through it UKFEN (UK Fisheries economic Network) Group. That guidance can be found here: /about-seafish/ukfen---uk-fisheries-economics-network/ukfen-ia-guidance-
Seafish will continue to support initiatives such as this with the aim of promoting the highest standards and most responsible practices across the UK seafood industry.
The Government led consultation can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2012/12/13/marine-conservation-zones-1212/
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