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Marine Protected Areas and RSA

May 03,2008 SACN

In March, SACN along with other RSA Recreational Sea Angling Organisations were invited to take part in a meeting, along with other stakeholders to discuss proposals for establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas in UK waters.

Below is a copy of the minutes of that meeting, which have now been released.

(It is intended that further meetings of this or a larger group will be held when appropriate or necessary, and as MPA work is taken forward by Natural England and the 4 regional MPA projects.)


Recreational Sea Angling and Marine Protected Areas Research Workshop

Date: March 12th, 2008
Place: Room LG 5-6 at 3-8 Whitehall Place, London (Defra Office)


Rob Blyth-Skyrme (Natural England- Chair)
Mike Pawson (independent scientist)
Nicola Clarke (Defra)
Graham Pickett (independent scientist)
Steve Colclough (EA)
Tom Pinborough (NFSA)
Tim Dapling (Sussex SFC)
Nigel Proctor (NFSA)
Mark Duffy (NE)
Leon Roskilly (SACN)
Richard Ferre (NFSA)
Mike Smith (CEFAS)
Mike Heylin (FACT)
Phil Stuckey (NMC)
John Leballeur (BASS)
Les Weller (SACN)
Stuart MacPherson (NFSA)
Tony Williams (NFSA)
David Morton (Save our Sharks) 

Kevin Bennetts
Adrian Farley
Bob Cox
Rowland Sharp


Government has committed to introducing a of ecologically coherent network of well managed marine protected areas (MPAs) around the coast of England by 2012.

Natural England (NE) and JNCC (in conjunction with other organisations) are working to provide information that will allow the new Marine Bill MPAs (MCZs ) to be introduced in such a way that conservation objectives are achieved whilst adverse impacts on user groups are minimised wherever possible.

From experience it is clear that recreational sea anglers (RSAs) are a vital stakeholder group and should be influential in this process.

This workshop was intended to:

(i)  examine the issues around RSA and MPAs
(ii) discuss and develop the RSA research that is planned or is already being conducted
(iii) identify ways to ensure that the RSA community is actively involved with MPA research.


1. RSA and MPAs- an introduction (RB-S)
2. Defra’s rationale for RSA research and development (NC)
3. RSAs’ key objectives and issues for research and development (RF)
4. CEFAS programme of RSA work- key objectives and issues (MS)
5. Fisheries Challenge Fund project on restricted catch areas to benefit RSA (MP)
6. Environment Agency programme of RSA work- key objectives and issues (SC)
7. Countryside Council for Wales- ongoing work to gather RSA data (RS/RB-S)
8. Discussion (All)
o Does associated R&D work (ongoing and planned) cover what is needed?
o What can be done to ensure project money is made available?
o How can better links be made between projects?
o Who should be involved in research, and how do we make sure they are?
o What needs to happen next?

Key Points:

RSA and MPAs- an introduction (RB-S)

1. Some confusion was expressed over NE’s role in MPA work- is it fish or biodiversity that is the key focus for Natural England and for MPAs?
N.B. Biodiversity is the key focus for NE, but it is appropriate to aim for fisheries benefits as well if combined objectives can be met.

2. The MPA network will be developed through 4 regional MPA projects in the North Sea, Channel, South West (Finding Sanctuary) and Irish Sea. The RSA community want to be involved, but how? 
N.B. Only Finding Sanctuary is sufficiently progressed to have actually begun collecting data, and a RSA Liaison Officer is shortly to be appointed. The other projects are at the scoping stage, but will be seeking to engage the RSA community in due course.

3. Some doubt was expressed that entirely equitable division of fish resources could be achieved between recreational and commercial fishers generally.

4. Bait collection was raised as a key issue, so intertidal MPAs are and would continue to be a concern for the RSA community. The development of a national Code of Practice was suggested as a means to avoid repeated need for negotiations about consenting bait digging.

5. It was highlighted that most angling takes place on or close to the shore. MPAs in this area would be of concern and/or interest to RSAs.

6. Concern was expressed about how to engage the average angler on the shore, as opposed to those people actively involved in RSA representation at the regional or national scale.

