Publication - Minutes

Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Shetland - 20 January 2020

Published: 6 Oct 2021
Date of meeting: 20 Jan 2020
Location: NAFC Marine Centre, Scalloway, Shetland

Minutes of Marine Scotland's meeting on 20 January 2020 in Shetland prior to enacting phase 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) measures and Priority Marine Features (PMF) review.

Published:
6 Oct 2021
Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Shetland - 20 January 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees:

  • Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA)
  • North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) Marine Centre
  • Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation (SFPO)
  • Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Marine Scotland
     

Items and actions

General notes

NAFC raised concerns that the mapping of the ‘Horse mussel beds’ was misleading in the PMF maps as they were actually records. They noted that their survey work had identified records assigned to the PMF in GEMS that did not align with the current feature definition. In a number of instances horse mussels were subsequently recorded but at lower densities not considered bed forming (e.g. scattered clumps). SNH highlighted that the PMF mapping for this feature comprises horse mussel biotope records, and that these ‘biotopes’ are all described as horse mussel beds in the classification system. SNH also recognised that there would inevitably be cases where horse mussel ‘bed’ biotopes had been applied erroneously, noting former work with NAFC to identify and remove ‘scant’ records from GEMS on the basis of new evidence.

SNH confirmed that they have applied temporary biotope tags to the MS-led 2019 EMFF drop-down video records which will be replaced by the conclusions of NAFCs analysis contract in due course. 

Discussion about the national status of some features; e.g. there are many horse mussel records around Shetland, but not many horse mussel beds nationwide. SSMO noted that known horse mussel beds around Shetland are already protected by NAFC measures. 

SNH clarified that the buffer surrounding records shown on the maps could help support fishermen in terms of the inherent uncertainly in knowing exactly where their gear is. This buffer also acts to protect features from sedimentation and in some cases may indicate wider distribution around a ‘point’ record where a more detailed understanding of feature extent is lacking.

NAFC highlighted that plotter data may not clearly separate fished areas from areas actively avoided. They therefore suggest providing GIS layers showing records to fishers, to help them to identify which plotter marks are which before sharing with NAFC. 

MS highlighted that evidence is required to underpin decisions regarding continued fishing of areas within MPAs, rather than just needing evidence to show why particular areas might be closed. 

SSMO are wary of closing off the larger proposed areas where they feel that existing measures are sufficient and have fishers support, but acknowledge that it could serve to protect any as yet unrecorded / unsurveyed examples of these features. 

NAFC highlighted that some of the proposed management areas may be important for safety during poor weather, to permit sheltered fishing and allow continuity of business.

Agreement from local attendees that buy-in from industry to adopt voluntary closures and VMS on <12m vessels is largely down to SSMO’s small scale closures around confirmed habitat presence data. Views expressed that it may be harder to gain support for closing larger areas as currently proposed by MS.

Discussed the potential benefits (for nature conservation and external perceptions of fishery) of identifying and closing larger areas where no fishing activity is taking place, especially within MPAs and in relation to particular habitats (incl. rocky reefs).

SSMO noted that a number of their small closures, covering shallow seagrass and maerl records in areas that are not accessible to fishing vessels, were put in place in response to a request from Marine Scotland to comply with the requirements of the Marine Plan.

Discussions were had around different approaches to designing fisheries management measures - the SSMO wide area, full coverage multibeam with remote video ground-truthing method and the coarser but pragmatic PMF review approach using bathymetric contours, embayment closing lines and buffers around feature records.

SNH highlighted the 2011 NAFC survey data discussed previously and that it would still be good to mobilise these PMF records to GEMS. SNH noted that it would also be good to share the source video data. NAFC advised that the work was commissioned by SSMO so their Board would need to consider the request and the scope for data sharing.

Discussion about Shetland MPA management measures

Papa Stour SAC

SNH is scheduled to modify existing ‘reef’ mapping in the eastern part of the SAC within GEMS to reflect recent survey data (NAFC survey work commissioned by MS in 2018). SNH will supply the updated Papa Stour SAC mapping to MS when available.

If SSMO is able share fisheries plotter/VMS data then MS can consider in terms of identifying a permissible fishing area in this part of the SAC (noting that a buffer would be applied that might preclude access to some of the smaller mapped sediment areas). 

NAFC highlighted that any buffer is likely to be broader than necessary due to shallow depth and short transition between sand and rocky reef, which is dangerous to fish along. 

Likely that one or more scallop boats frequently fish this sandy area, and possibly some white fish boats. 

No stated interest in opening up the sediment area mapped at the northern margin of the SAC boundary. SSMO noted that they would check with fishers and that the eastern area had been specifically highlighted in previous conversations because the reef distribution mapping was felt to be wrong.

