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Publication - Research Publication

Scottish Marine Protected Areas socioeconomic monitoring

Published: 6 Mar 2017
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

This report provides an assessment of emerging evidence on the socio-economic impacts of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

47 page PDF


47 page PDF


Scottish Marine Protected Areas socioeconomic monitoring
4. Socioeconomic Impacts of MPAs: Results

47 page PDF


4. Socioeconomic Impacts of MPAs: Results

The assessment of socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures has been divided into three sections, namely, the fish catching sector, other marine users and impacts on wider onshore activities such as fish processing, local communities and other marine/coastal developments.

4.1 Fishing Catching Sector

This section looks at changes to activity and impacts on landings for the fishing sector as recorded in IFISH, the UK data warehouse for fisheries data. Analysis is based on the assumption that if the MPA management measures are having an impact on fishing vessels, this would reduce activity and landings in areas affected by management measures. Further, if MPA management measures are 'displacing' vessel activity ( i.e. forcing them to fish in alternative locations because of restrictions on some of their traditional fishing grounds), there would be increased activity and landings in areas not affected by MPA management measures.

4.1.1 Fishing activity by ICES rectangle

Analysis of fishing activity in ICES area VIa and rectangles 38E4, 38E5 and 38E6 in ICES area VIIa (see figure 2) indicates that for the period from January to September there was a reduction in the overall number of voyages and the number of effort days between 2015 and 2016 [2] .

ICES rectangles with MPA management measures show some evidence of a decline in activity as measured by number of voyages and number of effort days. However, analysis also shows, that there were declines in the number of voyages and effort days in rectangles without MPA management measures. This suggests that other factors, beyond MPA management measures, may have affected fishing activity over this period.

Evidence collected from key informant interviews with representatives of the fishing industry suggests that it is too early to observe the impacts of MPA management measures on the amount and spatial distribution of fishing activity. A number of key informants explained that the majority of MPAs offer winter fishing grounds and potential impacts on vessels that have, in the past, fished these areas will most probably only be observed outside of the study period or over the next few years given the natural variation in fishing activity year on year.

Other key informants indicated they were not aware of any evidence of fishing vessels that were displaced because of the MPA management measures, but also stated that it was too early to tell if this would be the case in future. Several key informants were keen to stress that it will be challenging to attribute any changes in fishing activity directly to one policy such as MPA management measures, given there are a wide range of factors that influence fishing activity.

Two key informants supplied lists of vessels they believed had been displaced from fishing grounds following introduction of MPA management measures introduced in the South Arran and Wester Ross MPAs, the East Mingulay SAC and St Kilda SAC/ SPA. Three key informants gave details of three vessels they believed had stopped fishing because of the introduction of MPA management measures. These lists guided the identification and sampling of skippers that were interviewed during the case studies of selected MPA sites.

The case studies found that one vessel had been sold, and one vessel is currently tied-up while the owner delays making any longer term plans. It was suggested that a further vessel was not being replaced because of a loss of Nephrops grounds to MPAs, although there is limited evidence to support this. Box 1 summarises results from the follow-up on vessels listed as having stopped fishing.

Box 1: Vessels reported by key informants as having left the industry because of MPAs.

1. A scallop vessel with five crew was cited as sold because reduced access to scallop grounds due to MPA management measures had made the business uneconomical. The owner is now fishing his one remaining vessel.

2. A pot and trap vessel with three crew stopped fishing because its most productive Nephrops grounds are situated in the East Mingulay SAC which restricts the use of static gear. The owner recorded a decrease in gross income of about 40% that cannot be compensated by fishing in other areas due to the amount of gear required to catch the equivalent value of Nephrops which they used to catch in the SAC. They also cited high risk of gear loss in exposed trawler grounds outside of the SAC as a problem. The vessel owner said these factors are making the business unviable.

3. A pot and trap vessel targeting brown crab with four crew was cited as not having been replaced because of loss of Nephrops ground in the East Mingulay SAC. Landings data did not indicate that Nephrops were a large contributor to this vessel's income and there is no independent evidence indicating that MPA were the sole reason for the decision not to replace this vessel.

