Consultation on the Fair Isle Demonstration and Research MPA Proposal

The first Demonstration and Research MPA proposal has been developed by the Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI) on behalf of all residents of Fair Isle for Fair Isle.

Summary of Assessment Against the MPA Selection Guidelines Criteria

Criterion 1 - The Aims and Objectives Proposed for the MPA are Feasible

FIMETI's objectives clearly relate to carrying out research and demonstration activities relating to sustainable management of the marine environment. Although the objectives are fairly broad, the proposal provides proposed monitoring arrangements, demonstration activities and a clear basis on which the requirement for management measures will be determined. The proposal provides a clear implementation programme which would ensure the objectives are appropriate, realistic and feasible.

FIMETI has proposed the D&R MPA boundary to be a 5 km Technical Measures Research Area. The D&R MPA would provide an opportunity to implement management measures within the Technical Measures Research Area outside the SPA, and an area that is not already designated as a protected area may prove beneficial for the purposes of expanding the applicability of proposed or future research. The proposed boundary could offer opportunities to carry out spatial measures e.g. voluntary research. While it is important the MPA is of a sufficient area that will be of benefit for research, it must also be noted that there is limited explanation as to what the reasoning is for specifying it should be 5 km and not more or less than that based on the objectives.

FIMETI propose a governance structure be established with Steering Committee (Executive Level) formed of all relevant bodies, along with arrangements of supervision of the Project Officer, and these objectives are clear.

It is proposed that if they are required the Steering Committee will agree what the proposed management measures will be through the Implementation plan and prior to any studies be commenced.

Criterion 2 - The Proposed D&R MPA is the Best Means of Carrying out the Proposed Demonstration

The proposal builds upon established research programmes and good research facilities on the isle, and thus already has elements in place that could be developed into a firm research structure. It will be supported, through partnership working, with NAFC/ UHI bringing a wealth of expertise on other topics such as fisheries.

A key focus of the proposal is on research and demonstration involving the local community. Such a focus could not be achieved through sectoral measures or designation as a NC MPA. A voluntary approach could be pursued, but with increased risk of failure. Involvement of the local community in the research programme and the community-led approach to management could both be considered as novel elements of the proposal.

There is already a wide range of well-established and long running research on Fair Isle bird populations, which can help in the development of management measures for Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) throughout Scotland.

The benefits of the Fair Isle proposal are therefore considered to be:

  • Strong research baseline exists for marine birds - this is essential in order to be able to detect impact of management measures; and
  • Good research facilities available on island and supported by research facilities on Shetland.

While it is recognised that Fair Isle offers some further benefits as a D&R MPA location, particularly in relation to the monitoring of long-term change in sea bird populations and responses to climate change, it is currently unclear what management measures might be implemented, and thus the extent to which monitoring might demonstrate the benefit of such measures.

With regards to carrying out this research, it is recognised that there are other SPAs with marine extensions where management measures might be implemented for which monitoring could be undertaken. There are also other NC MPAs within which fisheries management measures will and have been implemented for which monitoring programmes could be established. However, it is unlikely that the Demonstration and Research objectives of the proposal would be as well fulfilled at these locations as result of the island's unique location and the high level of participation from residents.

Management measures may constrain fishing opportunities in the future, but these will be well recognised at the start of the study and considered accordingly. FIMETI has clarified that the proposal is not looking to replace current fisheries management. They would like to work within current arrangements such as the Shetland Regulating Order. In addition fisheries management would only occur as a result of a need under a research framework and decided through discussion with stakeholders (which will include local fisheries interests).

No other industries are expected to be affected. It is therefore likely that any economic or social cost impacts arising from management measures will be small and therefore the location would have minimal adverse effect on other marine users in comparison to other areas.

Criterion 3 - Research Proposed is Scientifically Sound

The purpose of the research is adequately defined, sufficiently clear and meets the criterion. The main aims of undertaking seabird monitoring are scientifically sound as the research would be using and improving on existing methods.

There are also a wide range of studies that could be undertaken from Fair Isle, with the assistance of established scientific bodies, such as:

  • Continuation of local shellfish monitoring and development of a sustainable-use management programme based on initial findings.
  • Continuation of fish stock data recording and initiation of methodology-driven monitoring scheme and wider dissemination of the results.
  • Seabird monitoring & research using the protocols and methodology of the national Seabird Monitoring Programme (population counts, provisioning of young, standard watches and sampling for quality and range of fish, feeding rates).
  • Ancillary seabird studies to determine routes and feeding locations using data loggers; and investigation of corpses for causes of mortality including starvation and disease.
  • Constant-effort meteorological data gathering and automatic transmission of results to the UK's Meteorological Station (including automatic data recorders for a series of sea surface parameters - surface temperature, salinity etc.).
  • Seashore monitoring for biodiversity and climate change indicators of the seashore - a community involvement project, especially the children, through the Fair Isle Wildlife Club.
  • Registration and maintenance of biodiversity records.
  • Extensive recording of fish stomach contents by the community.
  • Annual evaluation by the community of inshore fish populations including species composition, size, distribution and temporal and spatial changes in fish stocks - within the limits of the equipment available on the isle.
  • Systematic recording of cetacean sightings, including along "transects" by the Good Shepherd crew during frequent ferry trips between Fair Isle and Shetland mainland.

The MPA would provide a platform from which to undertake as many of these studies as are possible to be done with available resources.

