Information

Monitoring the socio-economic impacts of Marine Protected Areas: report

This report, on the socio-economic impacts of MPAs, found that there had been localised positive and negative impacts on coastal communities and industries, linked to MPA management measures.


Section 3. Socio-economic impacts on the Fishing Industry

This section considers the direct socio-economic impacts of the management measures on the fishing industry. The fisheries management measures associated with Marine Protected Areas have applied restrictions to activities that are permitted to take place within the MPA boundary. These include restrictions on the size of vessel and type of fishing gear that can be deployed within the MPA. Whilst restrictions vary depending on the MPA, most commonly, mobile gear is restricted from these areas, while static gear is permitted. This has the effect of restricting the access of some fishers to certain fishing grounds, which may have consequences for fishing businesses and across the fishing industry.

The first section provides an analysis of relevant quantitative data on fishing activity (as described above). The second section presents the findings from targeted interviews covering views and experiences of key informants and stakeholders on how MPAs have impacted on businesses and communities in the local area. This is preceded by a brief overview of the fishing sector.

Summary of key findings

The evidence presented in this section suggests that MPA management measures have had localised impacts on landings and employment in areas near MPAs and that fishers have adapted to these in several ways.

Analysis of landings data show that landings to ports near MPAs have mostly declined from 2016-2018 and the same is true for landings from some ICES rectangles containing MPAs.

Further analysis of landings from trawl vessels which had fished within MPA boundaries before management measures were introduced, suggest that trawl vessels are now catching less from rectangles containing MPAs and are compensating for this by fishing more heavily in other rectangles, further from MPAs. Total landings for these vessels remained the same, or higher, apart from those which were particularly frequent users of the fishing grounds within MPAs. These fishers appear to have found it harder to compensate for lost landings from the MPA areas, showing a decline overall in total landings after MPA measures were introduced.

Landings from dredge vessels who had fished within MPA boundaries declined from 2013-2018 both from within rectangles containing MPAs, and those not containing MPAs. The decline was steeper after 2016, suggesting that MPAs may have been a contributing factor.

These results are borne out by the reports of respondents from the fishing industry, who stated that they were fishing more heavily in other areas since the MPAs were introduced.

  • They expressed concern about the extra pressure on these grounds and the impact this might have on fish stocks
  • Many respondents from the fishing industry said that it was sheltered, winter fishing grounds that they had lost access to and that, without these areas, they were less able to fish in the winter as they felt it was too dangerous.

To reach grounds where they could fish, respondents reported having to steam further, in some cases staying out on the boat for a few days at a time instead of coming home each night.

  • This saves them the time and fuel required to make the journey each day.
  • A few highlighted the impact this schedule can have on family life.

Approximately a quarter of the fishers interviewed described changes they had made to their business to adapt to the MPA management measures. These changes were often either:

  • buying a bigger boat that would enable them to travel further and fish in worse weather conditions, or,
  • buying static gear so that they could fish in the MPAs.

There were some concerns expressed by interviewees about the impact that an increase in larger vessels and increased numbers of creels might have on fish stocks.

It was common for static gear fishers to describe feeling much more secure in their fishing, due to the MPAs. They mentioned having access to more grounds and types of fishing than before the implementation of the MPA management measures.

About a fifth of respondents from the fishing industry described improvements in stocks in, or adjacent to, MPAs. They also described improvements to the marine environment more generally that they had noticed since the introduction of MPAs.

Analysis of employment data showed that employment on mobile gear vessels in port districts on the west coast of Scotland had decreased slightly while employment on static gear vessels had increased. This trend was particularly pronounced in some districts.

These trends corroborated reports from fishers:

  • A number of mobile gear fishers described operating with a reduced number of crew, while some static gear fishers said that they had taken on more crew.
  • A number of respondents linked to the fishing industry mentioned people selling their businesses due to MPAs. A relatively small portion of these related personal accounts of selling their business.
  • People who left the fishing industry were commonly said to have found work in aquaculture or on service vessels.

Overview of the Scottish Commercial Sea Fisheries Sector

In order to understand the impacts described in the following sections, it is important to look at the contribution of fishing to the national and local economy and to define which part of the Scottish fishing industry is relevant for this research.

In 2017 fishing generated £316 million GVA: accounting for 0.24% of the overall Scottish economy and 6% of the marine economy GVA. The commercial fishing industry provided employment for 4,800 people (headcount), contributing 0.19% of the total Scottish employment and 6% of the marine economy employment.

Figure 3.1 shows the distribution of the value of demersal, pelagic and shellfish landings by the UK fleet, by ICES rectangle in 2016 over the inshore (inner line) and offshore waters (outer line). The inshore areas of the west coast of Scotland, are important areas for shellfish fisheries, while the east coast and offshore areas are more important for pelagic and demersal fisheries.

This report focuses on inshore fishing on the west coast of Scotland, as this is where the first round of MPAs are located. The relevant fishery for this research is, therefore, the west coast shellfish fishery, comprising mostly scallops and Nephrops, caught using static gear (creels or hand diving) and mobile gear (trawl and dredge).

In the following section evidence is presented which may suggest changes to the income and operating costs of vessels on the west coast of Scotland as a result of the MPAs. An understanding of typical values for these, for the relevant segments of the fleet, will help to put this evidence into context.

Figure 3.1 Value of demersal, pelagic and shellfish landings from UK vessels by ICES rectangle, 2016
Figure description below

Figure description:

Three small maps of Scotland show the value of demersal, pelagic and shellfish landings by the ICES rectangle in which they were caught. The greatest value of demersal fish is caught around the north of Scotland. The same is true for Pelagic fish, but more of this fishing takes place in the North East of Scotland. Shellfish are mostly caught in the inshore waters, with the West Coast of Scotland being slightly more important for this type of fishing.

Table 3.1 shows the average income and operating costs for segments of the UK fishing fleet that are most relevant for this research. The 2017 data from Seafish indicated that the types of vessels described in this study may have an income of £59,000 - £494,000 depending on the size of vessel and gear used. Between 65-89% of this income may go towards operating costs (£44,676 - £413,171), approximately 11% of which is spent on fuel and 25-40% is spent on crew costs.

Table 3.1 Income and operating costs for relevant segments of the Scottish fishing fleet, 2017 data
Fleet segment Average fishing income (£'000) Average annual operating costs (£) Operating costs as % of income Average annual crew cost per vessel (£) Average annual fuel costs per vessel (£)
West of Scotland Nephrops trawl over 250 kW 350 315,091 87 107,464 57,741
West of Scotland Nephrops trawl under 250 kW 175 142,077 80 53,302 25,468
UK Scallop dredge over 15 m 494 392,295 79 154,313 76,553
UK scallop dredge under 15 m 192 130,970 89 33,231 20,614
Under 10 m pots and traps 59 44,676 74 14,980 4,980
Pots and traps 10-12 m 144 103,038 65 46,330 9,487
Pots and traps over 12 m 491 413,171 75 171,943 51,302

Most of the operating costs of a fishing business are spent in the local community, giving an indication of the local economic contribution of a fishing vessel. In addition, the skipper and crew are likely to be using shops and other facilities in the community contributing further added value to the local economy.

