Assessment of Fishing Impacts in MPAs

IFCAs have assessed over 13,500 interactions between commercial fishing gear and designated European Marine Site features.

In 2012 the Government introduced a Revised Approach to the management of commercially licensed fisheries in European Marine Sites to comply with obligations under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. This ensured all existing and potential commercial fishing activities are subject to an assessment of their impact on the features of designated sites and are appropriately managed to achieve the conservation objectives of the site.

Working with our delivery partners, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation, IFCAs have assessed every type of commercial fishing activity within inshore European Marine Sites to ensure that fisheries do not damage, disturb or have an adverse effect on the wildlife or habitats for which the sites are legally protected. Assessments have been undertaken following a risk-prioritised, phased basis using a specially designed matrix. The matrix categorises fishing activity as Red, Amber, Green or Blue depending on the level of risk the activity presents to the designated features of a site.

High risk activity where it is clear the conservation objectives for a feature (or sub-feature) will not be achieved because of its sensitivity to the type of fishing activity. Irrespective of feature condition, level of pressure, or background environmental conditions in all EMSs where that feature occurs – suitable management measures will be identified and introduced as a priority to protect those features from that fishing activity or activities.
Medium risk activity where there is doubt as to whether conservation objectives for a feature (or sub-feature) will be achieved because of its sensitivity to a type of fishing, in all EMSs where that feature occurs, the effect of that activity or activities on such features will need to be assessed in detail at a site-specific level. Appropriate management action should then be taken based on that assessment.
Low risk activity where it is clear that the achievement of the conservation objectives for a feature is highly unlikely to be affected by a type of fishing activity or activities, in all EMSs where that feature occurs, further action is not likely to be required, unless there is the potential for in combination effects.
For activities where there can be no feasible interaction between the fishing gear types and features of the EMSs. For example, a mid-water trawl is a blue risk activity for reefs as it takes place in the water column, not on the seabed.

IFCAs have completed over 1,125 Habitats Regulations Assessments for fishing activities within European Marine Sites.

Once risks are identified, within EMSs, Habitat Regulations Assessments (HRAs) are undertaken for all Amber activities and Green (when appropriate). The assessment is used to consider the impacts of the fishing activity on the EMSs features by screening for any Likely Significant Effects. If significant effects cannot be ruled out, a detailed and evidence-led assessment is completed to clearly outline whether the activity will have an adverse effect on the integrity of the site. If it cannot be proved that there will not be an adverse effect on site integrity appropriate management is required to mitigate the effect. Management measures could include closures to relevant parts of a site, seasonal closures or effort restrictions.

The Revised Approach was developed for EMSs but under section 154 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 IFCAs must seek to ensure that the conservation objectives of MCZs are furthered, with policy advice to introduce necessary management within two years of site designation. IFCAs have followed a similar approach by assessing the impacts of individual fishing interactions with site features in MCZs to help determine the need for management.