2014 Consultation on the management of inshore Special Areas of Conservation and Marine Protected Areas - Consultation analysis report

2014 Consultation on the management of inshore Special Areas of Conservation and Marine Protected Areas - Consultation analysis report. Summary of the responses received relating to each site.

16. Small Isles MPA

16.1. Introduction

16.1.1. The Small Isles MPA was designated to protect its diverse seabed habitats. This MPA is home to the only known aggregation of fan mussels in UK waters. The Small Isles MPA overlaps the Rum, Canna and Sanday SPAs designated in part for their breeding seabirds.

16.1.2. The consultation presented two possible management approaches for the Small Isles MPA. In both approaches, additional measures would be required for black guillemot, northern seafan and sponge communities, and burrowed mud. Again, for both approaches, the use of suction dredges (boat or diver operated) would be prohibited throughout the MPA and there would be a vessel capacity restriction of 150 Gross Registered Tonnage ( GRT).

  • Approach 1 would prohibit the use of demersal trawls, mechanical dredge, or suction dredges (boat or diver operated) within a defined area.
  • Approach 2 does the same but draws a more complex polygon to minimise the inclusion of fishing grounds. This polygon would prohibit the use of demersal trawls, mechanical dredge, or suction dredges (boat or diver operated).

16.2. We Asked

16.2.1. The consultation asked: 'Do you support the preferred approach (number 2) for managing this protected area?' A follow up question asking about support for the alternate approach was also asked.

16.2.2. The consultation also asked 'Do you agree with the economic, social, and environmental assessments of the impact of the management approaches?'

16.3. You Said

16.3.1. In reply to whether respondent supported the preferred management approach, 55 said 'no', ten said 'yes' and one static fishing respondent did not specify but gave another comment. Table 16.1 summarises the responses received.

16.3.2. Thirty-five respondents, mainly from the individual and industry /transport groups, commented only on the Small Isles and Wester Ross MPAs. These respondents did not support either of the management approaches proposed for the Small Isles but, instead, supported an alternative approach (Figure 16.1 and Figure 16.2). This is described more fully below alongside comments from other respondents on the proposed management approaches.

Table 16 . 1: Small Isles MPA - Support for preferred management approach



Other comments

No reply

Individuals (133)





Environment / Conservation (17)





Inshore Fisheries Group ( IFG) (3)





Industry / Transport (6)





Mobile fishing (8)





Local authority (3)





Local group (7)





Recreation / Tourism (13)





Static fishing (4)





Other (2)





Total (196)





16.3.3. Seven of those who said 'yes', they agree with the proposed approach, commented further.

16.3.4. A respondent from the inshore fisheries group along with one from the mobile fishing group felt that this approach "is considered by the fishing industry to be the best approach to zonal management of the site to protect the features and ensure future economic returns to the fishing fleet".

16.3.5. Another two mobile fishing respondents were generally supportive of this proposed approach. One of these, however, acknowledged concerns from some groups over the boundary for restricting trawling and dredging and "supports any dialogue that helps refine the management measures in such a way that allows sustainable activity while not posing a threat to achieving the conservation objectives".

16.3.6. A local authority commented that this approach allows fishing to continue without damage to the protected features.

16.3.7. A local group felt fishing boats will need some form of positional data logging.

16.3.8. Forty-seven respondents who did not agree with the proposed management approach also commented and this included four environment /conservation respondents who said they felt Approach 2 insufficient to ensure conservation of the protected features in the area.

16.3.9. Two other environment /conservation respondents said they did not support either of the proposed approaches. One said the proposals favour the commercial sector and wanted to see a 'no take' zone across the MPA. In addition, two static fishing, one recreation /tourism and one local authority respondent wanted a ban on mechanical dredging and trawling across the MPA.

16.3.10. Another static fishing respondent, representing a large membership, voiced concern that more consideration had not been given to the promotion of sustainable fishing methods. This respondent wanted to see reinstatement of the 3-mile limit on the West coast.

Figure 16 . 1: Alternative proposal for trawling in the Small Isles MPA

Figure 16.1: Alternative proposal for trawling in the Small Isles MPA

Figure 16.2: Alternative proposal for dredging in the Small Isles MPA

Figure 16.2: Alternative proposal for dredging in the Small Isles MPA

16.3.11. An environment /conservation respondent said they did not support either approach as these only provide protection in the Sound of Canna. This respondent said this goes against "Marine Scotland's management guidance and advice from SNH and leaving it highly likely that the conservation objectives will fail for this site".