Section 3 A. Quantitative data analysis: Fishing Activity and Employment Data

Marine Scotland holds data on the number of vessels registered in Scotland, the amount of fish they land, which ports they land to, and the number of people they employ. In this section, this data is used to explore whether a change in these factors can be seen following the introduction of MPAs in 2016. This 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 the areas affected by management measures. Furthermore, if MPA management measures are displacing vessel activity because of restrictions on some of their traditional fishing grounds, it is expected that there would be increased activity and landings in areas not affected by MPA management measures.

3.1 Trends in overall fishing activity by Scottish vessels

Marine Scotland reports fishing activity statistics each year.[9] These national statistics indicate that total landings have remained relatively stable from the 2013-2015 average to 2018 suggesting the industry is, as a whole, not worse-off since the introduction of MPA management measures (see Table 3.2). It is, however, important to note other factors will have an impact on fishing activity and communities. This is examined further in other sections.

Table 3.2 Change in total landings and registered vessels, relative to 2013-2015 baseline
2013-15 baseline 2018 % Change
Total Landings 429,255 (tonnes) 445,602 (tonnes) 3.80
No. Registered vessels 2,017 2,089 3.57

Since the MPA management measures are geographically focused on the west coast of Scotland and around the islands of Orkney, it is possible that the aggregate industry figures mask impacts across specific areas around the MPAs. It is, therefore, important to consider trends by geographic areas.

3.2 Activity of Scottish Registered Vessels by ICES[10] Rectangle

Scottish commercial fishing vessels are currently required by EU law to provide information about the fish they are landing into ports, including the gear that was used to catch it and the area of the sea in which it was caught. The finest scale at which this can be presented is the ICES rectangles (approximately 30x30 nautical miles).

Table 3.3 shows trends in landings from each ICES rectangle containing MPAs. The percentage change in landings each year from 2016 to 2018 is shown relative to a 2013-2015 average baseline. Only rectangles which exhibit clear and notable trends are shown here. A table with details of all rectangles containing MPAs can be seen in Annex 8. It should be noted that several ICES rectangles contain more than one MPA, and that for some rectangles the area of MPA comprises a very small proportion of the total rectangle area. Where the MPA area is a very small proportion of the ICES rectangle, this has been marked with an asterisk and care should be taken in interpreting these findings.

Key finding: The analysis below shows that, for some ICES rectangles containing MPAs, there have been changes in Nephrop and scallop landings following the introduction of MPA management measures. In some cases, these changes are consistent with the fishing restrictions associated with the management measures i.e. areas where deployment of mobile gear is prohibited but static gear is allowed. We are, therefore, seeing some changes in fishing activity associated with MPA management measures.

Table 3.3 Changes in Nephrops and scallop landings by gear type, 2016 to 2018 relative to a 2013 - 2015 baseline
ICES Rectangle MPA Year Nephrops Scallops
Traps Trawls Dredges Hand-dived
38E5 Luce Bay and Sands Average 2013-15 landings (t) 0.18 30.96 237.54
2016 - -55% 34% -
2017 - -52% 4% -
2018 - -57% -19% -
39E4 South Arran Average 2013-15 landings (t) 15.36 2,556.48 256.94 -
2016 -16.85% 28.63% 15.85% -
2017 30.86% 4.17% -61.53% -
2018 -18.14% -22.12% -38.05% -
40E4 Loch Sween, South Arran, Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil Average 2013-15 landings (t) 175.59 1,665.04 593.05 67.31
2016 33.11% -1.11% -0.32% 3.13%
2017 26.63% -11.03% -34.52% -21.37%
2018 29.74% -26.08% -46.20% -36.12%
41E4 Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil Average 2013-15 landings (t) 10.89 235.72 21.05 1.25
2016 4.82% 11.03% -41.40% 81.20%
2017 -3.22% -33.32% -19.56% 106.54%
2018 -12.36% -33.98% -65.18% 91.67%
42E2 East Mingulay Average 2013-15 landings (t) 6.21 216.75 23.32 0.75
2016 -44.37% 43.87% 68.34% -100.00%
2017 -85.76% 85.30% -5.02% -92.32%
2018 -93.77% -21.10% 14.45% -23.44%
42E3 Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Treshnish Isles* Average 2013-15 landings (t) 76.39 549.89 574.15 16.53
2016 -4.40% 46.79% 11.93% -68.71%
2017 -38.13% 18.01% -19.24% -34.07%
2018 -47.81% -8.05% -32.76% -75.64%
42E4 Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Loch Creran Average 2013-15 landings (t) 25.50 79.64 66.90 32.17
2016 55.21% -8.96% -5.86% 14.48%
2017 139.35% -24.79% -40.67% -1.35%
2018 140.83% -59.35% -46.93% -58.48%
45E6 Noss Head Average 2013-15 landings (t) 0.06 0.03 211.42
2016 1431.67% -100.00% -44.58% -
2017 3074.00% -100.00% -59.18% -
2018 3535.83% -100.00% -79.79% -
47E7 Sanday, Wyre & Rousay Sounds Average 2013-15 landings (t) 1.46 1.04 93.90 170.23
2016 -98.18% 245.59% -75.66% 59.99%
2017 -67.23% 176.37% -20.67% 9.51%
2018 -93.20% 84.39% -36.03% 58.56%

* These MPAs comprise a very small proportion of the total rectangle area

A decline in trawled Nephrop landings can be observed in ICES rectangle 38E5 (Luce Bay and Sands), 39E4 (South Arran MPA), 40E4 (Loch Sween, South Arran and Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPAs), 41E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA) 42E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and Loch Creran MPAs). The use of trawl gear is prohibited in large parts of these MPAs, meaning that trawlers do not have access to Nephrops fishing grounds in these areas. This suggests that the MPA management measures could be responsible for the decline in Nephrops landings in these rectangles. For some of these rectangles, such as 39E4 (South Arran MPA), trawling is prohibited in only a small proportion of the rectangle's sea area, and so observed changes in landings may not be attributable to the MPAs.

An increase in creeled Nephrops can be seen in 40E4 (Loch Sween, South Arran and Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPAs), 42E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and Loch Creran MPAs). Creeling is mostly permitted in these MPAs,[11] while mobile gear is not, potentially allowing creel fishers greater access to Nephrops grounds in these areas. A steep decline in creeled Nephrops can be seen in 42E2 (East Mingulay). Creeling is prohibited in 50% of this site and so creel fishers have lost access to some of these fishing grounds. This suggests that the MPA management measures may have resulted in increases in creeling activity in some areas, and decreases in others.