4.1.2 Activity by types of gear

Management measures introduced at MPAs and SACs do not affect all fishing sectors (see Annex 1). Analysis of fishing activity data therefore focused on three gear types that were most likely to be affected by the management measures introduced in February 2016. These are mobile dredges - predominantly targeting scallops; mobile trawl - targeting Nephrops; and static vessels - targeting a mixture of crab, lobster and Nephrops using pots and traps as well as some vessels using gill nets to target crawfish.

a) Mobile dredges

Overall activity, as measured by effort days and number of voyages, has increased for mobile dredges over the period January to September 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. The majority of rectangles containing management measures saw a small decrease in mobile dredge activity, but baseline level of activity in these rectangles was already low. Analysis also shows, however, that some of the other rectangles affected by management measures saw an increase in the level of activity, to the extent that overall activity in all rectangles affected by mobile dredging management measures had increased.

Qualitative evidence from key informant and case study interviews appears to support the above findings on impacts on mobile dredgers. Many interviewees remarked that overall mobile dredge effort has not decreased, but shifted to other fishing grounds outside the MPAs. A number of respondents pointed out that the nomadic nature of dredgers means vessels were unlikely to be affected by individual MPAs as long as they can relocate to other grounds. Respondents indicated that mobile dredgers were displaced by management measures in the South Arran and Wester Ross MPAs, and it is anticipated that Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA will impact on these vessels over the winter months. Some areas of the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA should have opened to mobile dredge on the 1 October 2016, however, this remained closed until the 31 December 2016 under a voluntary agreement made by the fishing industry via the West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group ( RIFG).

Box 2: Displacement of mobile dredge

One key informant listed 4 mobile dredge vessels as having been displaced from different MPAs because of the management measures.

  • The skipper of one dredge vessel stated that around 20% of winter income was earned from the Wester Ross MPA over the winter months when taking shelter from the south-westerly winds.
  • The management measures had not had a major impact in the first year (around 8% down on income) because dredging vessels had shifted their effort south of the Wester Ross MPA. This is potentially leading to increased pressure on those scallop grounds, with the risk of overfishing in that area.
  • There is concern over the long-term sustainability of scallop stocks. One interviewee expressed concerns about the sustainability of areas outside of the MPAs due to increased fishing pressure. This interviewee was concerned about the overall management of scallop stocks which he felt requires monitoring at a regional level.
  • One interviewee was keen to stress that technology is now available which can
    manage fishing inside each MPA. This has been communicated to Marine Scotland.

There was one reported case of a dredging vessel that may have stopped fishing because of MPA management measures. One scallop vessel, which traditionally fished the west coast of Scotland, has been sold to Ireland. The introduction of the MPA management measures was cited by the owner as the reason for the sale (see Box 1).

b) Mobile trawls

The majority of rectangles affected by MPA management measures that restrict the use of mobile trawls showed a very small decrease in activity. Only two of the rectangles affected by MPA management measures have seen increases in effort days and voyages. This suggests effort may have been displaced to other areas within these rectangles following the introduction of management measures. Overall, effort days and number of voyages for vessels using mobile trawls in all rectangles decreased, highlighting that other factors are probably driving changes in effort.

Evidence from key informant and case study interviews suggest that effort is not expected to decrease significantly, but there is likely to be a shift to other grounds outside the MPAs. Mobile trawls tend to fish in more localised grounds compared to mobile dredges which travel longer distances between sites. Interviews with skippers indicated that trawl vessels had been displaced only from one MPA, compared to dredging vessels that were displaced from more than one MPA. Most skippers of mobile trawl vessels interviewed in the South Arran MPA were concerned about the loss of grounds during the winter months, even though a mobile trawl derogation is in place for vessels of less than 120 gross tonnage enabling year-round access to 62% of the protected habitat. The loss of winter grounds was less of a concern in relation to the East Mingulay SAC which supports a summer fishery and the Wester Ross MPA which has derogations in place for mobile trawls.

