Proposed fisheries management measures in offshore Marine Protected Areas - pre-consultation workshop minutes: December 2022
- Marine Scotland Directorate
- Part of
- Marine and fisheries
Minutes from the pre-consultation engagement workshop on 14 December 2022.
Attendees and apologies
Invites were issued to over 170 stakeholder organisations including community groups, councils, environmental non government organisations, energy and renewables, recreational organisations, and fishing industry groups.
- Marine Scotland (MS)
- Marine Scotland Science (MSS)
- Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
- Blue Marine Foundation
- Clyde Fishermen's Association
- Clyde Marine Planning Partnership
- Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
- Community Inshore Fisheries Alliance
- Crown Estate Scotland
- Fisheries Innovation Service
- Fisheries Management Scotland
- Heriot Watt University
- Marine Conservation Society
- Nature Scot
- Open Seas
- Orkney Fisheries Association
- SAMS Enterprise
- Scottish Environment Link
- Scottish Fishermen's Federation
- Scottish White Fish Producer's Organisation
- Scottish Wildlife Trust
- Sealife Adventures
- Shetland Council
- SSE Renewables
- University of Aberdeen
- University of the Highlands and Islands
- University of Strathclyde
- University of St Andrews
- Western Isles Fishermen's Association
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
Welcome and introductions made by MS.
This workshop is being held to provide context and a wider understanding of the impact assessments undertaken for stakeholders when responding to the upcoming public consultation on fisheries management measures within offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The feedback obtained will feed back into the documents subject to consultation in 2023.
Documentation was provided in advance, with further feedback being sought until the 13th January 2023.
Background to MPA fisheries management measures
A presentation was given by MS outlining the 21 sites subject to measures and the process under which these measures are developed.
Scientific advice and evidence
A presentation was given by JNCC outlining how their advice is formed and the evidence base used.
Presentations were given by ABPmer and Eftec providing an overview of the Sustainability Appraisal, Socio-economic Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment undertake on the proposed measures.
A presentation was given by MS on additional assessments undertaken – Appropriate Assessments, Partial Island Communities Impact Assessment and Partial Business Regulatory Impact Assessment.
Break out sessions
Attendees were split into four groups of mixed interests and rotated between each of the following four topics allowing all participants to attend all topic sessions:
- socioeconomic Impacts (SEIA) led by consultants ABPmer and EFTEC
- ecosystem Services led by consultants EFTEC
- environmental Assessments led by consultants ABPmer
- general Processes and Additional Assessments led by Marine Scotland and JNCC
Meeting notes are arranged by breakout room topics with minutes provided for each session.
Socioeconomic Impacts (SEIA) led by consultants ABPmer and EFTEC
Question raised on how spill over benefits have been assessed in the SEIA. Topic lead explained difficulty in quantifying spill over benefits and that spill over benefits have been assessed across all sites with some sites having more significant effects.
Group member noted West Shetland Shelf site has not had a demersal fishery for some of the duration of the assessment baseline years (2015-2019). Topic lead explained that data suggests there has been some fishing in this area which is why there is an impact estimated for this site.
Question raised about whether it is appropriate to compare local impacts to national values. Topic lead explained that SEIA compares impacts to national size of sector and also looks distribution of impacts at a more disaggregated level (e.g. across ports, gear types)
Question asked about whether blue carbon was considered in the assessment. Topic lead explained that the assessment did look at blue carbon stocks/sequestration rates and it recognises potential for significant effects in some sites but the impact is uncertain.
Question asked whether society’s willingness to pay (WTP) was assessed, for example through a contingent valuation method. Topic lead explained there are studies that look at WTP for offshore features, but the studies don’t relate to these specific sites so values are not completely transferable. A member of the group followed up with another question asking whether a primary valuation study was undertaken in the SEIA. Topic lead clarified this was not done but the assessment reviewed secondary evidence.
Group member asked how public perceptions are dealt with when a lot of these areas don’t have protection measures. Topic lead explained MPAs are feature based which is why zonal approaches are used in order to achieve conservation objectives.