Given that the research will be carefully chosen and monitored throughout its lifetime, there will be opportunities to modify or cease the study annually if the objectives are not being met. These decisions will be made by the Steering Committee.

Continued long-term monitoring of seabirds will contribute to understanding of changes in seabird populations. The understanding of the causes of change could be enhanced by additional local monitoring of seabird diets and foraging patterns together with information on prey distribution/abundance.

The long history of scientific research and demonstration activities on Fair Isle provide a good foundation for a D&R MPA. The proposal has provided information on the proposed monitoring programmes and has detailed that the management measures will be determined through consensus by the Steering Committee.

Criterion 4 -There is a Good Level of Support from Stakeholders

There is clear and unanimous support from the Fair Isle community and designation could increase researcher visits and special interest parties, leading to an economic benefit. In addition the community will benefit from the continuation of long term monitoring programmes e.g. that of seabirds, shellfish, meteorology, seashore biodiversity, cetacean sightings. Other benefits will depend on nature of management measures which have not yet been determined.

The main sector likely to be affected by management measures is commercial fisheries. While this sector is not opposed to the proposal in principle, they initially had clear concerns about the lack of clarity around management measures and the extent to which the proposal meets the guidelines. These concerns have reduced with the proposal to form a Steering Committee on which fishing interests will have representation and as a result of clarification of the decision making process. The proposed objectives will also assist the fishing industry to extend its knowledge base.

Further work is required particularly to clarify possible management measures and governance arrangements so that commercial fisheries stakeholders can have greater confidence in the proposal. As previously noted, it is likely that any economic or social cost impacts arising from management measures will be small and therefore the location would have minimal adverse effect on other marine users in comparison to other areas.

There is also support from the wider Shetland community, including the Council, and the majority of wider stakeholders, including the Public Petitions Committee and the Council of Europe, as well as e NGOs such as RSPB and NTS.

Criterion 5 - The Proposed Demonstration is Feasible and Fits Within the Wider Set of Government Priorities at the National Level

The designation could provide additional protection to SPA birds and the wider marine environment, which supports the policies in the National Marine Plan [6] ( NMP) of sustainable development and use of the marine environment. In addition it can demonstrate multiple economic benefits at a community and national level, including economic growth, skills development, employment, maintaining or increasing population levels and opportunities for investment and trade. This also contributes to where particular consideration should be given to opportunities that aim to provide benefit to communities, including local job creation and local training ( NMP General Policies 1, 2 & 3). As the aim is also to study climate change this also contributes to NMP General Policy 5 where decision makers must act in the way best calculated to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. The National Marine Plan sets out additional policy that use of the marine environment must protect and, where appropriate, enhance the health of the marine area. This follows duties in the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 on Ministers to improve the health of the seas where appropriate through their decision making, and finding new or better means of marine management supports this aim. The Fair Isle D&R proposal would contribute to all these principles.

The proposal would also contribute to many of the High Level Marine Objectives [7] ( HLMO) including particularly: sustainable use of marine resources ( HLMO2), involvement of island community ( HLMO9), living within environmental limits ( HLMOs 11-13), involving stakeholders in decision-making ( HLMO14), using sound science ( HLMOs 19-20). Designation as a D&R MPA could also meet the Council of Europe Diploma requirement to designate Fair Isle as an MPA for continuation of their accredited status.

In addition, the Scottish Government has a vision for a future Islands Bill, seeking to improve equality and empowerment for island communities, and better equip them to inform the important decisions that directly impact their way of life. This proposal offers an example of this type of working in empowering the community of Fair Isle in the decisions that matter to them.

Criterion 6 - The Proposed Demonstration has a High Value in Terms of Helping to Improve our Knowledge and Understanding

Long-term monitoring could improve knowledge of the relationship between seabirds, prey and climate change.

The proposed management measures have not yet been defined, however the planned approach and establishment of a Steering Committee will ensure consensus of the objectives of the study prior to commencement. Points of review and assessment will ensure that the aims are met and provide the opportunity for the research to be altered to be meaningful and applicable elsewhere.

Lessons learnt may be applicable to other situations particularly seabird SPA management and sustainable management of island and peripheral coastal communities

We invite views on the assessment against the MPA Selection Guidelines and the requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 for the designation of Demonstration and Research MPAs. This is in relation to Question 2 of the formal consultation.

The full details of the assessment against the criteria can be found in the ABPmer report: Assessment of the Fair Isle Third Party Demonstration and Research MPA Proposal - Criteria and Socio-economic Final Report [8]

The full details of the proposal can be found in the submission from FIMETI:
Fair Isle Proposed Demonstration and Research MPA 2015 [9]

Review period

The suggested phasing of the MPA is as follows:

  • Phase One - Initiation and Gap Analysis: Years 1 - 3.
  • Phase Two - Demonstration and Trialling of Relevant Identified Actions: Years 4 - 10.
  • Phase Three - Evaluation: End of Year 10.
  • Phase Four - Enhancement: Year 11 Onwards.

An accurate assessment is unlikely to be possible to be undertaken until the 2030 review of the MPA network. Therefore it is suggested that the Review period for the proposal be on a 12 or 18 year basis, which also better reflects the slow rates of change in seabird populations and climate change figures.

We also invite views on what the most relevant review period for the designation should be. This relates to Question 3 of the formal consultation.


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