Scottish Marine Protected Areas socioeconomic monitoring

This report provides an assessment of emerging evidence on the socio-economic impacts of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

5. Conclusions and Next steps

5.1 Conclusion

The analysis of fishing activity and fish landings data, together with evidence from key informant interviews and case studies found no evidence, at the Scotland level, of significant positive or negative socioeconomic impacts linked to MPA management measures introduced in February 2016. This applies to the fishing industry, aquaculture, tourism, seafood processing and other marine and coastal developments. Data gathered and analysed for this report is consistent with the ex ante socioeconomic impact assessment conducted prior to the establishment of MPA management measures. Notwithstanding this, further monitoring is required over the next few years given the MPA management measures had only been in place for a very short period at the time evidence for this report was gathered.

At more localised levels, individual fishing vessels have been displaced from some fishing grounds to adapt to management measures introduced. With the exception of one vessel, all displaced vessels were still operating at the time evidence was gathered for this report. In the case of the vessel that stopped fishing, there is evidence to suggest business viability had been impacted by the introduction of the MPA management measures.

The fish landings and fishing activity evidence indicates that losses of fishing grounds within MPAs have largely been substituted by increased effort outside MPAs, or that the reduction in income has been small relative to annual variations in earnings for fishing businesses. Some concern was raised regarding the sustainability of stocks in areas outside MPAs where activity has increased because of displacement of fishing effort from MPAs. This will require ongoing monitoring.

Two vessels have stopped fishing (either sold or not replaced). There is, however, limited independent evidence to confirm that decisions to stop fishing with these vessels were linked directly to the implementation of MPA management measures, and not a result of other factors. Future monitoring of the activities of fishing vessels is required to ascertain if this remains a trend in the future.

MPA management measures appear to have had a benign impact on other marine users. The change in the composition of landings observed by seafood processing businesses requires monitoring as does the long-term viability of this sector, given the concerns about the importance of these businesses to some rural economies and island communities.

There is emerging evidence of possible future socioeconomic benefits at the local community level, with opportunities being explored in the tourism sector. Most of these opportunities are still in developmental stages, and it will take time to identify and measure the socioeconomic impacts of tourism activities linked to MPAs. One new group has been established to take advantage of opportunities linked to MPAs, and other established groups are shifting their attention towards raising funds to invest in future developments around MPAs.

Overall, this report concludes that it is still too early to make confident judgements about the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures, and longer term monitoring is required. All key informants and case study interviewees agreed that it is too early to measure the impacts, as the various marine sectors are still adjusting to the restrictions and opportunities linked to the management measures. Many stakeholders stressed the need to monitor cumulative impacts which will take time to understand as marine users continue to adjust and respond to different constraints and opportunities, which may in turn impact on other sectors not directly linked to MPAs.

5.2 Further Monitoring

It is recommended that Marine Scotland should undertake a second review of the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures. This will focus on the four key sectors identified in this assessment as experiencing change, and to a lesser extent on the sectors that have so far not reported impacts linked to the MPA management measures. The four key sectors are:

  • marine/commercial fishing
  • onshore seafood processing
  • tourism
  • community involvement

Other sectors where less focus is required are:

  • aquaculture
  • ports and harbours
  • coastal development
  • renewables

To build on the evidence gathered for this report, there is need for further spatial analysis of changes in activity of marine-based industries and employment as a result of MPAs. Marine Scotland has established baselines (see Section 5.2.1) for activity of a number of the industries using Business Register Employment Survey ( BRES) data and Marine Scotland's National Marine Plan interactive. Against these baselines, changes for these sectors will be explored in the future, together with their potential links to MPA management measures.

More broadly, there is a need to collect new data to accurately measure the impacts of MPAs. Marine Scotland and its partners propose taking an integrated approach to developing a long-term monitoring strategy that pays attention to all sectors and groups involved in MPAs, to understand the broad range of positive and negative impacts associated with MPA management measures. Marine Scotland is also exploring new methods of collecting data for assessing the impacts of MPAs. This work will explore the range of options to integrate inshore fisheries data collection and ecological monitoring of MPAs.

5.2.1 Baseline Evidence for Future Socioeconomic Monitoring

This section focuses on the potential value the baseline data referred above using the Clyde and South Arran MPA. Marine Scotland established baselines for the location and levels of activity and employment in the period before MPA management measure came into effect. These baselines cover the whole of Scotland, and illustrative maps are presented in Annex 6 for the Clyde sea area and the South Arran MPA.

The first map ( Annex 6) presents the percentage change in the number of people employed in registered businesses in three marine sectors (marine fishing, marine aquaculture and fresh water aquaculture) between 2012 and 2015 using BRES. Colour coding from red to green represents the areas that have seen changes, (red a negative change, green a positive change - grey means no change).

The third and fourth maps show the density (graded as low to high due to different scales) and locations of marine tourism and recreation activities. The third map shows the location and density of shore-based sea angling and boat-based sea angling. Assessing the locations and changes in densities of these activities in future will assist in making tangible links between changes in recreational activities which may be affected by MPAs. The fourth map presents a baseline for diving activity and shows the main dive sites in and around the South Arran MPA. A range of other marine based activities can also be mapped using the National Marine Plan interactive .

5.2.2 Timelines for Future Work

It is recommended that a further review of the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures is undertaken in 2018. This will allow the first batch of MPA management measures to imbed, and give affected marine users time to adjust their operations. This timeframe will also allow other sectors such as tourism and local communities seeking to capitalise on opportunities provided by MPAs to develop and implement projects to a stage where socioeconomic impacts could be measurable.

In the meantime, Marine Scotland will continue with ongoing monitoring of socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures between now and 2018 so Ministers can respond to any significant changes that may arise before 2018. Marine Scotland has proposed six indicators (Table 1) that it will use to track the socioeconomic impacts of MPAs which priorities two sectors: fishing and onshore processing, but also one indicators which tracks tourism. Data to monitor these six indicators is available and no additional resources are required beyond populating and updating the indicators regularly.

Table 1: Six key indicators for short-term monitoring prior to the second impact report in 2018


Themes investigated by indictor

Data source




Onshore Processing

1. Number of fishing businesses that have changed fishing gear due to loss of fishing opportunity because of MPA establishment.


2. Change in the number of vessels operating in the industry citing MPA establishment as the cause.

Fisheries Office

3. Number of EMFF applications awarded for compensation/adaptation ( e.g. funds for change to fishing gear) because of MPA establishment.

EMFF Database

4. Change in volume and value of landing by sector/species/stocks from an area where MPAs are predominant.

FIN Database

5. Number of new tourism businesses citing MPA establishment as the cause. Number of tourism businesses diversifying because of MPAs.

Local Authority/ Fisheries Office

6. Change in supply of marine products to onshore processing from an area associated by an MPA.

FIN Database/ Fisheries Reps and Fisheries Office


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