Group member raised concern about the way economic benefits have been assessed and contradiction between the SEA and SEIA. Group member explained that SEA talks about spill over benefits but this has not been properly accounted for in the benefits assessment in the SEIA. Topic lead explained that benefits are included in the assessment but have not been quantified due to challenging modelling requirements to do so.
Group member raised point that it is odd West Shetland Shelf has been assessed to have such a high cost impact when there was not a trawl fishery in 2015-19. Topic lead explained that this is what the best available data shows for these areas. Group member made request to look back at data for West of Scotland impact. MS and topic leads agreed to review this.
Group member suggested checking the loss of impact to Ayr port, which appeared high to the group member. Topic lead explained that some vessels may be registered to a port but operate from a different location. A suggestion was made to add a caveat/clarification in the port analysis section of the SEIA. Topic lead clarified that there was already a caveat in the SEIA on this point but this will be made more prominent.
Group member asked about the displacement test methodology. Topic lead explained data that underpins the displacement test and how it has been carried out for this assessment.
Group member asked whether the recently published SEIA guidance for MPAs in inshore waters has been applied to this assessment. Topic lead clarified that this SEIA was started before the guidance was finalised and therefore it hadn’t been used, though it would be for the Inshore MPA measures. Group welcomed inclusion of natural capital terminology in the SEIA guidance for MPAs in inshore waters.
Group discussed how impacts in the SEIA are combined in the assessment.
Group member asked about how foreign vessel impacts have been assessed. Topic lead explained that there is an annex in the SEIA that focuses on foreign vessel impacts but this has not been assessed at an individual site level.
Facilitator asked whether range of impacts have been captured appropriately. Group welcomed inclusion of ecosystem services.
Group member asked about the scale of impacts under the lower and upper scenario. Topic lead explained how the impacts were assessed under both scenarios.
Group member asked why carbon sequestration is not referred to as ‘blue carbon’ throughout the document. Topic lead explained that some may be less familiar with that term.
A question was raised on whether non-use and use value of the environment have been considered in the SEIA. Topic lead explained that studies reviewed in the SEIA suggest people hold these values. There was a suggestion from a group member that social value should be given more consideration.
Group discussed scale of impacts across different regions and why some regions and sites have higher percentage impacts.
A group member raised a point that they felt stakeholders were not given a sufficient amount of time between the sharing of documents and the workshop. A request was made for more reading time in the future.
Ecosystem services led by consultants EFTEC
A group member noted that a new publicly available study to establish what the habitats and features are worth in monetary terms would be valuable for these impact assessments. They also noted that on the ecological coherent network side of things and commitments to OSPAR etc are the primary reasoning for these measures, but the economic and social assessments are after the primary legislation. MS responded that to allow Scottish Ministers to make a fully informed decision on the level of management to be implemented the Scottish Government have chosen to undertake an SEIA to inform these considerations.
Topic leads explained that the ecosystem service values were derived from literature. Various studies have been conducted, but it remains hard to come up with a firm value. Specific numbers were not given in the assessments due to this, but the assessment states there is a value in the non-use and compare it to a few pounds per household.
The value and consideration given to marine wildlife tourism was raised. Eftec reiterated a request for any data evidence to be shared if it has not been included. Topic leads highlighted marine wildlife tourism had been acknowledged in the assessment noting that the scientific data on how this sector would be impacted is lacking. As a result, the confidence ratings in those results are low but where possible all aspects were explored. The assessment is clear that things will move in the right direction for environmental protection and recovery, but we do not know by how much. An example being if we stop disturbing the sediment we know it will help carbon storage, but it is not yet known how much carbon is in the sediment. There are also possible damages associated with displacement activity which could produce negative impacts outside of the protected area if fishing activity is moved elsewhere.
A group member described the SEIA report as vague and raised that some things are not easily measurable and unquantifiable. Proceeding without the appropriate evidence in place may not be the right choice.
Concerns about the consequences on the displacement of fisheries on the wider benefits to biodiversity and biogeochemistry which is provided by these MPAs were raised. It was highlighted that ICES concluded that the more you fish in one area, the less impact per activity. It all depends to where the activity is displaced.
It was also noted that there’s not a lot of data on ecosystem services, on a global scale.
In discussions of data contributing to the assessments and how local knowledge was incorporated it was noted that there is less local community knowledge/awareness for offshore sites.