In a number of the ICES rectangles there is also evidence of a decline in landings for dredged scallops. This can be seen in 38E5 (Luce Bay and Sands), 40E4 (Loch Sween, South Arran and Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPAs), 41E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPAs), 42E3 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Treshnish Isles) and 42E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Loch Creran). The use of dredge gear is prohibited in large parts of these MPAs, meaning that dredgers do not have access to the scallop grounds within the designated area. Landings of dived scallops in 41E4 (Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPAs) show a sharp increase, but from a low baseline. Hand-diving is allowed in these MPAs, while the use of mobile gear is not, potentially giving divers greater access to the scallops in these areas. This suggests that MPA management measures may have led to a decline in dredged scallops and an increase in landings of hand dived scallops in some areas.

In other rectangles there appears to be no clear pattern to the changes in landings, or alternatively, it is clear that observed trends cannot be related to MPA management measures. For example, declines in dredged scallop landings can be seen in 45E6 (Noss Head) and 47E7 (Sandy SAC and Wyre and Rousay Sounds). The Noss Head MPA was not heavily dredged before the MPA was introduced, while Wyre and Rousay Sands comprises a very small proportion of the rectangle in question. The Sanday SAC was set up in 2005 and is unlikely to still be affecting landings in the area.

It is important to note that the analysis above serves as an indication of possible trends but cannot be used to confirm or deny impacts of MPA management measures. In many areas the ICES rectangles represent large areas when compared with the areas covered by the MPAs. Many of the MPA management measures are also zonal and seasonal. This makes it difficult to explicitly attribute changes in ICES rectangle landings to the presence of MPAs even though, in some cases, a correlation between the introduction of MPA management measures and a change in landings is visible. It is also possible that a decline in fishing, and therefore landings, within MPA boundaries may be compensated for by an increase in fishing in other parts of the same rectangle.

3.3 Port Analysis

Landings

Ports rely heavily on landings from fishing vessels and are important to the local economy in fishing communities. As well as looking at landings from ICES rectangles containing MPAs, as shown above, it is possible to look at landings to ports near MPAs (Figure 3.2). In this way we can start to see whether any changes in landings are having an impact on communities.

Figure 3.2 Port districts and sub creeks near inshore MPAs
Figure description below

Figure description:

Map of Scotland showing the location of Port district offices and subcreeks that are near MPAs, and so were included in this research. MPAs are shaded in blue, nearby port districts and subcreeks are marked in dark red, and are mostly found on the east coast, north coast and islands. Other port districts and subcreeks are marked in faded red, and are mostly found on the east coast.

The cells in Table 3.4 and Table 3.5 are shaded to reflect the magnitude and direction of the change relative to the baseline. Blue indicates an increase, while red indicates a decrease. A darker shade reflects a greater change.

Key point: There has been a greater decline in landings in the ports near MPAs compared with other ports.

Table 3.4 Percentage change in total weight of landings (t), relative to 2013-2015 average, for each west coast port district
Port Districts Average 2013 - 2015 (t) % change 2016 % change 2017 % change 2018
Scrabster 825.02 -2.03 -1.03 -0.37
Orkney 1953.60 17.60 -3.81 -17.85
Stornoway 540.91 40.59 36.93 -16.11
Lochinver 503.57 -23.22 -38.10 -55.23
Kinlochbervie 381.73 -39.58 -21.98 -28.09
Ullapool 1118.89 22.59 -2.26 -15.79
Mallaig 124.46 10.21 4.72 -1.43
Oban 2459.87 -4.65 -16.13 -20.77
Campbeltown 2905.56 12.78 2.25 -19.72
Ayr 2284.22 6.74 3.81 2.43
Portree 537.80 8.89 -5.55 -26.46

Most west coast port districts have seen a reduction in landings in 2017 and 2018. Landings in Stornoway and Mallaig do not decrease until 2018, and in the case of Mallaig, the reduction is very slight. Ayr is the only port district to see an increase in all years, although the magnitude of the increase decreases from 2016-2018. The individual ports within each of these port districts show a greater variation in trends. The absolute landings and percentage change can be seen in Annex 9.

The trend in landings to port districts on the west coast contrasts with that seen on the east coast (Table 3.5), where most port districts see an increase in landings from 2016-2018.

Table 3.5 Percentage change in total weight of landings (t), relative to 2013-2015 average, for each east coast port district
Port district Average 2013 - 2015 (t) % change 2016 % change 2017 % change 2018
Aberdeen 1255.33 -12.29 0.45 -23.29
Anstruther 1275.67 16.64 36.01 32.79
Buckie 1194.00 45.48 64.07 37.19
Eyemouth 2079.67 8.33 42.33 43.77
Fraserburgh 24439.67 -6.02 11.66 14.53
Peterhead 150862.67 6.55 8.53 12.84
Shetland* 27092.00 18.99 13.81 -9.38

*Shetland average is based on 2014-2015, as landings to this port district decreased by 95% from 2013-2014 and so skewed the results

This review has focused on the west coast shellfish fishery as this is most likely to be affected by MPAs. Analysis comparing shellfish landings on the east and west coast, reveals the same pattern as total landings (Table 3.6 and Table 3.7).

Table 3.6 Percentage change in total weight of shellfish landings (t), relative to 2013-2015 average, for each west coast port district
Port district Average 2013 - 2015 (t) % change 2016 % change 2017 % change 2018
Scrabster 763.14 4.60 -3.74 -4.13
Orkney 1932.71 17.54 -4.40 -18.60
Stornoway 453.03 43.57 32.02 -11.65
Lochinver 481.27 -23.21 -38.79 -54.47
Kinlochbervie 83.08 -6.19 -58.49 -44.88
Ullapool 1053.73 14.78 -0.68 -22.21
Mallaig 123.73 9.05 2.06 -6.76
Oban 2443.89 -4.75 -16.49 -21.60
Campbeltown 2871.47 13.36 3.25 -19.04
Ayr 2278.76 6.89 4.01 2.52
Portree 535.32 7.70 -6.09 -26.72
Table 3.7 Percentage change in total weight of shellfish landings (t), relative to 2013-2015 average, for each east coast port district
Port district Average 2013 - 2015 (t) % change 2016 % change 2017 % change 2018
Aberdeen 1184.00 -8.87 4.65 -19.59
Anstruther 1232.33 18.47 37.46 35.52
Buckie 1096.33 41.93 53.33 23.32
Eyemouth 1904.67 13.14 50.42 55.51
Fraserburgh 5397.00 1.09 25.63 12.60
Peterhead 2891.67 43.65 49.22 -4.41
Shetland 1998.67 54.65 17.03 17.08

The reduction in landings to ports near MPAs from 2016-2018 could be linked to MPA management measures. If vessels are not able to fish as they used to, they may be catching less, and landing less to nearby ports. The same trend is not reflected in ports that are not close to MPAs, which could support this theory. It is important to note, however, that the type of fishing on the east coast, where fishing for finfish in offshore waters is more common, is very different to that on the west coast and means it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions from this data in isolation.

3.4 Activity of vessels fishing in MPAs before management measures

To explore some of the points highlighted in the previous sections in more detail, it is necessary to look more specifically at vessels which habitually fished within MPA boundaries before management measures were introduced in 2016.