16.3.12. Another, from the same group, wanted to see "much more ambitious protection" across the MPA, as did a recreation /tourism respondent and an individual.

16.3.13. Commenting on the need to further reduce mobile effort in the area, another individual suggested that "There is clearly a need for more research data and surveys. Rare anemone Amaranthus is near the harbour and the Northern sea fan is also in this area" and cautioned against taking a short-term view.

16.3.14. One inshore fisheries respondent said that "The proposed closure and gross tonnage limit of 150 tonnes was not proportionate and would have significant socio-economic impacts and reduce valuable catches". This view was echoed by a mobile fishing respondent.

16.3.15. The majority of those that commented at this question (including a large majority of individual and industry /transport respondents) did not support either of the approaches proposed for the MPA in the consultation document. Instead, they supported alternative measures agreed between the MNWFA and Marine Scotland on January 16th 2015, outlined in the following maps, as a compromise. These would extend the area of burrowed mud being protected while also allowing scallop and prawn fishing to continue. Many of the individuals who commented fished in the area.

16.3.16. Reasons given for support for alternative measures included:

  • That the alternative proposals would both protect burrowed mud and allow for a viable fishing industry.
  • That many inshore areas provide small vessels with protection from the weather and heavy swells. That small vessels have few alternatives, especially in bad weather.
  • The need to encourage young people into the fishing industry by ensuring there are safe, accessible fishing areas.
  • The need for a secure future for fishermen and the local economy.
  • That this is an important and busy area for prawn fishing and any restrictions will cause displacement; this will cause extra fuel to be burned with the resulting carbon emissions.
  • Concern that 'the goal-posts' keep changing leading to great uncertainty.
  • That there has been fishing in the area for many years yet the features still remain.
  • That the fishing fleet supports many local businesses.
  • A query as to why the proposals include "the same GT cap for scallop boats as you would for nephrops trawlers since dredgers do not have shelter decks" (mobile fishing).
  • That the regulation of creels should also be considered.

16.3.17. A respondent from the static fishing group who did not give a yes /no answer said that they support "proportionate conservation measures with minimum impact on commercial fisheries".

16.3.18. Those who did not support the preferred option were asked: 'Do you support the other approach?' One individual said 'yes' and did not give a reason. Twenty-four respondents, from a range of respondent groups, said 'no' and 16 gave their reasons. Many of these reasons were similar to those already discussed at the question above. These included environment /conservation and individual respondents who said:

  • That Approach 1 in particular does not offer sufficient protection. In particular, the need to extend the no-trawl zone to the north in order to protect the fan mussels as "Fan mussels are extremely rare and this site is the only known aggregation remaining in Scottish waters. It is imperative that sufficient room is given around the edges of the remaining colony to allow it to recover" (environment /conservation)
  • That neither approach offers sufficient protection.
  • The need for greater restrictions, or a complete ban, on mobile fishing in the area.
  • That the proposals would be impossible to enforce.

16.3.19. Comments from mobile fishing respondents who did not support either proposal included:

  • That the measures proposed would damage the fishing fleet.
  • The importance of the fishing grounds in this area.
  • The importance of the fishing industry to the local economy.
  • That the fishing industry has worked hard to co-operate and engage in the consultation process and are concerned that the 'goal posts' keep changing.
  • A request for a full enquiry into the designation of the Small Isles and for the Minister to explain, in person, "the reasons for his decisions to the fishermen affected".
  • The need to pay attention to data provided by the industry as this shows "that almost all of the tows avoided the most sensitive areas".
  • That voluntary rather than statutory measures should be considered.
  • Support for an alternative approach as agreed between the MNWFA and Marine Scotland (and outlined in the figure 16.1 and 16.2).

16.3.20. Nine (including four individuals and once each form the static fishing, mobile fishing, local group, local authority and IFG groups) said they agreed with the economic, social, and environmental assessments of the impact of the management approaches.

16.3.21. Ten (including five environment /conservation respondents and one each from the static fishing, mobile fishing, local group, local authority and IFG groups) said they did not agree with the economic, social, and environmental assessments of the impact of the management approaches.