Clarification was requested by a group member on how the SEIA assessment was conducted and what data was used for the assessment. Topic leads noted when it comes to ecosystem services that there are data gaps and there is no monetary value on a lot of the ecosystem services. However, they are confident in the direction of impact, but noted that from the available data it is not clear how significant the impact would be. There is evidence available on the value of non-use aspects but there is nothing in the evidence base that allows us to be confident on a monetary value on a specific area.
A group member asked whether there is potential for fishers to change gear and how/if this is assessed in the report. Topic leads noted this was covered in the assessment, though not substantially. Proposed measures restrict the use of damaging gears, so fishers would only be able to use gears not deemed damaging to the protected features of the sites and/or impact the site conservation objectives.
One group member felt there was a lack of consistency between some of the assessments. These reports were done well, but there is an imbalance.
It was suggested by a group member that further exploration of landing data and statistics may be required, in particular for West Shetland Shelf due to concerns around the figures. MS agreed to review this.
A group member asked about a monitoring programme. MS responded that the current monitoring programme for the offshore sites will be maintained. Monitoring offshore sites is costly due to vessel and time requirements. Scottish Government is looking at ways to improve our monitoring surveys such as collaborating with cruises.
Environmental assessments led by consultants ABPmer
One group member highlighted that it seemed unusual for an SEA to be done for something which will have overwhelming beneficial environmental impacts.
Topic leads responded that the SEA might show benefits in protecting the features but displacement of activities may create an overall negative impact. The SEA regulations does not make distinction between positive and negative effects and the Scottish Government would not be meeting its obligations if not doing an SEA.
A group member noted concern that an SEA hasn’t been done for impacts of fishing vessel licences on MPAs. Another group member queried the legality of features of interest within the site not being covered by zoned measures. Concern was also raised around the interpretation of the Habitat regulations.
MS noted in response to these points that the key thing from MS is that site features have conservation objectives that need to be met. Features may occur outside the zonal management areas however zones are defined to enable site conservation objectives to be met.
JNCC advice has been used to develop the measures for the offshore sites in question. Scottish Ministers have the power to make the final decision on which approach to be taken: zonal management, or the reasonable alternative, or somewhere in between those two options depending on the level of precaution they wish to take.
Topic leads were asked to expand on the overall environmental assessment: one aspect of the assessment is the baseline assessment which is undertaken on a site-by-site basis, the impact on this baseline of each of the measures is then assessed for both management options. Impacts were also assessed on the SEA objectives (blue carbon, GES, UK marine regions) and information is found in the site by site tables in the assessment appendices. These are then pulled together for each site to get a cumulative effect of impacts for all the sites. The adverse effects are largely minor apart from a couple of sites due to the displacement test finding the fishing vessels were likely to travel further. Creating potential for fishers to target new areas or utilise areas that are not often fished resulting in increased impacts in these areas. A group member noted that if areas are not currently fished, or have low fishing activity that there is likely a reason for this such as unfavourable or dangerous ground, so displacement may not be realistic.
Topic leads noted that each site has different level of fishing activity so benefits are greater or lesser based on that level of activity along with how sensitive the protected features are to that activity.
Seafloor integrity has been looked at as part of the Good Environmental Status (GES) SEA objective.
Adverse effect is the legal term used in the habitats regulations. It was suggested that negative be used instead of adverse in terms of effects on things like the fishing industry in order to be less confusing.
Topic leads noted the SEA includes a review of environmental policy across all of the topics scoped in, however how management measures contribute towards these other policy commitments is not assessed.
MS noted that fisheries management is being implemented where the Scottish Government has determined where these are required to achieve relevant conservation objectives.
It was suggested that the contribution to other policies should be part of the SEA.
It was highlighted by a group member that the IUCN MPA guidelines advise no industrial fishing within MPAs and was interested in what percentage of Scotland seas is fishing activity not allowed. MS noted that in Scottish waters the Deep Sea Regulations restrict demersal mobile fishing below 800m which covers a large percentage of the offshore region, however for inshore this will be less.
MS also noted that the marine licencing process provides protection in MPAs where there are currently no fisheries management measures.