Box 3: Displacement of mobile trawl

East Mingulay SAC

  • A skipper of one Nephrops fishing vessel stated that their gross income had reduced by £60K (landed value) over the summer months (June/July and August). This business has changed vessels making comparisons of income between years challenging. The analysis of landings data, however, showed no notable change in the value of landings of Nephrops between the two vessels.
  • The skipper stated that the grounds lost to this vessel have high quality, larger prawns over the summer months. The skipper indicated that higher (larger) quality Nephrops tended to earn £2-2.40 per kg more than smaller ones.

South Arran MPA

  • The South Arran MPA case study found that trawler vessels fished around 5-6 weeks a year in the area affected by management measures, mainly in poor weather during winter months. The affected area is estimated to have historically accounted for around 10-15% of a vessels' winter income. This report was undertaken prior to the winter season, and landings data was not available to verify these claims.
  • A number of interviewees were concerned about the introduction of management measures in other MPA sites, particularly restrictions to fishing in the Small Isles MPA and the Sound of Barra SAC where a number of skippers suggested they catch between 10-20% of their annual landings.

c) Static gears

Only two of the six rectangles with MPA management measures restricting use of static gear had a decrease in effort days and voyages. The other rectangles with management measures had small increases in activity. This suggests vessels displaced by the management measures increased effort in parts of the rectangles that remain open to fishing. Overall, however, effort days and voyages using static gear in all rectangles have decreased slightly, indicating there may be other factors driving changes.

Some key informants suggested there had been an increase in static gear activity where MPA management measures exclude mobile gears. They suggested the number of creels in the MPAs had increased, especially in the South Arran MPA. The case studies found no evidence of any noteworthy increases in the number of creels being used by static vessels in any MPA. The case studies found one new creeling vessel operating in an MPA. Further discussions found that the new vessel was operated by a trawler fisher who previously worked on a trawling vessel, but due to an accident was unable to continue, so purchase this new static vessel to work pots and traps. The case studies also found that static vessels operating inside the South Arran MPA are moving their gear from shallow to deeper waters within the MPA because of reduced interactions with mobile vessels (see Box 4 for more information).

One static vessel using mostly pots and traps had deployed gill nets to target crawfish ( Panulirus penicillatus) in the St Kilda SAC during a two month period over the last two years. It was suggested that around £20k was earned from these grounds from both pots and gill nets. Because of the management measures, steaming to these distant fishing grounds is no longer economically viable as gill nets cannot be deployed and as a result the owner stopped fishing in this area. The owner indicated this had not undermined overall business viability and suggested that the vessel will shift its effort to focus solely on pot and trap fishing in other grounds.

Box 4: Changes in Static effort in the South Arran MPA

There have been reports of a significant increase in static effort since management measures came into effect in the South Arran MPA. Data collected from case study interviews found limited evidence to support this. The South Arran MPA case study found that:

  • One new static vessel started fishing in and around the South Arran MPA because of an accident which limited the crews' ability to work on the family trawler. This new vessel fishes 290 Nephrops pots and 15 lobster pots.
  • None of the skippers interviewed using static gear reported an increase in effort within the MPA. Instead they reported that gear had shifted from shallow to deeper water. One mobile skipper said he had heard of a static fisher leaving the MPA because of gear saturation though there is currently no evidence to support this claim.
  • Interviewees suggested lobster effort is now more concentrated in inshore grounds because of the restrictions on static gear in three areas inside the South Arran MPA.

Static fishers were of the view that:

  • The management measures are of benefit to vessels using static gear as they can be more flexible in how they fish without the risk of losing gear to mobile vessels.

Some skippers of vessels using static gear stated they were likely to stay south inside the MPA because unlike previous years they will not be displaced to other grounds. It was suggested this will reduce their fuel costs and improve business profitability.

4.1.3 Fish landings by ICES rectangle

The live weight of landings of key species likely to be affected by MPA management measures do not show significant changes in 2016 relative to the comparable period in 2015 [3] . Month by month, total landings of Nephrops in 2016 exceeded 2015 levels with the exception of September [4] . Similarly, monthly landings for king scallops in 2016 exceeded 2015 levels, with the exception of August and September. Overall the cumulative landings of queen scallops up to September 2016 exceeded landings for the same period in 2015. Seasonal patterns in landings for both Nephrops and king scallops are comparable between 2015 and 2016. However, for queen scallops the seasonal distribution in 2016 is different to that in 2015. There is no reason, at this stage, to believe that this change is due to the introduction of MPA management measures.