Using VMS data, it is possible to identify vessels that fished within the boundary of an MPA before that area was designated, and to determine how much time was spent fishing within that boundary.

This list of vessels was filtered so that only those which spent more than 10 hours fishing[12] in an MPA between 2014-2015[13] were included in the analysis. Vessels were grouped into different time categories ranging from 10+ hours to 200+ hours, so that the amount of time spent in the MPA could be used to indicate how dependent these vessels were on the grounds within the MPA boundary. Information about these vessels can then be analysed for trends over the 2013-2018 period. In this way any changes that occurred after MPA management measures were introduced can be observed.

Table 3.8 shows the number of vessels that were included in this analysis, for different gear groups and time categories, and indicated the proportion of the west coast fleet who may have been affected by MPA management measures. The total is less than the sum of trawl and dredge vessels, as some vessels use both gear types.

Table 3.8 Number of vessels who fished within MPA boundaries for different time categories
Time Category Gear Group Number of vessels in each year
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
10 + hrs Trawl 109 114 110 107 103 93
Dredge 44 42 45 42 40 37
Total 141 149 147 139 135 124
25 + hrs Trawl 77 83 82 78 75 68
Dredge 36 34 36 33 31 29
Total 105 110 111 103 100 92
50 + hrs Trawl 61 65 63 62 58 51
Dredge 27 27 28 26 25 23
Total 81 85 85 80 77 69
100+ hrs Trawl 40 43 40 40 38 33
Dredge 21 19 21 19 18 16
Total 54 55 55 51 50 44
200 + hrs Trawl 24 26 25 26 24 20
Dredge 12 10 12 11 11 10
Total 32 33 33 31 32 26

Between 2013 and 2018 there were 1186 - 1143 vessels registered in port districts on the west coast of Scotland. The port districts vary in size, with each having between approximately 20-200 registered vessels (see Annex 10). The number of vessels included in this subset account for approximately 1-12% (depending on the time category) of the total number of vessels operating in west coast port districts suggesting that the impacts of MPAs are felt by a relatively small proportion of the total west coast fleet.

This analysis does not include any vessels entering the fleet after 2014, therefore any changes in ownership, home port registration, gear type or inward migration of vessels to this area are not included. Only those vessels that had remained operating as a Scottish vessel through the entire 2013-2018 period were included in the sample to allow for accurate before and after comparisons.

Vessel Landings data

Landings data for the vessels identified in the previous section was analysed to identify any changes between before and after the MPA management measures were introduced. This analysis can be used to indicate a correlation between MPA management measures and observed changes in landings. It is important to note this analysis cannot confirm a causal link between any observed correlation because it is not possible to control for other factors that might have influenced landings.

Figure 3.3 shows the trends in landings for vessels which spent differing amounts of time fishing in MPAs in 2014-2015. For each time category, there are 3 graphs indicating the total landings for that group of vessels, and the portion of those landings that were fished from ICES rectangles containing MPAs (MPA rectangles), and the portion fished from ICES rectangles that do not contain MPAs (non-MPA rectangles). Presenting the landings in this way, allows us to see whether displacement of fishing activity has occurred.

Figure 3.3 Change in landings over time, for vessels which fished in MPAs for different amounts of time, before management measures were introduced
Figure description below

Figure description:

A collection of 9 graphs, presented in a panel, showing how the landings of trawl and dredge vessels who fished in MPAs before they management measures were brought in. Graphs 1 a), b) and c) show landings of vessels who fished more than 10 hours in MPAs. Graphs 2 a), b) and c) show landings from vessels who fished more than 50 hours in MPAs. Graphs 3 a), b) and c) show landings from vessels who fished more than 200 hours in MPAs. The a) graphs show landings from ICES rectangles that contain MPAs, the b) graphs show landings from ICES rectangles that do not contain MPAs. The c) graphs show total landings from all ICES rectangles. This allows us to see whether vessels have altered their fishing patterns and whether their landings have suffered.

Trawled landings

For vessels that fished in MPAs for 10 hours or more (graphs 1a, 1b, and 1c) trawled landings from MPA rectangles decrease after 2016, whilst landings from non-MPA rectangles increase from 2015 onwards. Total landings from all rectangles increase overall, relative to 2013. This indicates that these vessels were able to compensate for lost landings inside MPA rectangles by fishing more heavily in other areas outside MPA rectangles.

A similar trend is evident for trawled landings from vessels that spent over 50 hours and over 200 hours fishing in MPAs (graphs 2 and 3). Landings from MPA rectangles decrease from 2016 onwards, while landings from non-MPA rectangles increase after 2016. Total landings for vessels that fished in MPAs for 50+ hours remained near 2013 levels. For vessels which spent 200 + hours (graph 3 c) fishing in MPAs, total landings decreased relative to 2013 levels. This could indicate that vessels that spent more time fishing in MPAs (i.e. over 200 hours) found it harder to compensate for the loss in landings by fishing elsewhere.

All graphs show a decline in trawled landings from 2013-2015, followed by an increase between 2015-2016 (before MPA measures were introduced). This suggests that there are also other factors affecting trawled vessels fishing in these areas, other than MPAs. This corroborates findings from the qualitative part of this research. See Section 3 and Section 6.

Dredged landings

Landings from MPA rectangles for dredge vessels decline between 2013-2018 for all time thresholds (graphs 1, 2, 3 a). Although the decline starts in 2013, there is a slightly steeper decline post 2016. Total dredged landings (from all rectangles) show a similar trend. Dredged landings from non-MPA rectangles show a general decline from 2013-2018, but with a lot of fluctuation. The decline starting in 2013 indicates there are other factors affecting dredged landings but the 2016 dip in total landings suggests that the MPA management measures may have had some negative impact on dredge vessels

Average change in landings by weight per vessel

The average change in landings by weight (tonnes) for each vessel can give us an indication of the impact of reduced landings on vessel skippers and crew. Table 3.9 shows the average change in landings before and after MPAs were introduced per vessel for groups of vessels which fished in MPAs for different amounts of time.

This shows that trawl vessels that were most heavily dependent on MPAs (i.e. those that had fished in them for 200 hours or more) have been most affected by MPAs. Their landings decreased by nearly 12 tonnes (> 10%) on average per vessel between the baseline period and 2018. This suggests these vessels have not been able to recoup their landings from other grounds.

Trawl vessels which were less reliant on these grounds appear to be largely unaffected and have even increased average landings since 2013-2015.

Average dredge-caught landings decrease in every time category (varying between 25 and 40% depending on the time category), but the average reduction per vessel decreases in higher time categories. This appears to indicate that those who spent less time fishing in an MPA experienced greater reduction in landings. It may be that other, more important factors, were affecting dredge-caught landings at this time.

