Publication - Impact assessment

Planning Scotland's Seas: 2013 - Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Consultation Overview - Strategic Environmental Assessment Report

Published: 19 Aug 2013
Part of:
Marine and fisheries
ISBN:
9781782568070

This report summarises the findings from a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the possible Marine Protected Areas (pMPAs).

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

Contents
Planning Scotland's Seas: 2013 - Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Consultation Overview - Strategic Environmental Assessment Report
6.0 Results of the SEA

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

6.0 Results of the SEA

6.0.1 The purpose of this section is to report the results of the SEA. An overview of the implications of the pMPAs for each of the environmental topics is provided here.

6.0.2 The assessment tables in Appendix 3 set out the environmental effects of each of the pMPAs. This includes the cumulative effect of having more than one feature in a pMPA.

6.1 Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

6.1.1 The pMPAs will have benefits for biodiversity, flora and fauna. This is their key purpose, with a focus on specific features (identified in Table 2), and the benefit of designation will primarily accrue to these features.

6.1.2 However, many of the existing pressures on marine biodiversity currently result from activities that have the potential to result in abrasion of and/or damage to the seabed. Examples include the effects of anchoring, bottom-contact mobile gear, or infrastructure which has a large seabed footprint. Reduction and/or removal of these pressures is likely to have benefits for other species which depend on this habitat.

6.1.3 For example, some species use benthic habitat for spawning (Ellis et al, 2012). Herring spawn on gravel and similar habitats ( e.g. coarse sand, maerl, shell) with a low proportion of fine sediment and where there is well-oxygenated water. Figure 14 shows the distribution of herring spawning grounds around the UK coast. It is likely that the benefits to the pMPA features will also result in benefits for species (such as herring) that use benthic habitat for spawning. As well as South Arran pMPA, such benefits may accrue around Orkney and off the east coast of Scotland.

6.1.4 In general, species that use benthic habitat for growth and/or refuge will also benefit from the reduction and/or removal of these pressures.

6.1.5 There are also likely to be benefits to biodiversity through increased nutrient cycling. For example, species like the burrowing sea cucumber stimulate nutrient cycling by digging burrows into the sea bed. The holes they dig bring nutrients down into the sediment that would otherwise not be reached, much like earthworms in a garden. This helps to release plankton larvae and nutrients into the water column, which support the entire ecosystem.

6.1.6 Displacement of marine activities, as a result of pMPA designation, is a key concern of stakeholders. This issue is discussed in the following paragraphs.

Management measures

6.1.7 Stage 4 of the MPA Selection Guidelines [45] requires that the search locations be assessed against the Stage 4 guideline ("There is a high probability that management measures, and the ability to implement them, will deliver the objectives of the MPA"). This stage includes identification of the likely management issues and approaches. Box 2 sets out the principles underlying the identification and implementation of management measures [46] .

6.1.8 For each of the pMPAs, SNH/ JNCC have considered whether any of the following management measures should be applied:

  • no additional management required;
  • management to reduce/limit pressures; or
  • management to remove/avoid pressures.

Figure 14. Herring spawning grounds (Source: Ellis et al)

Figure 14 Herring spawning grounds

6.1.9 Many of the pMPAs have been designed to support more than one feature. Often the features do not occur across the whole pMPA, so there is potential for management (where this is considered to be needed) to be focused around the areas where features occur, or for zoning to be a key component of management measures.

6.1.10 Recommendations for the appropriate level of management have been made by SNH/ JNCC, on a site-by-site basis, for each of the pMPAs [47] , based on current understanding of:

  • the nature and sensitivity of features, and their extent within the pMPA;
  • the pMPA's conservation objectives; and
  • the type of activity undertaken in, near and/or adjacent to the pMPA (both now and in the future).

6.1.11 Management at a site level is being developed based on science and discussions with stakeholders. Participation is key to the successful delivery of a well-managed network. Stakeholders can provide higher-resolution local environmental knowledge and understanding of specific locations and the activities that take place, which will assist in providing greater certainty and fewer precautionary conclusions about management measures. These recommendations for potential management measures act as the basis for these discussions around pMPA management. These will continue during and after the consultation period.

6.1.12 The socio-economic assessment looks at the potential costs (both economic and social) that could result from the pMPAs. The estimates have focused on the costs associated with the loss of current (or future) economic activity, while acknowledging that displacement may occur instead. This information will also be used to inform discussion during the consultation period.

6.1.13 These cost estimates are based on the use of three scenarios for the management of the pMPAs: lower, intermediate and upper. For commercial fisheries, for example, the "lower scenario" may include reduction in pressure where fishing activity interacts with sensitive/high risk features of the pMPA. The "intermediate scenario" may include zoned management ( e.g. restriction or limitation of fishing activity in part of the pMPA, which may allow fishing to continue elsewhere in the pMPA) and closure to certain gear types, in addition to the measures in the "lower scenario". The "upper scenario", as well as all these measures, may include total closure across the whole of the pMPA. Such closure may result in the loss or displacement of the fishery in that pMPA. There are uncertainties associated with the displacement of commercial fishing as management is still to be decided through discussion with stakeholders through this iterative process, which makes the assessment of such effects difficult.

Potential Effects of Management Measures

6.1.14 The management measures may have consequences for the environment:

  • Where no management measures are recommended, this would result in continuation of the status quo. Small-scale, local effects may occur but these are unlikely to be significant. (If they were significant, management measures would have been recommended.)
  • Where the recommendation is to reduce/limit pressures, this may result in amendments to current practices.
  • Where the recommendation is to remove/avoid pressures, this may result in the activity being discontinued or displacement of the activity to another location. This could result in new pressures in this location or an intensification of already-existing pressures.

6.1.15 Recommendations to reduce/limit or remove/avoid pressures will also need to be taken into consideration in future project siting and design decisions. The effects of these are difficult to predict, given the lack of information about the type of future development and its possible location(s).

Box 2. Principles for management of pMPAs

General principles for Nature Conservation MPAs from the Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines (Marine Scotland 2011) [48] . The five principles listed below relate to management:

a. Management of MPAs should be integrated with wider marine management. By providing the framework within which all marine management will occur, marine planning will help ensure better integration between the needs of Nature Conservation MPAs and those of surrounding areas.

b. In most situations, existing sectoral measures (such as fishery management measures) or marine planning are expected to be sufficient. Additional powers such as Marine Conservation Orders will be available where necessary to support management of activities affecting MPAs.

c. The best available scientific information will be used to select and manage Nature Conservation MPAs. Lack of scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing MPA selection or taking action where there is a threat of damage to areas in the network.

d. As our understanding improves, and/or the environment changes, there may be a need to select additional new Nature Conservation MPAs, alter boundaries, and/or remove designations particularly in the longer term in response to climate change.

e. Nature Conservation MPAs will be subject to a range of protection levels, depending on the conservation objectives, management requirements of the MPA protected features for which they are designated and socio-economic factors. There will be an assumption of multiple-use of a site. However activities which are not compatible with the conservation objectives of a Nature Conservation MPA will be restricted.

6.1.16 The following marine activities have been reviewed for the SEA, in terms of the sensitivities of MPA features to these activities and the potential for management measures:

  • marine disposal
  • commercial fishing (mobile gear; static gear; diver-operated gear)
  • infrastructure (renewables; oil and gas; cables)
  • aquaculture (finfish; shellfish)
  • moorings/ anchorages

6.1.17 The SEA has drawn on the work undertaken by SNH/ JNCC and ABPmer/eftec to develop a strategic overview of the potential effects of the management measures. It has focused on the potential displacement of current and (known) proposed activities. (It has not included the effects of displacement of future unknown activities, given the high level of uncertainty associated with this.)

6.1.18 A review of the sensitivity of biodiversity features to the marine activities identified in paragraph 6.1.16 and the potential to result in displacement has been undertaken. (Few, if any, measures have been recommended for the management of geodiversity features.) Figure 15 shows the results. Features which are highly sensitive to marine activities are shown as primarily blue, e.g. serpulid aggregations, seamount communities. Those with low sensitivity are shown as primarily green, e.g. white cluster anemones. Most features, however, are more sensitive to certain activities than others. Black guillemot, for example, are highly sensitive to a limited number of activities (in this case, the risk of entanglement in static fishing nets). Flame shell beds, maerl beds, native oysters have a high sensitivity to some activities, medium sensitivity to others, and low sensitivity to the remainder.

6.1.19 Those features which are shown as highly sensitive have the greatest potential to result in displacement.

Displacement of mobile gear

6.1.20 Very few of the protected features are not sensitive to the pressures from bottom contact mobile/ active gear. In consequence, it is recommended that such pressures on the features should be removed or managed. The features are as follows:

  • six pMPAs with burrowed mud features (the remaining six are recommended to reduce/limit mobile gear)
  • the four pMPAs supporting deep-sea sponge aggregations (Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; Hatton-Rockall Basin; North-east Faroe Shetland Channel; Rosemary Bank Seamount)
  • fan mussel aggregations (Small Isles)
  • the five pMPAs supporting flame shell beds (Loch Creran; Loch Sunart; Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)
  • the four pMPAs supporting horse mussel beds (Fetlar to Haroldswick; Noss Head; Small Isles; Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)

Figure 15. Sensitivity of pMPA features to marine activities (identified in paragraph 6.1.16)

Figure 15 Sensitivity of pMPA features to marine activities

  • kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment (Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • the five pMPAs supporting maerl beds (Fetlar to Haroldswick; Loch Sween; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; South Arran; Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • both pMPAs supporting maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers (North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; South Arran)
  • the pMPAs supporting native oysters (Loch Sween)
  • the four pMPAs supporting ocean quahog aggregations (East of Gannet and Montrose Fields; Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; Firth of Forth Banks Complex; Norwegian boundary sediment plain) and one supporting ocean quahog (Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)
  • the six pMPAs supporting offshore deep-sea muds (East of Gannet and Montrose Fields; Geikie Slide and Hebridean slope; Hatton-Rockall Basin; North-east Faroe Shetland Channel; South-west Sula Sgeir and Hebridean slope; The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount)
  • seven of the eight pMPAs supporting offshore subtidal sands and gravels (Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; Firth of Forth Banks Complex; Geikie Slide and Hebridean slope; North-east Faroe Shetland Channel; South-west Sula Sgeir and Hebridean slope; The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount; Turbot Bank). No mobile gear fisheries currently take place within the West Shetland Shelf pMPA, which is currently closed to mobile gear under Common Fisheries Policy regulations for cod recovery.
  • sand eels should be protected from demersal hydraulic gears in the Mousa to Boddam pMPA
  • seagrass beds (South Arran)
  • seamount features (Rosemary Bank Seamount; The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount)
  • serpulid aggregations (Loch Sunart)

6.1.21 For commercial fisheries, therefore, the potential cost of designation is a loss or displacement of current (and future) output, caused by spatial or temporal restrictions on fishing activities. In reality, vessel owners are likely to try and adapt within the site ( e.g. by changing gear type or target species) if that is possible, or operate in alternative fishing grounds, in an attempt to maintain profitability.

Displacement of static gear

6.1.22 At five of the six sites supporting black guillemot, SNH/ JNCC have recommended that pressures from set nets be removed/avoided, as there is a risk that black guillemot will become entangled in such nets. On the whole, this relates to potential future deployment of such gear, as they are not currently used. There may therefore be displacement of static gear in the future, but this is uncertain.

6.1.23 The same applies to common skate: the exclusion of bottom-set nets and long-line fishing within the possible MPA is recommended. Again, there is little evidence of the use of such gear in Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura pMPA. There may therefore be displacement of static gear in the future, but is unlikely for current marine users.

6.1.24 Deep-sea sponge aggregations are highly sensitive to the pressures from static gear, and so the removal of such pressures is recommended for the four sites where these features occur (Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; Hatton-Rockall Basin; North-east Faroe Shetland Channel; Rosemary Bank Seamount). This pressure is predicted from set nets and long-line fishing (Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; North-east Faroe Shetland Channel; Rosemary Bank Seamount - which also supports creeling and potting), all of which currently takes place in the pMPA, so there is potential for displacement where these features are found within the pMPA.

6.1.25 In the Hatton-Rockall Basin pMPA, the limited evidence available suggests that there is currently negligible fishing here. Control measures already exist to limit fishing that would cause damage to this feature in this pMPA. The recommendation to remove/avoid pressure is therefore unlikely to result in any additional displacement to that which has already occurred.

6.1.26 Seamount features are also sensitive to static gear, and SNH/ JNCC recommend that pressures from this activity should be removed from the two sites on which it occurs where these features are found within the pMPA. There is therefore potential for displacement from Rosemary Bank Seamount and The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount.

6.1.27 Of the six pMPAs where offshore deep-sea muds occur, only those in the Hatton-Rockall Basin pMPA have been identified as sensitive to static gear. However, zoned management may be possible in this pMPA, so displacement may not occur.

Displacement of diver-operated gear

6.1.28 One-third of all features are sensitive to diver-operated gear, in particular hydraulic gears, and the removal of these pressures is recommended for the following features:

  • burrowed mud (Loch Sween; Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh)
  • circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities (Fetlar to Haroldswick)
  • flame shell beds (Loch Creran; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles)
  • horse mussel beds (Fetlar to Haroldswick)
  • kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment (Fetlar to Haroldswick; Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • all five of the maerl bed pMPAs (Fetlar to Haroldswick; Loch Sween; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; South Arran; Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • both pMPAs for maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers (North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; South Arran)
  • sandeels (Mousa to Boddam)
  • seagrass beds (South Arran)
  • sublittoral mud and mixed sediment communities (Loch Sween)

6.1.29 The nature of these features means that, for many of them, management of diver-operated hydraulic gears can be zoned, e.g. flame shell beds, horse mussel beds, maerl beds. Displacement of the activity from the pMPAs as a whole is therefore unlikely, apart from perhaps Loch Sween, where the recommendation is to remove this pressure from the whole of the pMPA.

Displacement of marine disposal

6.1.30 SNH/ JNCC have recommended that pressures associated with marine disposal be removed/avoided. The following features would be managed at four of the pMPAs:

  • burrowed mud (North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles)
  • fan mussel aggregations (Small Isles)
  • horse mussel beds (Noss Head; Small Isles)

6.1.31 At three of the four sites, management could be zoned, as the features occur in specific areas of the pMPA. At the fourth site, the features occur across the whole site and so management measures will need to be applied across the whole site. Displacement at this site (Noss Head) may therefore occur.

Displacement of oil and gas

6.1.32 Removal of pressures associated with oil and gas activities is recommended for the following features:

  • four out of twelve pMPAs with burrowed mud features recommend removal/avoidance of pressures associated with oil and gas (Central Fladen; South-east Fladen; The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount; Western Fladen)
  • deep-sea sponge aggregations (Faroe-Shetland sponge belt)
  • ocean quahog aggregations (East of Gannet and Montrose Fields; Faroe-Shetland sponge belt; Firth of Forth Banks Complex; Norwegian boundary sediment plain)
  • three of six pMPAs with offshore deep-sea muds (East of Gannet and Montrose Fields, North-east Faroe Shetland Channel, The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount)

6.1.33 At all of these sites it is likely that management would take the form of:

  • location of the activity to avoid impacts to the most sensitive features, for example, through micro-siting;
  • minimising/avoiding introduction of materials that alter the seabed habitat type; and
  • treatment of drill cuttings/ skip and ship.

6.1.34 Displacement from these pMPAs is therefore not anticipated, as the SEA has assumed that implementation of these mitigation measures would be successful.

Displacement of renewables/associated cables

6.1.35 There are eight pMPAs in territorial and two in offshore waters that have existing, planned or potential future offshore renewables development within the proposed site boundary or within 5km of the site boundary ( Table 8).

6.1.36 The MPA features in Table 8 are sensitive to renewables development:

  • black guillemots have medium sensitivity to death or injury by collision with underwater turbines (Clyde Sea Sill)
  • fronts may be sensitive to changes in tidal currents/ removal of hydrodynamic energy (Clyde Sea Sill)
  • sandeels are highly sensitive to physical change (to another seabed type), which may be associated with new infrastructure projects, as they have specific sediment requirements which affect their presence and density (Moussa to Boddam)
  • horse mussel beds are highly sensitive to pressures ( e.g. sub-surface abrasion or disturbance), which are associated with installation of cables (Noss Head).
  • ocean quahog aggregations and offshore subtidal sands and gravels are both sensitive to physical disturbance

Table 8. Overlap of pMPAs with renewables development

Territorial Waters Infrastructure Management Measure
Clyde Sea Sill ( Figure 16) small overlap with tidal plan option TW2 remove/avoid (black guillemot); reduce/limit (fronts)
Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura future export power cables no management measures
Moussa to Boddam future export power cable remove/avoid (sand eels)
North-west Sea Lochs & Summer Isles future export power cable no management measures
Noss Head future cable infrastructure remove/ avoid (horse mussel beds) Management would need to be applied across most, if not the entire, pMPA.
Papa Westray ( Figure 17) overlap with tidal plan option TN3; wave plan option WN2 future export power cable no management measures
South Arran future export power cable no management measures
Wyre and Rousay Sounds ( Figure 17) overlap with tidal plan option future export power cable no management measures
Offshore Sites
Firth of Forth Banks Complex ( Figure 18) overlap with Firth of Forth Round 3 offshore wind lease area it has been assumed that it will be possible to avoid features through micrositing, so that no displacement from the offshore energy areas will occur
North West Orkney ( Figure 17) offshore wind plan option OWN1 almost completely within pMPA; overlap with wave plan option WN2 and tidal plan option TN4

Figure 16. West Area: overlap with pMPAs

Figure 16 West Area: overlap with pMPAs

Figure 17. North Area: overlap with pMPAs

Figure 17 North Area overlap with pMPAs

Figure 18. Firth of Forth Banks Complex overlap with Firth of Forth Round 3 area

Figure 18 Firth of Forth Banks Complex overlap with Firth of Forth Round 3 area

6.1.37 At all of these sites it is likely that management would take the form of:

  • location of the activity to avoid impacts to the most sensitive features, for example, through micro-siting;
  • minimising/avoiding introduction of materials that alter the seabed habitat type; and
  • use of graded scour protection, where necessary and/or appropriate.

6.1.38 For example, it has been assumed that project siting and design can be used to decrease the risk of death or injury to black guillemot, and to avoid and/or reduce disturbance to ocean quahog aggregations and offshore subtidal sands and gravels. The same would apply to the routing of cables across horse mussel beds and/or sandeel habitat, i.e. an alternative route could be found that would be acceptable to the developer.

6.1.39 Environmental assessment and on-going monitoring of a tidal test device in the Sound of Sanda (Clyde Sea Sill) indicate that the impacts on fronts are likely to be insignificant. However, any future proposals for new renewables development (including extension to existing development) would require careful consideration to ensure the conservation objectives are achieved.

6.1.40 At this stage, therefore, the SEA has assumed that displacement of renewables activities will not occur.

Displacement of moorings/anchorages

6.1.41 SNH/ JNCC recommend that pressures from moorings/anchorages are removed from the following features:

  • flame shell beds (Loch Sunart; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles)
  • maerl beds (one of the five pMPAs for this feature: Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • native oysters (Loch Sween)
  • seagrass beds in Whiting Bay (South Arran)
  • serpulid aggregations (Loch Sunart)

6.1.42 In many of these pMPAs, the nature of the features would support zoning and relocation, rather than complete displacement. For example, in Loch Sunart the recommendation is to avoid the serpulid aggregations in Loch Teacius. Further work is required to determine whether there is an interaction with the serpulid aggregations and, if so, whether relocation of existing recreational anchorages would be required. For the moorings in Loch Sunart, further work is needed to ascertain the degree of overlap between moorings and MPA features. The recommendation is that management should be focused around the flame shell beds and serpulid aggregations, and thus does not need to be put in place across the whole pMPA.

Displacement of aquaculture: finfish and shellfish

6.1.43 Many features exhibit sensitivity to the pressures arising from finfish and shellfish aquaculture, and this has resulted in recommendations to remove/avoid these pressures. These measures are focused on the pressures associated with new finfish/shellfish farms and undeveloped consents, as well as the expansion or relocation of existing finfish/shellfish farms in areas where they would be likely to impact on sensitive features. There is no policy to review existing consents.

6.1.44 Sensitive features comprise:

  • flame shell beds (all five pMPAs: Loch Creran; Loch Sunart; Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)
  • horse mussel beds (one of the four: Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)
  • maerl beds (shellfish: North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles) (finfish: Loch Sween; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles; Wyre and Rousay Sounds)
  • maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers (North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles)
  • native oysters (finfish only: Loch Sween)
  • northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata (two of three: Loch Sunart; North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles)
  • ocean quahog (Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil)
  • serpulid aggregations in Loch Sunart
  • kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment (Wyre and Rousay Sounds) (finfish only)

6.1.45 Relocation of some aquaculture facilities has already occurred. It is likely that future aquaculture development in these pMPAs will need to avoid sensitive features and that this will be a factor in project siting and design. The nature of many of the pMPA features identified in paragraph 6.1.42 is such that they could be avoided in this way.

Displacement: Conclusion

6.1.46 The key pressures associated with marine activities include:

  • surface abrasion and damage. For example, in demersal fishing, mobile/active gear (trawls, dredges, etc) makes contact with and moves along the surface of the seabed and can result in surface abrasion and/or damage. Surface abrasion can also be caused by anchorages/moorings (recreational and commercial), although the effects tend to be more localised.
  • siltation rate changes, e.g. associated with marine disposal of dredged material and with aquaculture
  • contact with the seabed, e.g. fishing using static gear. Often the issue here is the intensity of the activity. The use of static gear at moderate intensity is not an issue for most features. The issue comes with high intensity and concentration of static gear, e.g. creels/pots.
  • risk of injury and/or death to mobile species. For example, the use of set nets ( e.g. fyke, gill, trammel or tangle) may entangle black guillemot. Of highest risk to black guillemot would be set nets around kelp forests which are widely used for feeding. Offshore renewable energy devices also pose a risk of collision to mobile species.
  • organic enrichment, e.g. pressures associated with aquaculture

6.1.47 Review of the potential for displacement has demonstrated the following:

  • Designation of some pMPA features does not appear to require management measures, and these would therefore not result in displacement.
  • Many of the management measures can be zoned, so displacement is unlikely to occur in pMPAs where this can be progressed.
  • For infrastructure (renewables, oil and gas, cables), MPA features will need to be considered in the course of project siting and design. For the purposes of this SEA, it has been assumed that such measures will be able to successfully mitigate adverse effects on these features, and that displacement will not occur.

The results of the review are summarised in Table 9, taking these factors into account.

Table 9. Potential for displacement (red = uncertain; blue = more likely)

infrastructure
MPA features marine disposal mobile gear static gear diver renew- ables oil and gas cables shellfish farms finfish farms anchors mooring
continental slope
northern sea fan and sponge communities
orange roughy
seamounts
shelf banks and mounds
shelf deeps
white cluster anemones
circalittoral sand and mud communities uncertain
fronts
herring spawning grounds uncertain
circalittoral muddy sand communities
circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities uncertain more likely
common skate uncertain
shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves uncertain more likely
sublittoral mud and mixed sediment communities
ocean quahog aggregations more likely
offshore subtidal sands and gravels more likely
fan mussel aggregations uncertain
northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata uncertain
black guillemot
deep-sea sponge aggregations more likely more likely
kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment uncertain more likely
offshore deep sea muds more likely more likely
seamount communities more likely more likely
ocean quahog (species) more likely more likely
seagrass beds more likely uncertain more likely uncertain
maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers more likely more likely
sandeels more likely more likely
native oysters more likely uncertain more likely more likely
serpulid aggregations more likely uncertain
flame shell beds uncertain uncertain more likely uncertain
maerl beds uncertain uncertain more likely uncertain
burrowed mud uncertain more likely uncertain
horse mussel beds uncertain uncertain uncertain more likely

6.1.48 The activities which appear to have the greatest potential to result in displacement comprise:

  • commercial fishing using bottom-contact mobile gear, particularly hydraulic gear;
  • commercial fishing using diver-operated hydraulic gear; and
  • some use of static gear.

6.1.49 Some uncertainties remain, particularly with features where the recommendation has been to reduce and/or limit the pressure. Much of this uncertainty focuses around the type of measure to be employed, be it spatial and/or temporal restriction, or changes to gear types or target species.

6.1.50 For those activities where displacement will occur, it is not possible at this stage to identify alternative locations. This will be the subject of discussion with stakeholders in the course of the consultation. We are therefore unable to assess the potential environmental effects of new and/or intensified activity, other than to note the following:

  • moving activities to new areas that are currently unused or have low levels of use would likely result in effects on the seabed, e.g. abrasion, surface damage, etc. The significance of these effects would depend on the nature of the seabed affected and the sensitivity of the habitat.
  • moving activities to areas that are already in use may intensify existing environmental effects, including pressures on benthic habitats, pressures on fish stocks, risk of injury through collision, etc. Again, the significance of these effects would depend on the area in question, the type of activity and the current level of activity.