Actions:

  • SNH to update Papa Stour reef mapping in eastern part of SAC and supply to MS
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fisheries data with MS for Papa Stour SAC area

Sullom Voe SAC

MS noted that the ‘large shallow inlet and bay’ feature encompasses all subtidal habitats within the SAC. This means there is less room to amend proposed management areas than in MPAs where there are a number of smaller, discrete features. 

The current SSMO management area within the SAC differs greatly from the proposed MS management area.

SSMO noted that there is a historically important fishery in Sullom Voe for queen scallops. This hasn’t been productive / fished for a number of years (approximately 50 years), but fishers would like to preserve fishing access as legacy for future generations. 

Fishers also feel the area is important for sheltered and safe fishing during periods of poor weather. 

The significance of the fishery has increased in recent years as alternative fishing locations are now home to aquaculture sites, making this one of the few historic fishing sites without this impact that could be re-established in the future.

NAFC noted that it may prove difficult to evidence the fishery due to considerable lag since it was frequently used, particularly as it was a small boat fishery so there is unlikely to be either VMS or plotter data available.

NAFC were previously unable to identify the details of the former fishery for other Habitats Regulations Appraisals (HRA) for development proposals within the voe.

MS are open to further discussion on management areas, if NAFC/SSMO can share data for affected fishery. 

Action:

  • SSMO to investigate sharing any available data on the fishery affected by proposed management for Sullom Voe SAC

Mousa SAC

The existing SSMO voluntary management measures affording protection to the maerl bed to the north-west of Mousa are currently under review following new survey work (MS-commissioned in 2019). The maerl bed is a PMF record and not a qualifying / designated feature of the SAC / MPA.

Likely that scallop and squid fishing are currently undertaken within the SAC. 

NAFC will review VMS data to identify fisheries and discuss conclusions with MS with regards to interactions with the SAC / MPA features.

SNH requested feedback on the accuracy of current reef mapping akin to previous feedback on the Papa Stour SAC mapping.

Actions:

  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing data for fisheries affected by Mousa SAC proposed management measures
  • NAFC to provide feedback on accuracy of map

Fetlar to Haroldswick MPA

The interim SNH biotope tagging of 2019 EMFF survey data suggests that the current SSMO measures don’t cover the full extent of new maerl records. Whilst pending SSMO review of 2019 survey data, there are also a number of previous records of this feature lying outwith the SSMO measures (e.g. a maerl bed record in Colgrave Sound from a 2014 cruise on MS vessel Alba na Mara).

SNH will provide null data to NAFC to show areas where the 11 most sensitive PMFs are known to not occur.

SNH outlined the approach taken for designing management measures in other MPAs (measures introduced as part of ‘Phase 1’ in 2014). The full extent of the most sensitive features should be afforded protection. In a fisheries context this requires a prohibition on all towed bottom-contacting fishing activity where the feature occurs. For seabed habitat features with a moderate or low sensitivity to the pressures associated with fishing activity, a suitable proportion (but not necessarily the whole area of the feature) should also be afforded protection in this way.

SSMO highlighted existing scallop dredging activity taking place at the bottom end of Colgrave Sound. MS indicated that they could consider such activity in the zoning of their measures for the less sensitive features exposed to this activity e.g. potentially encompassing a suitable proportion of the sand and coarse sediment communities feature in other parts of the MPA.

SSMO asked whether scallop dredge restrictions could be transposed across to demersal white fishing (trawling); expect very little white fishing going on within proposed management area. 

NAFC highlighted the mobile nature of sand in the outer parts of the MPA (forming a mosaic with rocky reef outcrops); noting that the presence can change year upon year, making it hard to draw a meaningful management boundary (i.e. one that encompasses a known proportion of the habitat).

Actions:

  • SNH to check whether maerl records in Colgrave Sound from 2014 are included in the mapping/GEMS
  • SNH to share null data records for survey within Fetlar to Haroldswick MPA with NAFC
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data with MS to enable consideration of alternative management boundaries

Discussion about Shetland PMF management measures

Busta Voe

Clarification from SNH that the records shown on the maps without buffers are the 2011 NAFC records discussed previously that are not yet in GEMS.

NAFC highlighted that the SSMO management area near the mouth of the proposed management area boundary is close to the historic PMF record but that the exact location could not be surveyed due to the presence of aquaculture infrastructure. 

NAFC highlighted their lack of confidence in the non-NAFC records in the proposed PMF management area because these are from the 1980s and not very spatially accurate. NAFC believe that the records may no longer be extant. NAFC also reiterated concerns regarding the evolution of the horse mussel bed definition since the Marine Nature Conservation Review (MNCR) programme records were collected in the 1980s; in that what is deemed a horse mussel bed now differs from how it was defined back then. 

NAFC queried why MS are proposing to close such large areas to fishing and whether it is necessary for SSMO to review their management areas. MS & SNH highlighted that larger areas accord with a precautionary approach. 

