UK: Coalition Proposes New Approach to MPAs
The MPA Fishing Coalition has had its first meeting of the year with DEFRA, MMO, IFCAs and the statutory nature conservation bodies. MPAC took the opportunity to present an alternative approach to marine conservation zones to the one currently being pursued by government.
Instead of the four regional projects “faux-stakeholder” approach for marine conservation zones, the Coalition proposed that those affected must be at the centre of an authentic dialogue. The aim must be to achieve conservation objectives without displacing fishing vessels from their customary fishing grounds.
Although the four MCZ regional projects have produced some useful recommendations, MPAC maintain that the current process has failed in four main areas:
A rushed process leading to poor decisions
Weak evidence for decisions on site designation and management measures
Weak coverage of fishing interests representation from those groups potentially affected
Failure to address the consequences of displacement of fishing activity
To persist with this approach through to management measures within designated sites would inevitably end up with an adversarial trial of strength. By contrast, the policy suggested by the Coalition offers a consensus-based approach with negotiated and agreed outcomes. The key, according to MPAC, is the close direct involvement of those affected in discussions over site and feature boundaries and appropriate management measures within the sites.
MPAC chairman Dr Stephen Lockwood, said after the meeting:
“Whilst, there was some anxiety on the government side about unravelling some of the work on site designation, there did seem to be an appreciation that MPAC’s alternative has obvious merits. There was a commitment to provide a formal response to our ideas and we will discuss that response at our next meeting. We are hopeful that this represents the first step in a process that leads to a genuinely inclusive and participative approach to marine protected areas. We recognise that there is less flexibility in the European Natura sites but our approach has validity here too.
“The weaknesses in the evidence base for SAC and MCZ designation is now well recognised and our approach offers a way in which these uncertainties can be addressed.”
MPAC continues to expand, with applications from Irish fishing groups and pledges of financial support from processors received since Christmas. International fleets increasingly apprehensive of the consequences for their fishing areas and their lack of representation in project consultations. They recognise MPAC as a platform from which to voice their fears and have their interests represented. Concern for the effects of the government’s MPA process on the future of UK fisheries is also growing among processors who depend on local supplies for their factories. Three companies in the southwest have already committed their backing to MPAC and it is hoped that others will follow.
World Maritime News Staff, January 25, 2012; Image: NFFO