A participant noted the assessment differentiates between having management or not having management and queries whether there was a differentiation between the gear types being restricted. Topic leads responded that across the 21 offshore sites there is a range of site specific proposals which have been developed through stakeholder engagement. For each site the proposed measures are assessed for the environment effects, and then the reasonable alternative approach (closing the full site to damaging gears) is assessed. Some sites have one gear type restricted, some have multiple gear types restricted and there are also seasonal restrictions. These are all assessed on a site by site basis.
A group member noted that the Marine Conservation Society have produced a paper advocating a full site approach to management. They questioned to what degree the full site approach was assessed to explore additional benefits. Topic leads responded that the full site approach (closing the whole site damaging gears) is applied in the second management option. Each site has been assessed under the zoned measures, and then assessed under reasonable alternative. The group were directed to look at appendix c in the SEA which has site specific tables outlining the sum impacts (from major negative to major positive).
A group member suggested the impact assessment document was too focused on conditions within the MPA but not for the fishing areas outside the MPA regarding carbon stores. They asked whether the biodiversity gains from protecting features within the sites would be more or less beneficial overall when taking into account potential loss of carbon stores as a result of fishing displacement.
Topic leads noted there is not a huge amount of research for carbon stores in offshore areas so it was limited what could be said in the assessment for carbon stores in deep sea sediment. A group member noted that due to the uncertainty about carbon sequestration in sediments, it’s even more important to look at what the features do for ecosystem services within the MPA.
Need to determine at what point is fishing activity disturbing blue carbon and can we be making these statements in future assessments for implementing measures for MPAs. Topic leads noted there might be displacement but consultants cannot be exact on where the displacement will take place only on the level of impact .
It was noted that the SEA tries to assess the effects of blue carbon benefits and displacement effects but this is done at a very high level. Any uncertainties and limitations made clear in the assessment if the data or knowledge isn’t there.
General methodological and data source questions were raised by participants.
A group member questioned how the SEA has looked at relative intensity of fishing and how thresholds (low/medium/high) were established. Topic leads responded these came from combination of information used from the SEA analyses - time fishing in areas, number of vessels fishing and volume of catch – this was the fishing intensity measure. Value of fishing landed was also used as indicators as effects cannot be quantified at such a high-level assessment.
Topic leads noted there is limited data for non-UK vessels. Whilst the number of non-UK vessels is available, this cannot be refined down to gear type.
The outputs from Socio Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) were used to inform the other assessments.
Topic leads noted that shifting baselines and climatic impacts such as displacement are considered in the assessment. Climatic factors is an SEA objective and carbon sequestration and marine carbon stocks is how the climatic factors have been assessed in the assessment.
Future trends and pressures were looked at in the baseline review providing a wider context for what the impacts are. However due to uncertainty no assessment is done on what the future baseline may be.
A group member asked how the measures maintain or work towards Good Environmental Status (GES). Topic leads noted assessing the impacts on this is one of the SEA objectives.
Topic leads expanded on the scope of the assessment. Both management options have been assessed as far as possible with current data with potential beneficial and adverse effects included. There is uncertainty in these, but caution is applied and all assumptions and uncertainties are highlighted in the reports
A group member questioned the level of monitoring and how the requirements of this influenced the proposed measure. The member also asked whether there is a threshold of the level of data required when developing measures, and whether a precautionary approach would be used in the absence of data. MS clarified that survey work continues every year and the most up to date data and evidence is used. The data has been reviewed since the start of the project to ensure newer data was captured. There is an intention to continue monitor existing MPAs and data sources. A 6 yearly report assessing the status of the MPA Network is submitted to parliament under the requirements of the Marine Scotland Act (2010), the next is due in 2024. Monitoring will be steered by the Scottish Marine Monitoring Strategy.
One group member felt the SEA seems to be heavy on the costs and not focused enough on the benefits and these could be clearer, particularly future benefits. Topic leads responded that the SEA has to consider both the potential benefits and potential adverse effects. Where large fishing activity is present, the benefits to protecting the feature will be more obvious.
A group member commented that the report could be more specific about the ecosystem functions and ecosystem benefits such as the improvement of fish stocks.
