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Posts Tagged ‘marine’

UK waters are some of the most ecologically diverse on the planet. On the 21st of November, 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) were created – the 1st of three designation phases planned to occur over the next three years. These new sites form part of a developing network of marine protected areas, equivalent to around 9% of the UK’s water.

Available scientific knowledge for sites’ ecological and biological features determines whether a site is designated as a MCZ. Essentially, the science draws the line on the map, rather than allowing social reasons to influence the decision process. Restrictions differ depending on what the site is trying to protect; for example, fishing will not be restricted if it does not harm the features being conserved.

Despite the fact that science is the main factor in identifying sites, Impact Assessments are required by law to accompany the designation decisions. An Impact Assessment attempts to identify and quantify/monetise the actual or anticipated social, economic an environmental effects of a decision.

There are 2 important reasons why they are undertaken:

  1. It is important to determine the costs to society of protecting these areas – society should know the implications and costs of protection; and
  2. IAs can help determine management measures within the MCZs i.e. they can highlight a range of available choices on how to manage the area and the strictness of the protection.

Impact Assessments help assess whether the ecosystem offers a valuable service to society (such as offering a safe breeding ground for fisheries) or what the costs of protection are. This information can then feed back in to conducting more scientific research to justify or amend the way sites are managed. For example, if the cost of protecting a certain area of water results in access to a port being severely compromised, there will be a large societal cost. Therefore, makes sense to gather more scientific evidence to identify a scientifically important sub-section to be protected that doesn’t compromise the port.

Although economics doesn’t dictate whether a site is created, it plays an important role in terms of how it is managed; eftec has many years of experience in completing, and contributing to, Impact Assessments concerning the marine environment. In 2011, eftec completed an analysis of the potential impacts of creating a marine protected area around the Pitcairn Islands (see previous blog post on this). We have also created Impact Assessments for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee – enabling a sounder understanding of decisions to nominate marine Special Conservation Areas (2007, 2009 and 2013).

eftec are currently developing economic evidence for Defra on the gains to society of meeting government targets concerning seabed habitats in UK waters. We are also excited to be working with the Marine Management Organisation to help value the marine environment by attempting to quantify the benefits that certain ecosystems offer to society. Finally, we are part of a team to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of achieving a good ecological status in certain French waters. This project will help determine which measures should be prioritised as part of the French government’s commitment to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Creating networks of ecosystems in seawaters is important due to the mobility of life within the marine environment. It is important to look at marine sites as a network, as the value of a network can be larger than the sum of the parts. Therefore, when conducting Impact Assessments, we attempt to know how different sites link with one another so that a realistic value can be determined. Cumulative assessments should account for network effects and we should not have a narrow mind when performing these studies.

We really appreciate comments. Please think about these questions and offer any thoughts.

Do you value an individual site more if you know it is part of a network?

What kind of information would you regard as most important when designating a marine site? 1. The effect of the site on other species; or 2. The effect of the site on humans? 

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On the 2nd and 3rd of February I attended the 7thInternational Forum on Illegal, Unreported  and Unregulated (IUU ) fishing held at Chatham House.

The lack of transparency in global fisheries was a key concern raised during the event. Weak institutions and regulation overlap to form a regime (seemingly by design) with more blind alleys and dead ends than the Cretan Labyrinth; a state of affairs that bolsters the impunity with which vessels pursue IUU fishing.

The economic arguments against IUU fishing have been established and are self-explanatory, similar to the economic arguments against shop lifting/bank robberies/ you see what I am getting at. IUU fishing imposes huge costs on coastal state populations and they are likely to be borne by some of the poorest states in the world.  The problem is that these states are unable to raise sufficient capital to protect their own resources. A property right without enforcement, any form of social cohesion/norm against IUU and the presence of unscrupulous vessels (apparently in plenty supply) means the resource is open game.

Even if (a very big if) there is sufficient capacity within a coastal state to undertake significant monitoring, control and surveillance activity (MCS), it is highly uncertain whether anyone will be charged with an offence. Vessels use flags of convenience allowing the ultimate beneficiaries to disappear behind shell companies and weak regulation in flag states (thereby attracting the vessel in the first place). Current port state measures are insufficient to tackle IUU – no true registry of vessels exists and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) do not fulfil their obligations to tackle IUU.  A new set of port state measures has been approved by FAO, which would assist identification of IUU vessel and restrict access to ports, but the required number of signatories has not yet been reached. In addition many catch documentation schemes are highly ineffective and susceptible to fraud.

As shown during the event, tools such as effective catch documentation and vessel registries are available to establish successful regimes to tackle the issue of transparency. But as acknowledged by many speakers, an absence of political will has meant the application of these tools, is patchy at best.  The speaker from the EC noted that, strong regulation (in his opinion), was not being applied uniformly in member states because of differing priorities. A lack of political will appears to be the driving force behind such a failing, some countries just don’t appear to be on board with sustainable fishing management.  The paradoxical tension between fish and fishermen is as strong as ever, (bringing to mind this quote from a Spanish officialFor sure we are friends of fish, but still more, we are the friends of fishermen.”)

Whose responsibility is it to ensure action is taken? IUU fishing is a global issue and therefore requires global solutions. But unfortunately as seen with other multi-lateral environmental agreements this is fraught with difficulties. It is likely that the lowest common denominator will set the agenda, in global fisheries this is very low indeed.

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