Table 3.9 Change in 2018 average landings (tonnes) per vessels relative to 2013-2015 baseline
Time spent (hrs) Trawl-caught landings (t)
2013- 2015 Average Baseline 2018 Average Average change (baseline-2018)
10 + 188.44 216.72 28.28
25 + 118.34 126.34 8.00
50 + 123.95 134.67 10.72
100 + 95.88 96.61 0.73
200 + 100.63 88.71 -11.92
Time spent (hrs) Dredge-caught landings (t)
2013-2015 Average Baseline 2018 Average Average change (baseline-2018)
10 + 250.09 144.87 -105.22
25 + 194.62 141.76 -52.86
50 + 149.61 100.53 -49.07
100 + 127.54 95.06 -32.48
200 + 135.37 92.89 -42.48

3.5 Employment data

Each year, each fishery office in Scotland supplies Marine Scotland with an estimate of the number of vessels in their respective port district, some details about those vessels and the number of people employed on each vessel. This data can be used to give an indication of employment trends for this part of the fishing industry.

In Figure 3.4 employment numbers are split so that trends on the east and west coast can be compared. The numbers are presented as an index, where 1 is the total number of employees in the baseline period, and changes in employment in subsequent years are shown as a fraction of the baseline. Most of the MPAs are located on the west coast, while there are very few on the east coast. Comparing trends on each coast can be used as a proxy for 'region with MPAs' and 'region without MPAs'.

Figure 3.4 Change in employment and number of vessels on the east and west coast of Scotland, 2013-2015 index
Figure description below

Figure description:

This graph shows the change in the number of vessels registered to ports on the east and west coast of Scotland, and the change in the number of people employed by vessels on each coast. These are shown relative to a 2013-2015 baseline.

There has been an increase in the total number of employees on vessels on the east coast between the 2013-15 baseline and 2018, while the total number of employees on the west coast shows a gradual decrease over the same period. This reflects the ongoing trends in vessel numbers in each region: a steady increase on the east coast versus a steady but very slight decline on the west coast. Given that these are longer term trends that predate the introduction of MPAs, employment patterns overall, at the regional level, cannot be clearly linked to, and therefore do not appear to have been directly affected by, the introduction of MPA management measures in 2016.

The management measures in MPAs allow or exclude different methods of fishing. Employment on vessels using different gear types may, therefore, be affected differently. Comparing employment numbers on the east and west coast for the three main gear types allows us to explore this issue further.

On the east coast (Figure 3.5) total employment on creel and trawl vessels has remained fairly stable, with some fluctuations between the baseline average and 2018. Total dredge employment is on a steady rise. Employment numbers for all gear types are at least greater than the 2013-2015 average.

Figure 3.5 Number of people employed on fishing boats on the east coast of Scotland by gear type
Figure description below

Figure description:

Graph showing the total number of people employed on fishing boats on the east coast of Scotland, by gear type. These are shown relative to a 2013-2015 average baseline. Total number of employees for creel, dredge and trawl vessels is shown.

Figure 3.6 Number of people employed on fishing boats on the west coast of Scotland by gear type
Figure description below

Figure description:

Graph showing the total number of people employed on fishing boats on the west coast of Scotland, by gear type. These are shown relative to a 2013-2015 average baseline. Total number of employees for creel, dredge and trawl vessels is shown.

On the west coast (Figure 3.6) employment for all gear types shows a decrease over time. Employment on trawl vessels declines the most overall, and falls more sharply after 2017, while creel and dredge vessel employment increases slightly at this point.

MPA management measures may have had clearer impacts at a local level. Figure 3.7 contains a selection of charts showing the total number of people employed on vessels, by gear type, for four districts close to MPAs on the west coast of Scotland. These areas were chosen because they showed the clearest trends. The data for other districts can be seen in Annex 11.

Figure 3.7 Total number of people employed on vessels in four port districts on the west coast of Scotland, grouped by gear type
Figure description below

Figure description:

Figure presenting a panel of 4 graphs showing the total number of people employed on vessels in 4 port districts on the west coast of Scotland. These are shown relative to a 2013-2015 average baseline. Total number of employees for creel, dredge and trawl vessels is shown. The 4 districts are Campeltown, Oban, Stornoway and Ullapool.

Total employment on creel vessels increased overall in Campbeltown, Oban and Ullapool between 2013 and 2018, albeit with some fluctuations during this period. In Stornoway, employment decreased from 260 to 206 (a decline of 21%). These trends do not seem to have been impacted by the introduction of MPAs in 2016.

Employment on trawl vessels in Campbeltown and Stornoway declined after 2016, from 148 to 98 employees (a decline of 34%) in Campbeltown and from 99 to 62 (a decline of 37%) in Stornoway, which could be a consequence of the MPA measures. In Oban and Ullapool decreases in employment on trawl vessels are also visible overall, but these appear to be part of a longer-term trend.

For dredge vessels, employment increased from 19 to 24 in Stornoway (26%) and from 36 to 44 in Oban (22%) over the period. This contrasts with Campbeltown and Ullapool, where employment decreased after 2016 from 34 to 17 employees (a decline of 50%) and from 10 to 2 employees (a decline of 80%) respectively. This suggests that employment on dredge vessels may have been impacted by MPAs in Campbeltown and Ullapool.

In summary, employment on trawl, dredge and creel vessels on the west coast as a whole has declined slightly in recent years, but these trends mostly appear to predate the introduction of the MPAs in 2016. This suggests that the decline may be part of a longer trend and is influenced by other factors.

Employment on creel vessels remains relatively stable in all areas described above, apart from Stornoway, where employment numbers decline fairly steeply from 252 to 206 (18%) over the period. The start of this decline predates MPA management measures indicating that there are other factors affecting employment in this area.

In some port districts near MPAs on the west coast, changes in employment for some gear types appear to correlate with the introduction of MPA management measures in 2016. A reduction in trawl employment in Campbeltown and Stornoway is evident from 2016 onwards, while dredge employment shows a similar but less steep decline in Campbeltown and Ullapool. While a correlation is visible, it is important to note that we cannot be sure of a causal link between these declines and MPA management measures. These trends do, however, corroborate the information gained from the interviews, giving more confidence that they are linked to the presence of MPAs on the west coast.

Section 3 B. Qualitative analysis: Views and perspectives of key informants and stakeholders on the impact of MPAs

This section reports on the main issues that were identified by key informants and stakeholders, representing a range of sectors, in the semi-structured interviews that were conducted in four locations across Scotland.

The analysis is based on the information supplied by the interview respondents and reflects perspectives and experiences of individuals. The views reported are as expressed by respondents, and no cross-check was done with regards to any position or argument presented (for example in relation to landings or profits) in order to respect confidentiality and anonymity of respondents. Some caveats apply, therefore, in the sense that this section presents the perspectives of respondents, and personal accounts of their experiences. Information provided in this way is, by its nature, subjective. That said, the frequency with which impacts are mentioned by respondents in general, or respondents from particular stakeholder groups, can be used to indicate their significance (in this context).

Twenty-eight key informants and 73 stakeholders were interviewed in total. Respondents were from a number of different marine user groups or sectors (see Table 3.10 and Table 3.11).

