Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA): monitoring strategy

The Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy outlines an approach to MPA-related survey and monitoring to ensure that sufficient information is collected to underpin assessment and reporting obligations.

7. Can existing monitoring meet these requirements?

Where possible, existing monitoring programmes (adapted as appropriate) or those currently in development, will be used to meet our aims and objectives.

7.1 Current pressure monitoring

For many MPAs subject to very limited pressures with features at low risk, monitoring pressures alone may be adequate. Key here is information on fishing activity (and any other anthropogenic factors) and derived pressure data. These are important for evaluating the cause of any change in protected feature state. Data layers using VMS for different metiers and ScotMap[9] have already been produced to support marine planning.

Other ongoing work programmes also provide an opportunity to collate and maintain information on potential pressures of relevance. For example, the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) and the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigative Programme (CSIP) monitor pressures associated with disease, entanglement, deliberate killing and trauma in marine animal populations through necropsies and associated sample analyses.

Similarly, targeted monitoring through the UK Bycatch Monitoring Programme allows identification of fisheries, gear types and areas with known bycatch, or risk of bycatch to marine species (e.g., sharks, cetaceans and seals). Furthermore, monitoring requirements associated with infrastructure development can be developed in conjunction with industry to provide information to inform assessment and reporting requirements for MPAs in Scotland.

Box 1 - The four monitoring types

Type 0 Monitoring to determine the continued presence of a feature in a site

Objective: To determine feature presence / absence.

Description: The data from this type of monitoring do not need to be quantitative and can take the form of presence or presence / absence observations. Type 0 work may trigger more detailed monitoring (Types 1 - 3 below). Type 0 monitoring may take the form of a rapid ‘health check’ and may be appropriate for completion by non-specialists. Such monitoring is likely to be restricted to coastal and accessible nearshore features. Type 0 monitoring may not necessarily have a defined frequency e.g. could occur on a randomised feature selection basis or be triggered if there were concerns about status.

Type 1 Monitoring designed to assess the condition of a protected feature at a site

Objective: To measure rate and direction of long-term change.

Description: Type 1 monitoring data are quantitative (for example, density data or data that allow assessment of the status of populations of mobile species e.g. photo-ID) and statistically robust, allowing the rate and direction of change in the feature of interest over time to be quantified. The design of Type 1 monitoring should include consideration of known activities / pressures. The use of reference areas outside of MPAs may be considered to provide context for any changes observed. This monitoring provides data that are appropriate for the assessment of status against MPA feature conservation objectives - recovery (trajectory) and / or maintenance - informing management action and reporting obligations.

Type 2 Monitoring or analyses undertaken to explore pressure-state relationships

Objective: To measure state and relate observed change to possible causes.

Description: This monitoring is best suited to exploring the likely impacts of anthropogenic pressures on habitats and species and identifying emerging problems. It allows testing of hypotheses about observed patterns, and is generally best applied in areas where a gradient of pressure is present (e.g. no pressure increasing gradually to ‘high’ pressure). It relies on finding relationships between observed changes in biodiversity and observed variability in pressures and environmental factors. It provides inference but it is not proof of cause and effect. The spatial and temporal scale for this type of monitoring will require careful consideration of the reality on the ground to ensure inference will be reliable; for example, inference will be poor in situations where the presence of a pressure is consistently correlated to the presence of an environmental driver (e.g. depth stratum).

Type 3 Monitoring or analyses undertaken to explore the effectiveness of MPA management measures

Objective: To investigate the cause of change.

Description: Monitoring that provides evidence of causality within a robust statistical framework, examining changes in the feature of interest against the onset of the putative impact (for example, the establishment of management measures that exclude fishing activity). The “beyond BACI” statistical methodology associated with this monitoring is rigorous, requiring multiple baseline surveys across multiple control and impact sites to be undertaken prior to the onset of the putative impact and thereafter. Conclusions from this monitoring may be applicable to other MPAs with similar habitats that exhibit similar trends (inferred from Type 1 monitoring). The frequency of Type 3 monitoring is likely to be higher than the other monitoring categories due to its requirement for multiple surveys to be undertaken before and after the implementation of management measures.

Type 2 and 3 monitoring studies are generally expected to be time limited.

Information on activities taking place within Scottish waters and the overlaps with existing and proposed MPAs can be explored through the NMPi portal. A number of the datasets are available on the Marine Scotland Information web pages. The ongoing collection and interpretation of such information will inform future MPA assessment and reporting in Scotland.

7.2 Current biodiversity feature monitoring

Annex 4 provides an overview of current monitoring activities for each MPA feature group. These existing monitoring programmes will be reviewed regularly in order to identify areas that require an adaption to existing monitoring or additional monitoring to meet our aims and objectives. A list of MPA monitoring studies undertaken in the previous year is provided in Annex 7 by way of illustrating what an annual schedule currently comprises. In summary:

  • Seals - Harbour and grey seal populations around the Scottish coastline are monitored by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). Harbour seal monitoring work is undertaken as part of a three-year rolling programme, while grey seal pup production surveys are undertaken biennially. The results of the monitoring inform the development of annual seal conservation advice to the Scottish Government.
  • Cetaceans - Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise are the two cetacean species currently protected by Scottish MPAs. A robust, well-established monitoring programme is in place for the bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth SAC. The Inner Hebrides and the Minches candidate SAC for harbour porpoise was submitted to the EC in late 2016. An array of passive acoustic monitoring devices will be installed across the site in 2017 with data collection proposed over an initial period of 3-4 years. A number of NGOs have traditionally operated in the area of the SAC collecting effort corrected sightings data.
  • Fish - Common skate is a protected feature of the Loch Sunart and the Sound of Jura MPA. A joint Marine Scotland and SNH study is improving understanding of skate residency and movement within the site. Through continued collaboration with relevant anglers associations it should be possible to estimate the effects of fisheries measures implemented in 2016 (Marine Scotland, 2016) on common skate mortality and develop a pragmatic, long-term monitoring programme for this species. Sandeels are a protected feature of 3 MPAs. Marine Scotland undertakes annual monitoring of sandeels at the Turbot Bank MPA as part of the EU-funded Data Collection Framework (DCF).
  • Marine birds - A suite of existing SPAs for marine birds are considered to contribute to the Scottish MPA network (encompassing both seabirds and waterbirds). Regular monitoring of the key marine bird species and terrestrial colonies is undertaken through well-established partnerships between the JNCC, other UK SNCBs, and assorted academic and NGO conservation groups. The main partnership monitoring programmes collect information on wider population status.
  • Seabed habitats - SNH started a MPA-related seabed habitat monitoring programme in Scottish territorial waters in 2002. The initial monitoring studies (primarily Type 1) were undertaken alongside coarser resolution habitat mapping that informed the designation of marine SACs in 2005[10]. Phased MPA designation in the Scottish offshore area started in 2008, underpinned by a comparable range of broadscale habitat surveys.

    Since 2014, the primary focus of the inshore seabed habitats monitoring work has been on implementing more detailed studies (Types 2 & 3) in a small number of sites to explore the effectiveness of new or proposed fisheries management measures. In offshore waters, monitoring programme have focussed on establishing the first point in monitoring time series (Type 1) and exploring the effectiveness of new or proposed fisheries management measures (Types 2 & 3).

  • Other area-based measures - Survey work undertaken within areas that have restrictions in place to support fisheries management and that are considered to make a contribution to the MPA network is summarised in Annex 3.



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