Landings by ICES rectangles show that only two of the nine rectangles with measures affecting the use of mobile trawls had a decrease in Nephrops landings. Five of the rectangles with MPA management measures restricting dredging had a decrease in king scallop landings. There are two main rectangles that account for queen scallop landings and both saw an increase in live weight landed. While landings of Nephrops and king and queen scallops decreased in some rectangles with out MPA management measures, these do not account for large amounts of landings of these species.

Qualitative evidence from key informant interviewees and case studies suggests there have been no decreases in fish landings attributable to the introduction of MPA management measures. Some fishing industry interviewees suggested changes in landings were likely to be seen in future as increased pressure on stocks outside of the MPAs starts to affect sustainability and ultimately catches. This was also the view of one seafood processing business. Marine Scotland will undertake further monitoring of fishing activity and fish landings to test this hypothesis.

4.1.4 Fish landings by district

Five districts experienced decreases in Nephrops landings in 2016 relative to 2015 for the period January to September. These include Anstruther, Fraserburgh, Lochinver, Peterhead and Scrabster. Of these districts, only Lochinver appears to have significant landings. Relative to the location of MPAs and fishing grounds, the decrease in landings in these districts could be associated with management measures introduced in the Wester Ross MPA. Case study evidence, however, suggests that the Wester Ross MPA would not have affected Nephrops landings because the site had derogations for Nephrops trawling. Hence, observed changes in landings in Wester Ross may be due to the nomadic nature of vessels rather than MPA management measures.

From January to September, king scallop landings in four districts decreased between 2015 and 2016. These were Buckie, Lochinver, Oban and Ullapool. Of these four districts, Oban is the only one that has a high volume of king scallop landings. The key informant interviews suggest that changes in landings could be associated with displacement from Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA. As mentioned previously some parts of the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA should have opened on the 1 October 2016. However this was delayed until 31 December 2016 due to an industry-led voluntary closure. Ayr was the only district that received notable landings of queen scallops and these increased between 2015 and 2016. To date there is no evidence that MPAs have affected overall landings of queen scallops. The data suggests a spatial redistribution on landing patterns across districts.

4.1.5 EMFF measures

Key informant interviews and case studies sought to establish if vessels were implementing other practices, besides the spatial redistribution of effort, to mitigate the impacts of MPA management measures. Four vessels sought assistance from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund ( EMFF) to support diversification of fishing activity. All applicants who previously operated mobile dredgers were awarded grants to facilitate diversification of their fishing operations. In two cases this was to adapt their vessels to operate static gear, and for the other two cases this was to adapt their vessels and retrain crew for scallop diving. The resulting change in effort has not been measured in this report as these vessels were finalising this process and were not operational at the time of survey.

Outside of these vessels, there was no evidence of other vessels changing fishing gear since the introduction of MPA management measures. Some key informants suggested that vessels with the capacity to operate both static and mobile gears are likely to have reduced the amount of time they fished with mobile gear. Nonetheless, no evidence was found to support this during case study interviews.

4.2 Other Marine Users

Key informant interviews provided information on how other marine users were interacting with MPAs, and whether they were positively or negatively impacted by management measures introduced when protected areas were designated or the additional measures in February 2016. Other marine users included the aquaculture industry as well as different tourism sectors. Details from key informants were supplemented with evidence from case studies where interviewees suggested there had been some impact. The impact of MPA management measures on these sectors is discussed below.

4.2.1. Aquaculture

None of the key informants expressed concerns about the impact of MPA management measures either from designation or the additional fisheries management measures on current aquaculture operations. There were some concerns from the aquaculture industry that insufficient survey data for protected habitats could affect future expansion and investment plans. Aquaculture stakeholders also felt the introduction of more restrictions on MPAs might put pressure on the industry if there are perceptions that their operations threaten the conservation status of MPAs.