Table 3.10 Number of respondents interviewed from each marine user group.
Sector Number of respondents interviewed
Compliance 7
Fishing industry 48
Fishers' representatives 8
Fishers - Total 40
Fishers - creel 16
Fishers - trawl 6
Fishers - dredge 9
Fishers - mixed mobile 4
Fishers - mixed mobile/static 3
Fishers - hand-dive 2
Fishing related business 4
Seafood processing 9
Fin fish Aquaculture 2
Harbour authority 5
Community group/eNGO 13
Tourism 6
Local Authority 7
Total 101
Table 3.11 Number of respondents interviewed and their MPA of primary interest*
MPA of primary interest Number of respondents interviewed
South Arran 26
Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura 20
Wester Ross 23
Orkney - Sanday & Wyre and Rousay Sound 13
East Mingulay 2
Loch Laxford 1
Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh 3
Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil 1
Loch Creran 1
Luce Bay and Sands 2
Entire MPA network 9
Total 101

*Respondents were often affected by, or had an interest in, more than one MPA

South Arran, Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Wester Ross and Orkney (Sanday and Wyre and Rousay Sound) were the MPAs of interest for the largest number of respondents, because these are the case study areas for this project.

3.6 Access to fishing grounds

A key issue identified through the interviews was the loss of access to fishing grounds, and particularly the loss of sheltered fishing grounds, due to the MPA management measures.

Thirty-six respondents, mostly from fishing or related industries, discussed the issue of lost access to fishing grounds as a result of MPA management measures. Many highlighted that it was sheltered fishing grounds in particular that they had lost, and which had the biggest impact on their business.

Twenty of these respondents were mobile fishers, with dredgers appearing to have been most often affected in this way (eight out of nine dredgers interviewed said they had lost sheltered fishing grounds). A further 12 mobile and mixed-mobile gear fishers had also lost sheltered fishing grounds. One creel fisher said that he lost ground due to the East Mingulay MPA, which prohibits the use of static gear (i.e. creels, pots and traps).

Few of those interviewed felt able to accurately quantify the proportion of their fishing grounds that they had lost, but those who did quoted a loss of between 30-60%. For many there were specific areas they would fish in winter months and, as a result of the MPA management measures, they needed to find other areas to fish for a large part of the year.

Respondents from other groups were also aware of the issue of lost fishing grounds. Fishers' representatives and compliance officers often said that they were relating what they had heard from fishers in their communities, while some respondents, such as processors and an engineer, felt that the loss of fishing grounds had consequences for their businesses.

The loss of sheltered fishing grounds appeared to be an issue of great to concern to respondents in South Arran, Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura. Many fishers described how the Isle of Arran provided shelter no matter what direction the wind was blowing, enabling them to fish almost all year round. Similar things were said about Loch Ewe and Loch Broom, in the Wester Ross MPA, and most of the area inside the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA.

Greater security for static fishers

It was common for static gear fishers to describe feeling much more secure in their fishing, due to the MPAs. This was mentioned by 8 out of the 16 creel fishers who were interviewed. They said that, where MPA management measures forbid the deployment of mobile gear, creel fishers no longer risk their gear being towed away by mobile fishers, an issue they had faced when fishing in shared grounds. They mentioned having access to more grounds and types of fishing than before. A few (4 out of the 16) stated that without the MPAs they would not have been able to sustain or expand their business indicating a clear positive impact of the MPA management measures in their area.

3.7 Displacement

In response to losing fishing grounds, many respondents said that they had transferred their activity to other areas - this response to management interventions, including those associated with MPAs is known as "displacement". In total, 44 respondents (out of 101) discussed this topic, indicating that it is an important issue for these fishing communities.

Displacement was mentioned by nearly all (18 out of 22) of the mobile and mixed-gear fishers interviewed. Many of these respondents described feeling that they were running out of options for places to fish and that they would have to transfer effort to areas that were already being fished. They felt that this would increase the fishing effort in that area (i.e. an area outside the MPA designations), and potentially lead to an increase in conflict or tension in those areas. One interviewee described feeling as though he was "poaching" someone else's ground.

Seven creel fishers mentioned displacement of fishing activity. In one case a creel fisher had been displaced by the East Mingulay MPA. In other cases, they described how mobile boats had been displaced, or how the increase in creel fishers in some areas had forced them to fish elsewhere. Some also described changing their fishing patterns in order to fish exclusively in the MPA as this afforded them a greater degree of security.

A few fishers stated that, although they were not directly affected by the MPAs, as they did not fish in those areas historically, they were aware of the increased competition in the remaining open grounds due to displacement of fishing activity. This explains, perhaps, why more respondents mentioned displacement than lost grounds.

Some fishers mentioned that they were considering upgrading to a bigger boat so that they could travel further afield to fish and perhaps withstand some of the harsh winter weather. There was some apprehension from a few fishers, however, that a change to bigger boats might lead to greater pressure on stocks, as fishers might need to land more fish in order to justify, and pay for, a larger boat with more crew.

It was also clear from the interviews that there were different degrees of displacement being experienced. For some fishing effort was transferred to the area just outside, or on the edges of the MPA. For others, particularly the bigger boats, they had started to fish further afield, spending more time on the east coast or in English waters. Respondents highlighted that this shift in fishing location could have knock on effects for ancillary businesses (such as processors, engineers, ice and fuel supplies) in the local area.

Six out of the nine seafood processors that were interviewed also mentioned the issue of displacement. In most cases, they were discussing what they had heard from their own boats, or boats that land with them. In a few cases, processors said that vessels which had been displaced from their usual fishing grounds, but which still landed to other processors, were now fishing in 'their' waters. This was said to be having a knock-on effect on stocks and the viability of their factories.

3.8 Diversifying

In the interviews, respondents often mentioned that they had noticed a change in the composition of the fleet in their local area, either due to people diversifying to creel fishing, or there being an increase in creel fishers moving into the area.

Approximately a quarter of the fishers interviewed (11 out of 40) described changes they had made since the MPA management measures were introduced; either diversifying to creels, expanding or upgrading their vessels. The majority of these were from the mobile fleet (dredgers, trawlers and mixed mobile fishers), while a couple of creel fishers described expanding their business.

One of those who had diversified to creels commented that although he had bought the gear, he had not been able to fish with it yet because he did not feel there was room in the area for him to fish. Fishers and fishers' representatives often stated that changing gear type was not as easy as some might think. They commented that such a change involved, not only the grant application and capital outlay, but also learning where and how to fish, who to sell to, and how best to manage the process. These are skills they had spent a career learning, and now needed to re-learn for another fishery.

One trawl fisher, who had diversified, had developed a method of trawling for prawns which allowed him to sell to the live market. In this way he could earn more, due to the higher value product, but fish less, thus having a lower environmental impact.

Thirty-six respondents described an increase in static gear fishing which some felt was due to the MPAs, with more creel fishers in particular operating in MPA areas. Although many felt that there had been an increase in the number of creels and creel fishers, there was some variety in the explanation and context that respondents offered.

