European Parliament report says CFP should create “fish stock recovery areas” covering 10-20% of the sea

A report, “Establishment of Fish Stock Recovery Areas”, for the European Parliament, published September 2012 and written by Callum Roberts and Julie Hawkins, University of York, UK, argues that the new Basic Regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy should be amended in order to establish “fish stock recovery areas” covering between 10-20% of the sea.

The Executive Summary of the report states: “Marine protected areas have been used to support fisheries objectives for over 100 years.Theory predicts that reserves will benefit fisheries mainly through build up of protected stocks, recovery of their habitats, movement of animals to fishing grounds (termed spillover), and export of eggs and larvae. Evidence from hundreds of marine reserves across the world, including many in Europe, indicates that there are usually very rapid positive responses by protected populations to establishment of marine reserves. Stocks of commercially exploited animals respond most strongly and can increase many times over, sometimes by ten-fold or more. Some species not targeted by fisheries can also increase in abundance. Marine reserves work just as well in temperate waters as they do in tropical seas.

“Reproductive output by protected animals increases rapidly after marine reserve establishment, and can rise to levels tens of times greater than in fishing grounds as a result of increasing numbers of large, old and reproductively experienced animals. Evidence from a wide variety of sources, including genetics, oceanography, geochemistry, rates of spread of invasive species, and direct measurements of larval export, indicate that reserves can supply eggs and/or larvae to surrounding fishing grounds, typically over distances of a few tens to more than 100 km. New research using genetic parentage tests has linked parent fish in reserves with their offspring settling into surrounding fishing grounds. The most sophisticated research to date showed that reserves on the Great Barrier Reef supplied offspring to fishing grounds in proportion to the fraction of the reproductive stock that was protected, upholding a key theoretical prediction about how reserves can be used to enhance fisheries.

“Spillover of commercially important fish and shellfish has been demonstrated many times from marine reserves and fishery closures in Europe and elsewhere. Spillover has been shown to benefit catches and promote local fishery sustainability. Most spillover is caught close to the boundaries of marine reserves (< 1-2 km) by fishermen ‘fishing-the-line’.

“Buffer zones around marine reserves have been successfully used to promote the interests of small-scale artisanal fishermen using low impact gears, as well as recreational fishers. By protecting areas from the damage caused by fishing gears, marine reserves also promote the recovery of diverse, structurally complex, biogenic habitats. Over periods of years, habitats in reserves may also change (mainly increase in diversity and complexity) through reorganisation of predator-prey relationships in food websfood web The totality of interacting food chains in an ecological community. Improvements in protected habitats in turn promote population build-up of protected animals.

“Protected areas have long been used to protect highly mobile and migratory animals from fishing at vulnerable times and places, such as in nursery areas or spawning aggregations. Fish stock recovery areas could very usefully take on this role. Even apparently very mobile species have benefited strongly from protection, often in small reserves. Evidence indicates that marine reserves produce benefits quickly, results becoming detectable for some species within a year or two of protection. Other species respond more slowly. Long-term studies of reserves show that benefits to long-lived and slow growing species, and to habitats, can continue to increase over periods of decades. Recovery of protected populations typically translates into fishery benefits within 5 to 10 years of protection and these benefits will continue to increase for decades thereafter. It could take half a century or more to see the full extent of benefits from protection.

“The proposed coverage for fish stock recovery areas of 10 – 20% of territorial seas places them within the range that present research predicts will produce strong fishery benefits.  Existing Marine Protected Areas (MPA) cover only a few percent of European seas, cover a narrow range of habitats, and are mostly concentrated in territorial waters. Marine reserves that are protected from all fishing are small, scattered and cover less than 0.01% of European seas. Larger MPAs tend to be weakly protected and/or poorly managed. The introduction of fish stock recovery areas at the scale proposed (10 – 20% coverage in territorial seas) would dramatically improve the state of the European marine environment. There is an opportunity for fish stock recovery areas to be implemented in places with MPAs by upgrading levels of protection.

“Establishing networks of MPAs can take many years and requires long-term, legally binding, non-partisan commitment from governments and sufficient financial support. Widespread stakeholder involvement is necessary to see through the process, but not all stakeholders will be happy with the outcome, and the the process of engagement will have to be tailored to local conditions. Good science, transparency, fairness, a willingness to compromise and firm deadlines help to keep progress on track.

Report’s Recommendations
“Incorporation of fish stock recovery areas into management practice in European fisheries, at the scale proposed, could deliver major benefits for fish stock recovery and habitat protection. They could produce benefits of a form that conventional fishery management tools cannot, such as recovery of depleted, vulnerable species and habitats without the need to shut down productive fisheries. Fish stock recovery areas could make an important contribution toward the adoption of ‘ecosystem-based fishery management’ and precautionary management. Marine reserve networks – including the proposed fish stock recovery areas – will be essential to achieving good environmental status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

“It is recommended that fish stock protection areas be established to cover 20% of fishing grounds.

“It is recommended that buffer zones be created around fish stock recovery areas, in which low impact fishing methods are employed by small scale fishers, and recreational fishing is allowed.

“Because of the extended time scales of stock and habitat recovery, and the speed with which benefits can be dissipated on resumption of fishing, the establishment of fish stock recovery areas must be seen effectively as a permanent commitment if they are to contribute meaningfully to fish stock recovery and habitat conservation.

“The only exception to this would be where particular reserves were demonstrably failing to achieve much in the way of stock or habitat recovery. Such an outcome would need to be determined on a case by case basis through fishery independent survey methods, but the five year suggested time scale in Amendment 68 for such a review is too short. 10 years would be more appropriate based on available evidence of the time scales of reserve benefit.

“Fishers will need to be fully involved in the process of establishing fish stock recovery areas. Since the process will need to vary from region to region, reflecting variation in social and ecological conditions, the Regional Advisory Councils would be well-placed to advise on site selection and implementation.

“While compromises are essential in processes to establish marine protected areas, reducing the level of protection afforded by fish stock recovery areas would not be a sensible compromise, given that benefits are rapidly reduced by even low levels of fishing. The process of establishing fish stock recovery areas will be expensive and will impose transitional costs on fishermen as they adapt to the new management regime. Financial support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund could facilitate an effective and equitable roll out of the policy.

“In accordance with the UN Law of the Sea right of innocent passage, fishing vessels should be permitted to transit fish stock recovery areas, provided that all gears carried on board that are used for fishing are lashed and stowed, during the transit.

Text of Amendment 68, Part 3 – Article 7a


Amendment 68, Proposal for a regulation, Part 3 – Article 7a (new)

1. In order to secure the reversal of the collapse of the fishing sector, and to conserve living aquatic resources and marine ecosystems, and as part of a precautionary approach, Member States shall establish a coherent network of fish stock recovery areas in which all fishing activities are prohibited, including areas important for fish productivity, in particular nursery grounds, spawning grounds and feeding grounds for fish stocks.

2. Member States shall identify and designate as many areas as are necessary to establish a coherent network of fish stock recovery areas amounting to between 10 % and 20 % of territorial waters in each Member State and shall notify the Commission of these areas. The establishment of the network shall be gradual, in accordance with the following time frame:

(a) By …: – Fish stock recovery areas shall amount to at least 5 % of the territorial waters of each Member State

(b) By …: – Fish stock recovery areas shall amount to at least 10 % of the territorial waters of each Member State

3. The location of fish stock recovery areas shall not be modified within the first five years of their establishment. If a modification is needed, this shall only occur after the establishment of another area or areas of the same dimensions;

4. The measures and decisions referred to paragraph 2 and 3 above shall be notified to the Commission, along with the scientific, technical, social and legal reasons for them and shall be made publicly available;

5. The competent authorities of the Member States concerned shall decide whether the fish stock recovery areas designated under paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, shall be surrounded by a zone or zones in which fishing activities are restricted and shall decide, after having notified the Commission, on the fishing gears that may be used in those zones, as well as the appropriate management measures and technical rules to be applied therein, which cannot be less stringent than those of Union law. This information shall be made publicly available;

6. If a fishing vessel is transiting through a fish stock recovery area, it shall ensure that all gears carried on board that are used for fishing are lashed and stowed, during the transit;

7. The Union shall also take measures to reduce the possible negative social and economic consequences of the establishment of fish stock recovery areas.

Source: European Parliament, September 2012.

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