Assessing fisheries displacement by other licensed marine activities: good practice guidance - literature review

This project developed ‘Good Practice Guidance for Assessing Fisheries Displacement’ through a detailed literature review and consultation with the ScotMER Fish and Fisheries Receptor Group (FFSRG), commercial fisheries industry, offshore energy and regulatory sectors.

4 Definition of displacement

For the purpose of this Literature Review, displacement of fishing activity refers to the relocation of fishing activity (i.e. pressure or effort) from an area into other area(s) as a result of the presence of other licensed marine activities and/or associated infrastructure ('the development') (Vaughan, 2017; Slijkerman & Tamis, 2015; Gruss, 2014).

Displacement of fishing activity due to other marine licensed activities is usually an indirect effect of the loss of, or restricted access to, fishing grounds. Displacement may occur as a direct result of the other licensed marine activity (primary displacement), but also indirectly to existing fisheries which are operational within the areas which fishing activity is displaced to, potentially resulting in further displacement impacts (i.e. into a subsequent additional area) (secondary displacement).

The potential impact pathway of loss of grounds can be a result of any phase of an offshore energy development from pre-construction to decommissioning (Gill et al., 2020). Further information on this impact pathway is provided in Section 7. Hereafter, where the word 'displacement' is written it is referring to the displacement of commercial fishing activity alone.

4.1.1 Overview of commercial fisheries EIA methodology

In order to apply for consent, offshore energy projects (including offshore wind) are required to assess potential impacts of activities to the offshore environments, sea life and other sea users, including commercial fisheries. When this assessment is carried out, the methodology which is applied in most cases is to assign a receptor-specific sensitivity score (for example by considering the operational range of a fishing fleet) and an impact-specific magnitude of effect score. The magnitude of effect is often based on the impact parameters such as temporal duration and spatial extent. This enables an assessment of whether the impact is expected to have significant effects on a receptor, or not (CIEEM, 2018; SNH, 2018).

4.1.2 Sensitivity of receptor and magnitude of effect

The magnitude of effect of displacement of fishing activity into other areas may also be affected by influential factors which are not associated with the marine licensed activity. These include but are not limited to changes in stock availability, quota, weather and local/national legislation. The factors which may influence the sensitivity of a commercial fishery to displacement can be summarised by the list of key factors provided by Natural England's guidance for assessing displacement related to MPAs (ABPmer, 2017) include:

  • Availability of alternative grounds – including the range, distribution and seasonality of target species;
  • Fishing vessel operator's knowledge of alternative grounds;
  • Individual fisher's behaviors and strategies;
  • Distance from home port (i.e. operational range and steaming time);
  • The potential for spillover effects within or in proximity to the displaced area; and
  • Regulations, quotas and fisheries management measures.

In consideration of the recent updates to the ScotMER Fish and Fisheries Evidence Map, along with consultation with the fishing industry, the following fishing methods have been identified as key areas of focus in relation to the assessment of fisheries displacement:

1. The Scottish king scallop dredge fishery;

2. Demersal trawling, including pair trawling, twin trawling and Nephrops trawl fishery;

3. The Scottish seine net fishery; and

4. Static fishing gear (creels).

In relation to Scottish inshore fisheries (mainly operating static fishing gear) the Fish and Fisheries Specialist Receptor Group (FFSRG) recommended the area of research to be focussed on reduced availability of fishing grounds (for example where mobile gears are typically operated) due to relocation of creeling. Although this was not identified as a priority by the ScotMER evidence map, displacement of creeling is covered in brief within this report as smaller vessels have less capacity to relocate their fishing effort over large distances.

In relation to mobile fishing methods, the sensitivity to displacement is likely to be subject to several vessel and operating practice characteristics, which are provided in Section 7.1 and in the Good Practice Guidance.

4.1.3 Potential impacts of displacement Potential impacts to the marine environment

ABPmer (2017) discusses some of the potential impacts which fisheries displacement may have on the marine environment and commercial fisheries receptors. The impacts on the marine environment, including those to the benthic environment and fish stocks, are dependent on the fishing methods displaced and the levels of fishing effort, both in the area which effort is being displaced from and in the area which effort is being displaced to. For instance, if fishing effort by mobile fishing methods in direct contact with the seabed are displaced to areas which are ordinarily infrequently fished or when fished the activity causes low levels of natural disturbance, this can negatively impact benthic communities, especially for species which require longer periods of time to recover following disturbance (ABPmer, 2017; Dinmore et al., 2003). The potential impact of commercial fisheries displacement on benthic habitat and other ecological communities depends on the amount of effort which is displaced (including any increased fishing effort to compensate for lost catches) and how this effort is redistributed. Fisheries displacement may also negatively impact fish stocks in areas where fishing effort increases as a result of relocated or increased intensity of fishing activity. (ABPmer, 2017).

This Literature Review and associated Good Practice Guidance focuses on the impacts of displacement on commercial fisheries receptors, however further investigation into the potential impacts of fisheries displacement on the marine environment and how this could align with marine spatial planning is a suggested research area. Potential impacts to commercial fisheries receptors

The potential impacts of displacement on commercial fisheries receptors depends on a number of factors. Depending on the fishery, different phases (i.e. construction and installation, operations and maintenance and decommissioning) of an offshore development may result in different impacts, and last for varying durations. The following list provides examples of potential impacts according to stakeholder consultation and existing research:

  • Increased competition for fishing grounds and conflict between and within fishing methods;
  • Potential decreases or changes in catch of certain target species (loss of access to fishing grounds in reference to previous area/productivity); and
  • Increased steaming time to access the alternative fishing grounds.



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