For some there was concern that the influx in creels was due to an increasing number of industrial creel boats. Others reported that more people were creel fishing as a hobby, and were leaving their gear out for longer periods and not showing the same care for the stock as "true" fishers. It was also often mentioned that the rapid rise in creels was not entirely due to the MPAs but had started with a booming market for shellfish, especially crab.

It was often said by fishing industry respondents that these issues were compounded by the unregulated nature of the static gear fishery. Many respondents called for tighter regulation of static gear fishing.

3.9 Effort

Fishing effort, defined in this case as the amount of time spent at sea, was mentioned by 20 respondents in total (out of 101), 13 of which were fishers (approximately a third of those interviewed), with the remaining 7 respondents all linked to the fishing industry.

In terms of fishing effort, respondents' comments tended to focus on two contrasting themes - reduced effort due to lost days at sea, or, an increase in effort to maintain catch and income. Some described losing more days at sea since the MPA management measures were introduced due to the loss of sheltered grounds. They said that in bad weather it was too dangerous to go out to fish in new areas outside the MPA restrictions and so they would be forced to stay in. Some estimated losing between 10-30 days of fishing per year. The majority of those who reduced their effort for this reason were based in the South Arran area.

Conversely, others described increasing their effort in order to maintain the level of income they earned before the MPAs were brought in. A few respondents mentioned working an extra 2-4 hours each day, while others described having to steam for an extra 2-4 hours to reach ground where they could legally fish. As a result, some said that they had altered their fishing patterns to spend the night on the boat, when the weather was good, so that they could improve the ratio of travel to fishing time. It was mentioned by some that this fishing pattern is a lot harder in terms of general welfare and family life due to being away from home and out on the boat for longer periods.

It was clear, through the interviews, that there was some variation in the impacts of management measures. Some creel fishers in the Clyde area, for example, mentioned that they were now able to spread their effort over the week, rather than focusing most of their effort at the weekends when the mobile fishers in the area are not active. It is likely that this can be linked to the weekend closure for mobile gear in the Clyde.

3.10 Stocks and landings

Pressure on stocks

Many respondents (29 out of 101) expressed concern that, with the displacement of effort to non-MPA grounds, the pressure on those areas would increase, to the detriment of those stocks. This topic was discussed particularly by fishers (approximately half of those interviewed) and their representative organisations, but also by seafood processors. This issue was raised by all of the dredgers who were interviewed, suggesting that this is of particular concern to this group.

Fishers frequently described having no choice but to continue to fish in the same areas, despite being aware that stocks were low, because there were fewer areas available to them due to the MPA management measures. They said that they still had overheads, salaries and bills to pay and so had to continue fishing in order to make a living.

In addition, the fishers often described how traditionally they would fish in a cycle; fishing in one area, and then moving on from it and leaving it to recover for a period. They felt it was not possible to do that anymore as there was nowhere else to go. One fisher mentioned that because of the cyclical nature of fishing, closing off one area with an MPA, for example, would have consequences for fishers in other, non-MPA areas, as fishers try to find alternative places to fish.

There was some talk of having to "hammer" an area instead of "fish" it. Respondents mentioned having to put in more effort to catch the same volume of fish, even though they recognised that this is unsustainable. Many said they were not happy about fishing in this way, and would prefer to fish for different species, but this was not an option due to the current quota system (Section 6.4)

A few creelers were concerned that industrial crabbers, fishing offshore, were catching the crab before they made it to the inshore waters, and that this was depleting stocks. They also highlighted that these industrial boats are able to fish 24/7 and could haul a large number of creels. This issue was mentioned particularly by respondents in the Wester Ross area, and in the Orkney area.

Reduced landings

Approximately a fifth of respondents (21 out of 101) felt that landings had reduced over the last few years, a concern that was voiced by fishers (13) and seafood processers (6) in particular. Seven out of the nine dredgers interviewed discussed this topic, suggesting that it is of particular importance to them.

A few respondents tried to quantify their loss of landings. For example, it was estimated by some that they had previously landed approximately 25 bags of scallops when they had fished in now designated grounds, but this was down to approximately 15 bags (-40%). As mentioned in the previous section, many fishers fish in a cyclical pattern, targeting different areas and species depending on the season. The observed reduction in landings refers only to the portion of the fishing cycle that would have been spent in waters now within the MPA boundaries. These estimates can, therefore, best be compared to the 'landings from MPA rectangles' presented in panels 1, 2 and 3 a) in Figure 3.3, which shows a reduction in dredge landings of approximately 33-45% from 2016-2018. It should be noted, however, that the trend of declining dredge landings is visible from 2013 onwards, and so predates the introduction of MPA management measures.

Fishers indicated that the reduction in landings had been offset by the high price of the produce in recent years, and that without this they might have gone out of business. Some expressed concerns for the future if prices decreased.

The reduction in landings was attributed to the increased pressure on stocks described previously and the loss of days at sea. Respondents also highlighted that the MPAs were not entirely responsible for the change in landings but that various other factors had affected their landings, including the weather, Brexit and climate change as discussed in Section 6.

Finally, it was mentioned by a few respondents that the MPAs had closed off areas where larger, better quality prawns could be caught. As a result, they said that they were now catching smaller prawns and having to sell to a different, lower value, market. A lower value necessitates a greater volume of prawns to make the same return and support the fishery.

Stock improvements and increased landings in MPAs

Sixteen respondents described improvements in stock or landings in, or adjacent to, MPAs. This was noted by different respondent groups including fishers (mostly static and mixed gear fishers), as well as respondents from eNGOs and a local councillor.

Respondents described improvements in the abundance and quality of shellfish and a few mentioned getting a higher price for their product. Additionally, five respondents described a greater sense of security upon seeing stocks improving.

A few respondents mentioned that improvements in scallop stocks might be visible sooner as they recover more quickly, but that improvements in other fisheries might be slower. That said, a few respondents mentioned improvements in the quality and abundance of prawns, suggesting that these changes were also evident.

Environmental improvements

Eighteen respondents described improvements in the marine environment that they had noticed since the introduction of MPAs. This was highlighted by members of eNGOs, in particular, as well as some fishers and a local councillor. Respondents described seeing the return of various indicator species including kelp, anemone and porpoise, and noted improved water clarity. It was felt that these improvements indicated a recovering ecosystem and that other benefits would follow.

3.11 Financial impact

Negative economic impacts

Twenty-two respondents mentioned negative economic impacts associated with the MPA management measures. All but one of these were either fishers (12) or linked to the fishing industry in some way e.g. representative, engineers, processors.

Seventeen of these mentioned that they had experienced a loss in earnings either due to reduced landings or reduced days at sea. Nine mentioned the cost of buying new equipment in order to diversify or make other changes to their business, while six reported increased fuel costs due to travelling further to access fishing grounds.

Other respondents mentioned the overheads associated with a fishing business and how these can be affected by changes in fishing patterns. It was highlighted by respondents that some overheads do not change much, even when the vessel does not go out or the landings are reduced.