4.2.2 Tourism

Key informants stated that marine related tourism - either in the form of new start-ups or level activity, had not changed since the introduction of the MPA management measures. The general message is that it is too early to see any changes in marine tourism activity linked to MPAs.

Ten of the eighteen key informants pointed out a number of tourism related plans and projects across different communities to take advantage of MPAs. A number had already been submitted for consideration for funding. It was expected that new tourism projects would be implemented from Spring 2017. Box 5 summarises some of these projects.

Box 5: Tourism plans and project development

  • Snorkel trails have been mapped in and around the Wester Ross MPA. Twelve volunteers from the local community have been trained to run snorkel tours for tourists, local school groups and community members from spring 2017.
  • National Trust Scotland has launched a website which links National Trust properties and estates to MPAs and other marine conservation sites. This can be viewed here.
  • The Arran Marine Activities Centre has a two-phase development project to construct a hub for marine related businesses (marine tourism, seafood catering, seafood cooking courses) and a Family Discovery Centre which will include interactive exhibition spaces, a coffee shop and education facilities. Both aim to raise awareness about marine life in the South Arran MPA and marine industries associated with the area. At the time of interview, the project had identified a site for the development and has submitted a planning application. Fifty percent of the funds for phase one have been raised and the remainder is subject of a funding application. A proposal is in place for the second phase, with plans to raise £1 million capital for the build.
  • One project, a collaboration between the local community groups and the Arran Access Trust, proposes to construct education and information boards on the South Arran MPA, along the "Arran Coastal Way".
  • The North Isles (Orkney Isles) Landscape Partnership Scheme has bid for funding from the National Lottery to develop a virtual interpretation and MPA dive experience facility. This is a collaboration between Orkney Council (lead), Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Highlands Island Enterprise and Orkney College.
  • The diving communities on the Isle of Mull and Oban have met to develop a marketing strategy on the back of the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA.

4.3 Wider Socioeconomic Impacts

4.3.1 Seafood Processing

A number of processing facilities in the Western Isles, Highlands and mainland Scotland are dependent on local fishing fleets and the seafood they land into local ports. Some processors reported that they had not experienced any decline in the supply of seafood raw materials following the introduction of MPA management measures because they had managed to source raw material from vessels working in other areas of Scotland. One processor suggested, however, that MPA management measures had impacted on the size composition (shift from larger to smaller animals) and the quality of raw materials. Generally, processors were concerned about the sustainability of fishing grounds outside the MPAs and potential for negative impacts on future supplies.

For example, one processor pointed out that the size composition of landed Nephrops had changed during the summer months due to local vessels no longer having access to some grounds because of MPA management measures. This impacted on the supply of high value catches during the months of June, July and August. The processor suggested this loss in grounds was estimated to be worth around £100,000 in fish landings for local vessels and £300,000 in processing factory revenues. Another processor stated that around 5% of their annual intake of king scallops came from the Wester Ross MPA. Whilst this is now being caught in grounds outside of the MPA, they were concerned about long-term sustainability of grounds outside MPAs.

Key informants for the seafood processing sector suggested that confidence in the viability of the sector has been impacted because of the fisheries restrictions in MPAs which could affect the supply of raw material in the coming years. This was of particular concern for king scallop processors in the Western Isles where employees are also becoming concerned about job security. This is important for remote areas where seafood processing provides significant employment.

4.3.2 Community involvement

There is a range of community groups linked to different MPAs. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust ( COAST) linked to the South Arran MPA is one of the well-established groups. New groups are also emerging in respect to other MPAs. These include Sea Change which is linked to the Wester Ross MPA, and the Community Association of Lochs and Sounds ( CAOLAS) - a social enterprise linked to the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA. CAOLAS consists of eight committee members and has around 100 names registered with the association. There are two other community groups working on terrestrial programmes (conservation and business development of rural estates) that indicated they are exploring links to MPAs through local programmes under development by other MPA community groups.