MS highlighted that, if SSMO are content with existing management measures and can justify the reasoning behind them, this is likely to be sufficient for MS. 

Fishers highlighted that there used to be a prolific queen scallop fishery in this proposed PMF management area. They noted that fishing has been voluntarily avoided due to the good will of the fishing industry. 

Local vessels (<12m) voluntarily have VMS with a much more regular return rate (every 2 mins?) than elsewhere in Scotland, and so SSMO have much more information in comparison to Marine Scotland Compliance to subsequently support enforcement. 

It is NAFC’s understanding that existing SSMO management plan meets requirements to manage PMFs. SSMO only set management for shellfish, but questioned whether management should perhaps be equitable with white fish. 

There is a need to consider how the introduction of PMF management areas may affect licencing for other activities (e.g. will it mean that existing or new mussel aquaculture ventures have to complete seabed surveys?)

SEPA, as the regulator for aquaculture, will have to take into account the same policy on PMFs (General policy 9(b) in the National Marine Plan) into account in their licencing process.

Current Shetland Islands Council licencing prohibits increase in number of licensable activities e.g. if a seaweed farm were proposed, a mussel farm licence would have to be revoked to make licence available. 

Action:

  • MS to consider feasibility of extending fisheries management currently in pace for shellfish across whitefish industry to incorporate full sector using mobile bottom-contacting gear

Lunning Sound

SNH were of the view that the existing SSMO management area is appropriate in this location. 

North Papa

SNH noted that the maerl habitats appeared degraded in the vicinity of the former fish farm location but that habitat quality gets better as you move away (on the basis of the 2019 EMFF drop-down video sampling). It was recognised by all attendees that the new survey data would necessitate an increase in size of the proposed PMF management area here (to encompass new records and buffering). 

Quey Firth

SSMO confirmed fishing activity through the deeper parts of the channel, particularly on the west side below the existing SSMO management area. NAFC have data for fishing in this area and will check to see if it can be shared.

Action:

  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data for Quey Firth with Marine Scotland to inform consideration of reshaping of this proposal

Ronas Voe

NAFC highlighted that there is a good chance that none of the older horse mussel records in this proposed management area are likely to be relevant now due to issues with massive overfeeding at an historic aquaculture site (~15 years ago). The entire seabed area became anoxic and was thought to be nearly void of life for a period following that incident. The farm has since been removed.

NAFC may be able to provide fishing data that could have a bearing on the northern boundary of the proposed PMF management area should it progress.

SNH noted that SEPA may be undertaking new survey work in Ronas Voe in 2020 and have confirmed that they will share any PMF observations.

Action:

  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data for Ronas Voe with Marine Scotland

Wadbister Voe and Cat Firth

SNH confirmed that some of the historic PMF records (within and just outside the proposed management area) would likely be excluded from GEMS following resurvey in 2019 (EMFF). The original MNCR maerl bed record is thought to have been poorly positioned and the subsequent NAFC feature record to the south-east was validated during the 2019 survey.

NAFC believe that surveys carried out by aquaculture companies (in advance of development) indicate that the maerl beds feature of the proposed management area doesn’t extend beyond the current mapped location (mainly sand and mud elsewhere within the voe). NAFC diver observations and additional EMFF 2019 ‘null’ records support this conclusion.

Action:

  • SSMO to share survey data if available for Wadbister Voe and Cat Firth with Marine Scotland

West Mainland Voes

Some parts of the voes were noted as being too shallow for survey. SNH highlighted that some historic PMF records may be dropped following the 2019 EMFF survey.

NAFC noted that there are a large number of aquaculture sites in area that will have been accompanied by seabed surveys. Also that SSE have undertaken some detailed survey work in parts of the proposed PMF management area recently as part of cable laying proposals.

NAFC also noted that Whiteness Voe is protected from further licenced development. 

Actions:

  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fisheries data to allow amendment of the site boundary of West Mainland Voes 
  • NAFC to identify and share additional survey data if available for West Mainland Voes with Marine Scotland
  • NAFC to send through a map of the Whiteness Voe ‘development moratorium’ area to Marine Scotland

West Voe, East Burra

MS willing to consider a reduction in the scale of the proposed PMF management area towards the head of Loch and water depths suitable for the seagrass beds feature (<10 m). 

Potential additional PMF management areas

SNH highlighted two additional areas where they consider fisheries management measures may be warranted as part of the current PMF review project. Seabed habitat photos collected during the 2019 EMFF survey and a 2017 Scotia survey were shown to illustrate the interests in these mapped locations.

New - North of Lunna, Ness, Shetland

The feature of interest in this location is maerl beds. NAFC are currently analysing the drop-down video footage (multiple DDV runs provide some indication of bed extent) from this location under contract to MS.