A few respondents said that they had had to take out loans to buy vessels or new equipment, and explained that it can be hard to get loans if the future of fishing is uncertain. Having loans to repay can also increase the pressure to catch enough fish to keep up with repayments. In addition, one person described the costs of retraining in order to enter a new industry.

Economic Benefits

Seventeen respondents noted economic benefits associated with the MPA management measures. Approximately half of these were fishers and the other half were from eNGOs.

The fishers who reported benefits were all from the static gear sector (creelers or hand-divers). Benefits were due to a reduction in gear conflict. Creel fishers mentioned that in the past they had regular costs estimated at £1000 - 20,000 due to replacing gear that had been towed by mobile fishers. This risk to gear was not a concern within MPA boundaries. Economic benefits also stemmed from having greater freedom to fish in more areas and at all times. Before the MPAs were introduced they would have to fish in areas or at times when mobile gear vessels were not present, or risk losing their gear.

Environmental NGOs described further economic benefits associated with the growth in tourism, which they linked to MPAs, and the increased opportunities for attracting funding for community group activities. Such funding can lead to the employment of staff who move to an area, spend money and contribute to the community.

3.12 Changes in Employment

Fifteen respondents, from a range of groups, said that there had been a reduction in people employed in fishing or related industries which they felt was a consequence of the economic impacts caused by the introduction MPAs. Some described changes to their own business, whilst others reported changes they had heard about from others.

In some cases, members of staff were not replaced when they left, or businesses were down-sized so that fewer people were needed. Fishers often chose to operate without crew or with fewer crew, which would often involve changing to a smaller boat. Respondents frequently cited not making enough money to pay wages as the reason for downsizing and this was partly attributed to the introduction of MPA management measures. It was, however, often stated that the MPAs were only part of the problem, with environmental changes, the quota system and shortage of crew highlighted as other factors (see Section 6). Respondents expressed concern and sadness at having to employ fewer staff, highlighting the paucity of jobs in rural areas.

In contrast a smaller number of respondents (4) mentioned that they had taken on more staff or crew and that this had been in relation to MPAs. Three of these were in the static gear sector (2 creelers and 1 hand diver) while another was from the eNGO/community group sector. Static gear fishers described being able to expand their businesses as they felt more secure regarding stocks and their ability to fish without gear conflict.

Selling up businesses

Thirty respondents raised the issue of people selling their businesses or leaving the fishing industry. All but one of these worked in the fishing industry (21) or fishing related businesses (8). Although frequently reported by respondents, only eight of these 30 respondents gave personal accounts of leaving the industry. This group comprised 7 fishers (4 dredgers) and 1 engineer.

Of those who had had to sell up or leave the sector, most cited feeling that their business was no longer viable as the main reason for leaving the industry or selling up. Other reasons given were that there was too much uncertainty and stress. The MPAs were described as an important contributing factor but it was often acknowledged that they were not the only issue (see Section 6). For example, a couple of people who sold up were of retirement age and would have been likely to have stopped fishing at that time regardless of the MPAs.

For those who were not of retirement age, the skipper and crew were mostly thought to have taken jobs in aquaculture or on personnel boats. Some crew were thought to now be unemployed, although this was not reported with certainty.

Conclusions

In this section the findings from analysis of fishing activity data and employment data are presented, combined with analysis of interviews.

Fishing activity data showed that, in some areas, there were changes in landings after MPA management measures were introduced. Impacts were more apparent at the local level while both positive and negative impacts were spread among different parts of the fishing industry. At the level of ICES rectangles, one could see decreases in trawled Nephrops landings and dredged scallops in some rectangles containing MPAs, while increases in creeled Nephrops and hand-dived scallops were also visible. In some ICES rectangles containing MPAs, no change was visible, further indicating that impacts are quite localised.

Analysis of landings from trawl vessels which fished within MPA boundaries before management measures were introduced, suggested that they were catching approximately 25-35% less from rectangles containing MPAs, and were compensating for this by fishing more heavily in other rectangles, further from MPAs. Total landings for these vessels remained the same, or higher, apart from those which had been particularly heavy users of the fishing grounds within MPAs, whose landings reduced by approximately 12% on average. The same analysis for dredge vessels found that landings within MPA rectangles, and in non-MPA rectangles declined from 2013-2018, with a steeper decline post 2016. This suggests that other factors are affecting dredged scallop landings on the west coast, but that MPAs may be a contributing factor.

Interview data supported the analysis of the landings and employment data, and offered more of an explanation of the results. Just over a quarter of fishers interviewed reported reduced landings, as did two thirds of processors. Those who attempted to quantify these reductions cited losses of approximately 40% in landings typical for that season, and from those specific areas. These estimates align quite closely with the reductions in landings from MPA rectangles, described in the previous paragraph.

Many respondents, predominantly from the mobile fishing industry, highlighted that the loss of sheltered, winter fishing grounds has had an especially significant impact on them and their capacity to fish and maintain previous levels of income. In response, a large portion from this group described moving their fishing effort to other grounds where possible. In these cases, some described feeling that alternative areas were already at capacity, and expressed concern about the extra pressure on those fishing grounds. Some also described missing days fishing, if the weather was bad, as they no longer had access to sheltered fishing grounds. Related to this, respondents mentioned having to travel further to reach areas where they could legally fish, in some cases staying out on the boat for a few nights to reduce the proportion of time spent travelling. They highlighted the impact this could have on family life.

Respondents outlined several responses to the aforementioned impacts. Some diversified to creel fishing, some downsized, selling a vessel or reducing the number of crew on their boats, while others upgraded to bigger vessels that could travel further and withstand harsher weather conditions. A few chose to sell their business and leave the industry. Those who left fishing, were often said to have taken jobs in aquaculture or service vessels for other marine industries. In cases where people sold their business, some stated the MPA was one of many factors influencing their decision, but there were a few who cited the MPA as the primary reason.

For some respondents, however, the MPAs have been beneficial. Static gear fishers described being able to fish with greater security, without risk of gear conflict. This was said to save them a fairly large amount of money each year, as they did not have to replace their gear. There were also reports of improved stocks in and adjacent to MPAs, and respondents described seeing the habitat recovering, and rare species returning. In some of these cases, skippers were expanding their business and taking on more crew.

Analysis of employment data for port districts near MPAs supported the accounts of respondents, showing a slight increase in total employment on static gear vessels, and a decrease on trawl and dredge vessels on the west coast of Scotland. This trend was clearest in a few areas, where the magnitude of the change was greater, while other areas showed no trends that could be considered as consistent with MPA management measures.

The evidence from this section suggests that there have been localised positive and negative impacts of MPA management measures for the fishing industry.

We recommend continued monitoring of the impacts of MPA management measures, as the marine environment and the industries that depend upon it continue to change and develop.

The inclusion of qualitative techniques in monitoring and impact assessment, as well as continued engagement with stakeholders are also recommended.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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