For the well-established groups, the implementation of the MPA management measures resulted in a shift of focus from lobbying for change to raising awareness in the local communities together with promoting opportunities for businesses and recreation in newly established MPAs. This has included:

  • meetings with different community members/business sectors;
  • developing programmes that offer communities and young people the opportunity to interact with MPAs;
  • raising funds (Big Lottery, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and private sector);
  • producing interpretation facilities; and,
  • promoting the potential for citizen science.

A short film has been produced to raise awareness of the Wester Ross MPA. CAOLAS is running a series of environmental talks on marine wildlife over the winter months regarding the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA to raise awareness in local communities.

Well-established community groups stated that they were focused on marine sustainability (environmental, social, and economic sustainability) and were inclusive of all sectors which embody these principles. COAST has jointly developed scientific research proposals for the South Arran MPA in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, Herriot Watt University and the University of York. A PhD application has been submitted for funding with The University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Association for Marine Science ( SAMS) which if successful will focus on MPAs.

At the time of interviews no funds or applications associated with MPAs had been received by any Fisheries Local Action Groups ( FLAGs) for the Community Led Local Development ( CLLD) fund of the European and Marine Fisheries Fund ( EMFF) though some of the FLAGs were still to seek applications at the time of this study.

4.3.3 Other marine/coastal developments

None of the key informants suggested that the introduction of MPA management measures was affecting broader marine or coastal developments. The key informant representing ports and harbours suggested there was no evidence of any impacts on the sector from either from protected area designation or the new fisheries measures. There was concern, however, that the conservation status of MPAs might impact on ongoing maintenance, operations or expansions in the future.

Two key informants stressed that it was too early to gauge the impact of MPAs on wider marine and coastal developments. It is believed that in most cases impacts will be a cumulative results of past, current and future activities/limitations, associated with management restrictions in the marine environment including MPAs. One key informant raised concerns that in future renewable energy developments in the vicinity of MPAs may be affected, for example the testing of wave and tidal devices.

4.4 Looking Ahead

Key informants and other stakeholders were also asked about expected future impacts and opportunities likely to emerge following the introduction of MPA management measures.

4.4.1 Anticipated future impacts of current MPA management measures

Key informants in favour of MPAs believe that there are a range of opportunities, including for the scallop diving industry, static gear fishing, community involvement and co-management, tourism (see Box 6), recreational diving, sea angling, marine-based sports, environmentally friendly marketing/branding and scientific research. Key informants who were not supportive of MPAs highlighted similar opportunities - potential benefits for tourism; static gear fishing; recreational diving; and, environmentally friendly marketing/branding. They were, however, sceptical about the scale of these opportunities, and most pointed to the seasonal nature of some of the sectors that might benefit.

Four of the eighteen key informants who were interviewed were very keen to stress that the main opportunities were in the protection and recovery of the marine environment. Any additional socioeconomic benefits would take time to be realised and these should not be the focus for measuring MPA success. Interviewees stressed the importance of monitoring ecological benefits from MPA management measures to gauge the impacts of this policy and that the socioeconomic benefits should be viewed as additional benefits.

Box 6: Recognising tourism opportunities for MPAs through a healthy environment

The majority of key informants said that they felt it was too early to evaluate the potential change to tourism or to fully comprehend tourism opportunities linked to MPAs. Many discussed opportunities for the future with mixed opinions on the tourism activities that might be associated with MPAs. Some pointed out that the main attraction for tourists to the West Coast of Scotland is the scenery (land and seascapes) and wildlife, and that MPAs contribute to the conservation of nature and wildlife. Others felt MPAs are unlikely to deliver many additional benefits to the tourism industry, beyond their role in protecting and conserving the marine environment.

4.4.2 Future Prospects on long term viability of fishing industry

There was no widespread evidence of impacts on the long-term viability of marine businesses as a result of the introduction of MPA management measures with the exception of one fishing business ( section 4.1). Key informants and case study interviewees expressed concern about the cumulative impacts of wider marine environment management measures which restrict the way businesses operate, and highlighted that the MPA management measures were adding to the pressures on the fishing industry. Some key informants suggested that business confidence for industries directly dependent on marine resources has been impacted by MPA management measures, and that this needs to be closely monitored in future. This was of particular concern to the seafood processing sector.