3. Implementation of MPAs: Compliance Enforcement and Monitoring
Marine Scotland Compliance is responsible for enforcing compliance with MPA management measures and for monitoring activity across the MPA network. Enforcement and monitoring uses a risk-based approach which assesses the 'likelihood of a breach or lack of compliance', and the resulting 'likely level of impact'. Subject to intelligence gathered, Marine Scotland Compliance assign a single risk rating for the MPAs, which is used to determine the level of resources allocated to monitor fishing vessel activities within or around the MPAs.
Figure 3 presents Marine Scotland Compliance's assessment of the risk of breaches or lack of compliance with the management measures from February 2016. The risks were assessed as high (awarded a maximum rating of five) during the early months after MPA management measure came into effect. Over time, Marine Scotland Compliance has downgraded the risk - beginning at the end of summer 2016, and the risk rating has remained between 3 and 4 over the autumn.
Figure 4: Marine Scotland Compliance's assessment of risk of lack of compliance with MPA management measures
Since the introduction of MPA management measures, Marine Scotland Compliance has undertaken a range of enforcement and monitoring activities across the MPA network. These include: intelligence gathering through Marine Scotland Coastal Fisheries Offices and from the public; remote tracking of seagoing vessels using alarms set around MPAs to detect when vessels enter and/or exit the area; and, routine patrols. Two large enforcement vessels, several shore based ridged inflatable boats ( RIBs) and two surveillance aircrafts are used to monitor and enforce MPA management measures.
Figure 4 shows the total number of compliance operations for MPAs using vessels and aircraft since the introduction of management measures in February 2016. Compliance activity around MPAs has reduced with assessed risk of a lack of compliance, and aircraft have taken over the bulk of monitoring in the later months.
Figure 5: Number of days per month vessels and planes patrolled MPAs
Marine Scotland Compliance also monitors and investigates alarms triggered by vessels entering and exiting MPA sites. Figure 5 shows the number of cases when alarms were triggered across the different MPA sites (blue), and the number of cases that were investigated further as suspected incursions (red).
Figure 6: Number of alarms triggered by vessels transiting (blue) verse number of alarms triggered due to an incursion (red) of the MPA
The majority of alarms triggered were concentrated around four MPAs - Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh MPA/ SAC; South Arran MPA; Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA and Wester Ross MPA. Alarm triggers at these four sites are high because of the large number of vessels transiting to harbours located in or near the MPAs. For example, in the case of Wester Ross MPA, all vessels utilising Ullapool harbour transit through the MPA. For Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh MPA/ SAC, all vessels transiting under the Skye Bridge pass through the site. Thus, from the number of alarms triggered, only a small proportion are considered suspicious and were investigated further as potential breaches of MPA management measures.
Overall, the evidence available suggests that widespread breaches of compliance with MPA management measures have not occurred, despite initial risks being assessed as high. This is supported by evidence from the majority of key informants who felt that marine users were complying with MPA management measures. Two key informant interviewees questioned whether the Scottish Government had sufficient capacity or technology to monitor vessel activity around MPAs, and thus expressed doubt on the reliability of reporting on compliance with MPA management measures.