16.3.22. Four mobile fishing and one environment /conservation respondents made other comments.

16.3.23. Looking first at those who agreed with the economic, social, and environmental assessments of the impact of the management approaches, four commented further. Three, from the inshore fisheries, mobile fishing and local authority groups, restated their agreement.

16.3.24. An individual felt that while there would be a loss to trawls, the need to provide protection was "imperative".

16.3.25. Seven, mainly from the environment /conservation group, who said they did not agree commented on their reasons and these are described below.

16.3.26. One environment /conservation respondent said: "The Northern Featherstars and tall seapens are also important features of this site and are similarly vulnerable to trawling. The objective for these should be changed to "remove/avoid" pressure from mobile gear".

16.3.27. Another environment /conservation respondent, who did not state their agreement or disagreement, said that while they agree with the management advice to remove or avoid pressure from fan mussel aggregations, horse mussel beds, northern seafan and sponge communities and white cluster anemones, nevertheless the approaches do not go far enough. This respondent wanted to see the restricted zone extended include more of the burrowed mud habitat and an objective of recover rather than conserve in respect of the fan mussel aggregation. This respondent also advocated a precautionary approach as there may be burrowing sea anemone aggregations in the area. In addition they said that while they recognise the short and mid-term impacts on fishing boats, the restrictions "will improve the wider ecological health of our seas and provide long-term, beyond-the-site benefits for commercial fishermen". They also wanted to see the prohibition of set nets in order to protect seabird colonies, in particular the Black Guillemot.

16.3.28. One environment /conservation respondent said that the assessment has failed to consider the benefits that the proposed measures may bring to the area over time. Another said it failed to consider other benefits such as well-being. This respondent added that the assessment had not considered the benefits of a 'no take' zone.

16.3.29. Another from this group wanted to see "consideration of precautionary safeguards against any future - potentially damaging - increase in effort or scale of static gear use in the site". One other environment /conservation respondent again mentioned the need to increase the restricted zone in order to protect fan mussels.

16.3.30. A local authority commented that "The assessments seem to consider only the negative impacts of displacement of vessels rather than any positive ecosystem, or socioeconomic benefits that may arise from the designation of the site".

16.3.31. A mobile fishing respondent said: "assessment of displacement does not consider the implications for sustainable fisheries management of the wider nephrops functional unit".

16.3.32. Four other, from the mobile fishing group, did not state agreement or disagreement but instead made other comments, as follow.

16.3.33. Three mobile fishing respondents reserved judgement, noting that that the environmental report on management measures was not available at the beginning of the public consultation.

16.3.34. One mobile fishing respondent said they agree "with the protection of marine features as long as it is proportionate and factors in the economic viability of the local fishing communities that are under threat from MPAs".

16.4. We Did

16.4.1. Marine Scotland welcomes the manner in which Mallaig and Northwest Fisherman's Association ( MNWFA) has engaged in this process. They have been at the forefront of providing unprecedented access to members knowledge and data. The late in the day change of nature conservation advice for northern seafan and sponge communities left everyone on the back foot.

16.4.2. The proposals made by MNWFA have been considered by both Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. The conclusion reached was that there would be a significant risk of hindering the conservation objectives for the fan mussel aggregations, northern seafan and sponge communities, and burrowed mud. With this being the only example of fan mussels in the network, its conservation is of greater importance.

16.4.3. Therefore the Scottish Government has concluded that a greater margin needs to be left around this habitat. We also agree that the measures should prohibit set nets to protect black guillemot and the SPA seabird colonies

16.4.4. The Scottish Government does not agree with the view expressed by some respondents that the site needs to be a no take or no mobile gear MPA. Nor do we agree that there needs to be any change to conservation objectives or management advice for the protected features of this site.

16.4.5. We agree that the capacity restriction is unlikely to affect any scallop dredgers. However these vessels already have a gear restriction of 8-a-side. The use of the capacity restriction for both trawling and dredging vessels keeps things simple.

16.4.6. We intend to implement the following measures to protect all the habitat and species of the Small Isles MPA using a Marine Conservation Order under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010;

  • To prohibit the use of the following fishing methods - suction dredge, mechanical dredge, beam trawl, demersal trawl, and set nets - throughout the MPA.
  • By way of derogation mechanical dredge and demersal trawl will be permitted in specified areas by vessels of less than 150 registered gross tonnes.

16.4.7. The measures and their ecological value are shown in appendix 16.


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