It was noted that there is ongoing OSPAR work looking at climate change and how these things will impact the MPA network. This considers the resilience of species and habitats to climate change and the physiological impacts that may impact in marine ecosystems.
It was raised that adaptive management could be required if species are moving or changing.
Topic leads clarified that SEA takes into account the impact of fisheries outlined in the management measures and not the impact of disturbance from other gears. This is because some gears have been scoped out as not damaging to the protected features of the sites.
Some ICES workshops have been done on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem benchmarks and can be found online at the ICES website (Benchmark Workshop on the occurence and protection of VMEs).
General processes and additional assessments led by Marine Scotland and JNCC
Clarity was requested by a group member on how the sites have evolved over time. Topic leads responded that the process for evidence gathering was largely driven by the workshops under the Common Fisheries Policy process in 2012-2017, most of the changes up to the recent review have been driven by these events. The site for which the proposed management had changed the most in the following period was the West Shetland Shelf. This MPA was previously covered by the “windsock” agreement (EU cod closure) until 2019 following the UKs EU exit.
Since 2017, the evidence base supporting the site management proposals has changed for some sites, therefore minor changes were made and discussed with stakeholders. The site measures subject to revisions were Darwin Mounds SAC, East Rockall Bank SAC, Faroe Shetland Sponge Belt MPA and Stanton Banks MPA. The designation of West of Scotland MPA was also included in these discussions as the site was newly designated in 2019.
Concerns were raised about baseline data used and non-use values for the socio-economic impact assessment. Topic leads acknowledged that non-use values are difficult to estimate. There are difficulties regarding research into the ecosystem service and social impact evaluations as the baseline data is lacking. To build on this, new guidance was published in October 2022 for undertaking SEIAs on policies in relation to MPAs. The new guidance looks to address the data gaps for ecosystem service and social impacts as far as reasonably possible. The documents being reviewed in this workshop follow the previous SEIA guidance as the assessments began before publication of the new guidance.
Ecosystem services as well as socio-economic impacts are highlighted to Ministers to inform their decision.
A group member asked what information for monitoring and site status/features was available. JNCC responded that in terms of advice provided by JNCC, there are many tables produced outlining this information on status/features, however this has not been included in the consultation document itself. It would however be available as additional information within the consultation package for reference. Some of this information is available on JNCC website under Relevant Documentation for each site: Offshore MPAs | JNCC - Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation
For site monitoring of features, some of the sites are very large and models are constantly being updated to help focus effort. Prioritisation is also done for future survey work on a risk basis. It should be remembered that within benthic habitats some features may be slow growing, and benefits of measures may not be apparent for many years.
A group member asked whether Appropriate Assessments have been carried out for all sites. Appropriate Assessments have been carried out for 5 of the 10 sites designated as SACs where zoned management is proposed.
The group was asked by MS if they felt the assessments had drawn appropriate conclusions. A group member highlighted that within some offshore area and MPAs there are small areas that do not seem to be covered by bottom trawling restrictions. JNCC explained that for some of those, the SACs reef sites are mostly bedrock reef. For some features, small areas are left open for specific reasons or have been negotiated to be left open through the stakeholder engagement process of the drafting the measures. There may be a gap in the reef where fishing on sediment is permitted or boats can be turned. It is not necessarily the case that areas left open will or can be fished. In terms of ecosystem services areas with high importance may be scoped in as part of the HPMA work however this site selection work is not yet started. Clarification was requested on whether there was a threshold for features identified within the network that will be used for site identification. Topic leads responded that the information used was mostly based on MarLIN data, habitats have different codes, and the sensitivity would have defaulted to the most sensitive biotope. This level of discrete knowledge is not available and so, some assumptions have been made. MarLIN guidance has recently been updated recently and that it gives vulnerability scores for sites.
A group member asked how measures would be enforced. Marine Scotland Compliance are responsible for enforcement once Ministers have decided on the measures and the SSI comes into force. The team are now liaising with compliance colleagues and discussing their remit and resource availability and requirement.
