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Fishermen give their views on protection of marine fish stocks and ecosystems

Publication date: Feb 27, 2009 9:32:29 AM

A clear majority of members of the fishing industry in the south west of England interviewed in a new study have stated that they are opposed to the creation of no-take marine protected areas (NTMPAs) as a way of protecting the health of marine fish stocks and ecosystems. The findings are set out in the UCL (University College London) study, Fishing industry and related views on no-take marine protected area proposals in SW England.

While debates on NTMPAs are raging in policy and scientific circles, the views of the fishing industry are often neglected. This report, authored by Dr Peter Jones, UCL Geography, seeks to put that right by providing a richer understanding of the different perspectives amongst the fishing industry on the issues raised by NTMPA proposals in the South West.

NTMPAs create areas in which all fishing is banned, primarily in order to achieve marine biodiversity conservation objectives. Proposals in the forthcoming Marine Bill include provisions for designating NTMPAs and whilst many organisations are lobbying for such provisions, some fishermen and their representatives are increasingly concerned that NTMPAs will be imposed on them, threatening their economic sustainability and their way of life.

The report was based on a completely independent research project involving a programme of 51 semi-structured interviews over May-October 2005 with 57 fishing industry representatives in south-west England (West Dorset, Devon & Cornwall). Overall only 19% of actual fishermen considered NTMPAs to be the way forward.

Comments from fishermen opposed to NTMPAs included:

“Where NTMPAs are concerned, I think it is the height of bloody arrogance!”

“Both fish stocks and marine biodiversity are in a good condition.”

“Complete NTMPAs are essentially nature reserves as most fish stocks are too migratory and variable to benefit from such area closures: fish have tails and they swim!”

“NTMPAs are too draconian: a sledgehammer to crack a nut! We can protect habitats and particular fish stocks through partial, temporary closures of key areas and there is no justification for total & permanent NTMPAs.”

“Fish stocks are essentially there to be harvested, to provide livings and food, so it is wrong that we should close areas to fishing.”

Comments from those in favour included:

“I see NTMPAs as having both fish stock and nature conservation benefits, as you are protecting the ecosystem that provides for both: very obvious!”

“Environmentalists, fishermen & the public agree that we cannot continue to be allowed to fish everywhere all the time, as this damages marine life and fish stocks.”

“All we do is take from the sea, like raping it, without putting anything back, like farmers do. NTMPAs would be an opportunity to address this.”

“Fishermen in the UK, as in most of the world, have enjoyed the rights to fish the total sea area, with the exception of safety/security exclusion zones, provided stocks are present and it is technically and economically feasible to exploit them under the principle of ‘the freedom of the seas’”, says the report’s author, Dr Peter Jones. “This presumption is now being undermined by increasing calls for NTMPAs.

“Though fishermen are highly likely to be critically affected by such proposals, it was felt that their voices are rarely listened to and seriously considered in these debates. I hope that this report helps address this problem by reporting the rich, diverse and fascinating range of views amongst fishermen and their representatives on the issues raised by NTMPA proposals.”

Notes for Editors

1. Copies of the full report are available from Dominique Fourniol in the UCL media relations office at d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk.