This report provides an assessment of emerging evidence on the socio-economic impacts of Scotland's Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs). It provides Scottish Ministers with evidence of observed socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures across sites in Scotland. The specific objectives are:
- To develop a methodology for monitoring the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures;
- To gather and analyse evidence on the ex post socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures;
This report presents evidence from key informant interviews, analysis of fishing activity data and three case studies of the South Arran and Wester Ross MPAs and the East Mingulay Special Area of Conservation ( SAC).
Compliance with MPA management measures
Key informant interviews and evidence from Marine Scotland's monitoring of activities around MPAs suggest compliance with management measures has been high. There were very few suspected cases of deliberate incursion into MPAs or breaches of management measures.
Analysis of fishing activity in ICES area VIa including rectangles 38E4, 38E5 and 38E6 from ICES area VIIa, hereinafter called the 'study area', found no notable changes in the number of fishing voyages and effort days following the introduction of MPA management measures. Evidence from key informant interviews suggested that three fishing vessels may have left the industry because of MPA management measures. Further inquiry found supporting evidence for only one of these vessels.
Analysis of fishing activity by gear type found that mobile dredge activity decreased in the majority of rectangles containing MPA management measures, though in these rectangles the baseline activity level was low. The analysis also indicates that in a small number of rectangles affected by MPA management measures mobile dredging activity increased to an extent that during 2016 total activity in all rectangles was higher than in 2015. Key informant interviews and case studies suggest this was a result of mobile dredge effort shifting and increasing to fishing grounds outside of the MPAs, but still in the same rectangles.
Fishing activity using mobile trawls and static gear decreased for the whole study area. Mobile trawl effort increased in two of the rectangles affected by MPA management measures, suggesting displacement to other areas within these rectangles. Overall, mobile trawl effort decreased in all rectangles, indicating there may be other factors driving changes in fishing effort. Similarly, there may also be other factors driving static gear effort, which decreased in all rectangles yet only two of the MPAs with management measures had restrictions on use of static gear.
Concerns by key informants that static effort may have increased inside MPAs were not supported by the case study evidence. There was no noteworthy evidence of increases in the number of creels deployed by static vessels in any of the MPAs.
The volume of landings of key species likely to be affected by MPA management measures - Nephrops, queen scallops and king scallops - show no notable changes in 2016 relative to the comparable period in 2015. This is supported by evidence from key informant interviews and the case studies, which suggested there had been no overall decreases in fish landings since the introduction of MPA management measures. The key informant interviews and case studies suggested that it was too early to observe significant changes in landings due to MPA management measures.
Other marine sectors
None of the key informants interviewed expressed concerns about the impact of MPA management measures on current aquaculture operations or in relation to broader marine or coastal development.
No key informants observed direct changes to tourism related businesses either in the form of new start-ups or current tourism activities because of the MPA management measures. Most key informants felt it was too early to observe changes in tourism activity linked to MPAs, but a number of interviewees described MPA-related tourism projects that were being developed in their areas.
Representatives of seafood processing businesses reported no declines in overall supplies of raw materials as previously feared. This is because they had sourced raw material from vessels working in other areas of Scotland. Some processors, however, pointed out that the MPA management measures had impacted on the size distribution and the quality of fish landings in certain months over the summer. Generally, processors were concerned about the sustainability of fishing grounds outside of the MPAs and the risk to future supplies. Seafood processing representatives also suggested that confidence in the viability of the seafood sector has reduced because the management restrictions in MPAs which could affect the supply of seafood in the future.
There is emerging evidence that MPA management measures may deliver other socioeconomic benefits for some local communities. Most of these opportunities, such as education programmes and facilities as well as tourism and other local community activities, are still in developmental stages. For example, one new community group has been established to raise awareness of the local MPA, and two other community groups are shifting attention towards raising funds to invest in developments related to MPAs.
Conclusion and Next Steps
At the national level, there is no evidence to-date of significant socioeconomic impacts that could be attributed to the introduction of MPA management measures. This is consistent with evidence provided by Marine Scotland prior to the introduction of MPA management measures.
It is possible that the various marine sectors are still adjusting to the introduction of MPA management measures. Key informant interviews and case studies suggest that at the local level socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures could increase over time as various sectors fully adapt to the measures; the productivity of available fishing grounds change due to a shift in fishing pressure; and, as further management measures are introduced.
This report proposes that Marine Scotland continues to monitor the socioeconomic impacts of MPAs on all sectors and commissions another evaluation of the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures in 2018 to allow time for the various marine sectors to adapt. Six indicators are proposed to track the socioeconomic impacts of MPAs between now and 2018 on two priority sectors: fishing and onshore processing. Ongoing monitoring should provide evidence to inform if an earlier evaluation is needed and for Ministers to respond to any significant changes occurring between now and 2018.