A group member sought clarification on the consultation process and how MS were considering stakeholder fatigue. Ms responded that due to timelines, there will be some overlap with other consultations, and this consultation will run for 12 weeks. Stakeholder engagement sessions are planned to be held throughout to support participants in responding to the consultation. A stakeholder engagement plan has been drafted and will be published on the Marine Environment gov.scot website to show engagement opportunities across both the inshore and offshore programmes.
The need for cumulative impact assessments was raised by a group member and clarity on the expectations for these being undertaken. MS responded that existing designations and policy would be taken into account but were sites had yet to be designation or licenses issued (e.g. HPMAs and the offshore renewables INTOG round) these could not be included. The HPMA group will do their own cumulative assessment.
A group member asked about the impact and displacement of foreign vessels and how this is being assessed. Topic leads responded that there is limited data for foreign vessels. VMS has been used for the non-UK fleet which records fishing hours within and outside an MPA. Specific information on landing values however is not available. It was also noted that fishing effort by non-UK vessels is much smaller in Scottish waters compared with England.
It was noted by a group member that although a large amount of work had been undertaken by all involved, the ability to put value on non-use benefit and households has not progressed and whether a process is required to look at this. MS noted that this will be highlighted to Ministers.
There was discussion on public perception of protection given to MPAs. MCS noted that the public perception for MPAs is to receive full site closures. It was also raised by SFF that the process of developing protective measures is highly technical so public perception should not bear the same weight as analysis and evidence.
A group member raised that there are a number of sites not fully closed to demersal mobile fishing gears. Topic leads responded that each site has its own conservation objective and depending on the protected feature, protection does not always require a complete site closure which is why a zonal approach to fisheries management measures has been assessed. Where there is an impact on the distribution and extent of the protected feature - any damaging activity is seen as incompatible. However impacts on structure and function depends on how sensitive the feature is to the activity, meaning there is potential for feature resilience under managed levels of activity.
One group member noted the expectation of their organisation for full site protection.
Topic leads noted that the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 are the relevant legislation for offshore sites. The advice and evidence used to develop measures under this is transparent and the team would look to address any inconsistencies and welcome stakeholder input and evidence sharing.
Reflection and close
All participants returned to the main meeting group. Topic leads fed back the predominant discussion points.
Socioeconomic Impacts (SEIA)
- whether the benefits of measures had been captured and whether this had been done correctly
- the importance of putting the local impact into context and relating to the national scale
- concerns regarding data for some sites
- the impacts on home ports, where vessels are not operating from that same port
- cultural value, this should be revisited
- whether enough has been done regarding the impacts of displacement
- behaviour and response and whether enough is known about this
- there is a lack of evidence on how deep-sea habitats respond to changes in human impact
- there are fairly large uncertainties, it is difficult to anticipate what the broad range of impacts might be
- some believe that the costing suggestions were wrong and asked the group to reflect on that
- consideration should be given to tourism and whether offshore measures could enhance inshore tourism
- the impacts of different gear types on protected features and evidence used to determine these
- what level of data, and the differences in data collected for UK and non-UK data vessels
- how shifting environmental baselines are assessed and captured within the SEA
- whether climatic impact, carbon sequestration and storage had been considered
- what benefits the measures might have on blue carbon and perhaps adverse effects due to displacement of vessels
- how had the precautionary principle been applied, and how assumptions had been set out
- there were comments around the scope and definition of the reasonable alternatives and approach of the SEA
- cumulative affects assessment and how this had been assessed across sites
General processes and additional assessments
- the evidence underpinning decisions, and how the measures relate to monitoring and data incorporation later
- the monitoring strategy for MPAs was also discussed
- enforcement, and implementation of the measures
- gaps where in non-use data were identified and there were questions on how best to balance decision making around non-use
MS encouraged anyone with an interest to respond to the consultation once launched in early 2023. Ministers will consider the full range of views submitted.
Thank you to all who participated, any further feedback and comments can be submitted until the 13 January 2023.
- MSS to follow up with Sealife Adventures on obtaining video footage and evidence regarding seabed recovery
- MS to look at landing data and compare landing statistics for SEIA
- Strathclyde University to review climatic factors baseline section in main report and check references on deep sea carbon sequestration. If details are missing, then will feedback before the 13th January 2023
- links to be sent to ABPmer on VME points outlined above from MSS
- VME workshop links to be shared with group
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