Action:

  • SSMO to consider the conclusions of NAFC analyses of 2019 EMFF data and the implications for shellfish management action

New - Linga and SW Whalsay

The feature of interest in this area is horse mussel beds. The data were collected as part of a MS Scotia survey in 2017 (the stations around Shetland were surveyed opportunistically - adverse weather affected an offshore research cruise). The video footage is currently being analysed as part of an SNH external contract (due to report in ~April 2020). Whilst only a single video run, the density of live horse mussels at this location indicates a well-developed bed that merits further survey and consideration with regards to  protective measures.

SNH will supply the video footage and still images from the 2017 survey to NAFC for information.

SNH is currently exploring opportunities to undertake more survey work in Shetland waters in 2020 in collaboration with SEPA and will continue to liaise with NAFC about any survey plans. Should any work be undertaken the conclusions (and data for reference) will be supplied to NAFC.

Actions:

  • SNH to provide the 2017 drop-down video file and associated still images to NAFC as well as the subsequent analysis report
  • SNH to stay in touch with NAFC regarding survey plans for 2020 in Shetland waters

Marginal maerl - N tip of Whalsay

SNH showed an image of sparse maerl from a 2019 EMFF video station off the northern tip of Whalsay and asked whether there was any fishing activity data from this location.

Action:

  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data if available for N tip of Whalsay with MS

Action point summary

  • SNH to update Papa Stour reef mapping in eastern part of SAC and supply to MS. NAFC reply: This has been covered by a report which was done on the Papa Stour area for Marine Scotland and SSMO by the NAFC Marine Centre. This has been sent to Marine Scotland. Map attached. (Map saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fisheries data with MS for Papa Stour SAC area. NAFC reply: This has been covered by a report which was done on the Papa Stour area for Marine Scotland and SSMO by the NAFC Marine Centre. This has been sent to Marine Scotland. Map attached. (Map saved in eRDM with minutes). 
  • SSMO to investigate sharing any available data on the fishery affected by proposed management for Sullom Voe SAC. NAFC reply: A fisheries Mapping exercise has been done along with a Sullom Voe Harbour Plan. Map attached. (Map saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing data for fisheries affected by Mousa SAC proposed management measures. NAFC reply: Again we have maps from the fisheries Mapping exercise – attached. (Map saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • NAFC to provide feedback on accuracy of map. NAFC reply: A survey has been done and a report is being prepared which will be available in the near future.
  • SNH to check whether maerl records in Colgrave Sound from 2014 are included in the mapping/GEMS. NAFC reply: for SNH (NatureScot)
  • SNH to share null data records for survey within Fetlar to Haroldswick MPA with NAFC. NAFC reply: for SNH (NatureScot)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data with MS to enable consideration of alternative management boundaries. NAFC reply: The 2019 survey results still have to be discussed with fishermen and at SSMO Board level – delays due to Covid.  Survey results were sent to Marine Scotland
  • MS to consider feasibility of extending fisheries management currently in pace for shellfish across whitefish industry to incorporate full sector using mobile bottom-contacting gear.  NAFC reply: For Marine Scotland
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data for Quey Firth with Marine Scotland to inform consideration of reshaping of this proposal. NAFC reply: We have maps from the Fisheries mapping work and the Sullom Voe Harbour plan. Attached. (Plan saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data for Ronas Voe with Marine Scotland. NAFC reply: We have maps from the Fisheries mapping work. Attached. (Maps saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • SSMO to share survey data if available for Wadbister Voe and Cat Firth with Marine Scotland. NAFC reply: Maps attached. (Maps saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fisheries data to allow amendment of the site boundary of West Mainland Voes. NAFC reply: We have the maps from the fisheries mapping work. Attached. (Maps saved in eRDM with minutes)
  • NAFC to identify and share additional survey data if available for West Mainland Voes with Marine Scotland. We don’t have any additional data for this area
  • NAFC to send through a map of the Whiteness Voe ‘development moratorium’ area to Marine Scotland. NAFC reply: This map will be sent to you by Rachel Shucksmith – there is a delay due to a cyber attack at the UHI
  • SSMO to consider the conclusions of NAFC analyses of 2019 EMFF data and the implications for shellfish management action. NAFC reply: The surveys were done in 2019 for SSMO and Marine Scotland. The report was sent to Marine Scotland
  • SNH to provide the 2017 drop-down video file and associated still images to NAFC as well as the subsequent analysis report. NAFC reply: For SNH (NatureScot)
  • SNH to stay in touch with NAFC regarding survey plans for 2020 in Shetland waters. NAFC reply: For SNH (NatureScot)
  • SSMO/SFA to investigate sharing fishing data if available for N tip of Whalsay with MS. NAFC reply: We have maps from the fisheries mapping work. Attached. (Maps saved in eRDM with minutes)