6.2 Marine Geodiversity

6.2.1 As with biodiversity, the pMPAs will have benefits for geodiversity features. This is their key purpose, with a focus on specific features (identified in Table 2), and the benefit of designation will primarily accrue to these features.

6.2.2 Designation and protection of these geodiversity features may result in benefits to geodiversity features in other areas of the sea, through changes to existing marine activities and/or management practices.

6.3 Climatic Factors

Increased greenhouse gas emissions

6.3.1 Displacement of commercial fishing could result in longer journeys, with increased fuel consumption and therefore increased greenhouse gas emissions. However, at this stage, it is not possible to estimate the increase in journey length. As noted in paragraph 6.1.50, we do not know where displaced mobile and/or static gear. for example, would be likely to go. In consequence, other than to say there may be an increase in fuel consumption, it is not possible to provide estimates of such increased emissions, nor to ascertain how significant this may be in the overall context of the Scottish fleet.

6.3.2 It should be noted that the seas also offer us indirect benefits, such as nutrient cycling or reducing the effects of climate change. These are benefits that we currently gain no direct economic output from, but which provide services that would be very costly to manage ourselves if they disappeared. Habitats such as kelp forests and seagrass beds are not only important habitats for juvenile fish, but are also recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme as important carbon sinks. Carbon sinks store carbon dioxide, helping to regulate climate and contribute to mitigating change, much as peat bogs do on land.

6.4 Cumulative Effects

6.4.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the cumulative environmental effects of the possible MPAs are identified and evaluated.

6.4.2 The cumulative effects of the pMPAs have been considered, in terms of:

  • their combined effects (all the pMPAs working together); and
  • in combination with other plans, programmes and/or strategies.

6.4.3 The assessment tables in Appendix 3 set out the environmental effects of each of the pMPAs. This includes the cumulative effect of having more than one feature in a pMPA.

6.4.4 Taken together, the pMPAs are likely to result in benefits to biodiversity, in terms of protection provided to the MPA features. However, there is also potential for adverse effects on biodiversity from displacement of commercial fishing activities. At this stage, for those activities where displacement is likely to occur, it is not possible to identify alternative locations. This will be the subject of discussion with stakeholders in the course of the consultation. We are therefore unable to assess the potential environmental effects of new and/or intensified activity, other than to note the following:

  • moving activities to new areas that are currently unused or have low levels of use would likely result in effects on the seabed, e.g. abrasion, surface damage, etc. The significance of these effects would depend on the nature of the seabed affected and the sensitivity of the habitat.
  • moving activities to areas that are already in use may intensify existing environmental effects, including pressures on benthic habitats, pressures on fish stocks, risk of injury through collision, etc. Again, the significance of these effects would depend on the area in question, the type of activity and the current level of activity.

6.4.5 In consequence, it is not possible at this stage to ascertain whether there may be cumulative effects, resulting from the effects of displacement of commercial fishing activities and the effects of other proposals for activity in the marine environment, including the Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters (part of the Planning Scotland's Seas consultation).

6.4.6 Figure 4 sets out the policy context within which the possible MPAs are being progressed, including the Marine Policy Statement and the (currently draft) National Marine Plan:

  • The Marine Policy Statement sets out UK-level marine policy, and the policy framework in the draft National Marine Plan delivers these policies within the Scottish context.
  • The National Marine Plan provides the overarching marine planning policy framework. This includes policy relating to activities where the marine planning and terrestrial systems overlap, for example those which occur on and around the coast or in coastal waters, such as aquaculture.

6.4.7 The focus of the possible MPAs, which is reflected in the conservation objectives, is to either:

  • protect a range of biodiversity or geodiversity features in their current state for the future, or
  • to allow them to recover to the state they should be to remain healthy and productive.

6.4.8 The possible MPAs will work together with the existing protection measures to provide protection to the biodiversity and geodiversity features in Scottish territorial and offshore waters. Taken together, this will be of benefit to those features.

6.4.9 In addition, the possible MPAs will contribute to meeting the objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, in terms of the achievement of good environmental status and in contributing to the objectives of good environmental status, such as the protection of seafloor systems (Qualitative Descriptor 6 of Annex I of the directive).


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