7. In principle, MPAs providing improved protection for fish spawning or nursery grounds were considered by all present to be beneficial.

8. Frustration was expressed over the lack of answers to questions e.g., how many MPAs were likely to be introduced, how big and where would they be, and what activities might be restricted within or around them?
N.B. This meeting is early in the MCZ designation process, and principles and criteria for MCZ selection are being worked-up at the moment. The intention is to consult RSAs throughout the site selection process. Natural England hopes that RSAs will engage with the 4 regional MCZ projects as they develop.

9. RSAs felt that there should be a principle of maximum access to MPAs.

10. There was concern from the RSA community about over application of the precautionary principle i.e., if there was any doubt, all damaging activities could be banned inside MPAs. RSAs considered that there should be a presumption of RSA being allowed in MPAs, unless clear, understandable conservation objectives were set.

11. It was thought that RSAs could be strong advocates for MPAs, and useful eyes and ears for management, but this would need to be linked to reasonable constraints on activities.

12. It was commented that protecting ‘essential fish habitats’ should provide benefits to RSAs and to commercial fishermen.

13. It was argued that in gathering evidence for better management of sites, species and RSA, a balance needed to be struck between protecting areas and allowing them to be used by RSAs.

CEFAS Recreational Sea Angling programme of work- key objectives and issues (MS)

14. A significant objective of this work is to understand the potential impacts of improving fish stocks. If stock size increases, will it lead to increased RSA activity and therefore escalating socio-economic value of the sport? 

15. Species to be studied in this study are: cod, bass, grey mullet, tope and salmon. The work would include a review of management approaches taken and current stock status, and an economic valuation of the importance of the species for RSA vs. commercial interests, for the first time using comparable methodologies. 
 N.B. A key issue for the majority of the RSA representatives was for flounder to be incorporated into the study, possibly at the expense of grey mullet if resources were not available to include that species as an addition. 

16. The study will review management approaches that have been adopted for different species, and their direct impact on related fish stocks. 

17. MS agreed to send the proposed logbook outline to RF to consider with NFSA. RSA representatives made the point that all species should be included in the logbook, not just the top RSA species.  
 N.B. The format of the EA catch recording scheme for grayling could provide useful good practice.

18. A point was made that there should be considerable integration between aspects of this work and evidence gathering work being undertaken by Jo Myers in Defra’s Marine Biodiversity Team.

Fisheries Challenge Fund project on restricted catch areas to benefit RSA (MP)

19. This work will look at the potential impact on recreational bass angling of reducing the mortality of fish in specific local areas, based on work on migration patterns that shows that the majority of fish return to a home range each summer.
20. A key question will be: will more RSAs spend more time fishing, and therefore spend more money, if there are more big fish in the sea? Answering this question will help in advocating changes to related fisheries management policies.

21. The work will examine the management options for RSA within restricted catch areas.

22. Identification of potentially suitable study areas was deemed critical- trial and comparable control areas were needed. If people had any suggestions for suitable areas then please contact MP.

23. Enforcement and buy-in from the RSA and commercial sectors, as well as from the SFCs, would be fundamental to the success of the project.

24. Looking at RSA management options in restricted catch areas should be useful in determining RSA management options within and around any future MPAs.

25. A 2-page flyer will be produced to help disseminate information on the project.

Environment Agency programme of RSA work- key objectives and issues (SC)

26. The EA have undertaken an extensive body of work which has shown the importance of estuaries as fish nursery grounds. Bass, mullet and flatfish were highlighted.

27. The EA would wish to see estuaries and other intertidal areas accorded more sensitive management in future, whether under MPAs or under MSP, in recognition of their critical nursery role.

Discussion (All)

28. The Marine Bill is a key piece of legislation with regard to its potential impacts on the RSA sectors. RSA representatives were concerned that there was little detail on the nature and scale of intent for the new MCZ networks.

29. RSAs were keen that they should be able distinguish themselves from the commercial sector, with the intention of being able to utilise restricted access sites in future.

30. Concern was expressed by the RSA representatives about future MPAs being placed around angling hotspots.

31. RSAs wanted to make sure that any opportunities to develop RSA activities within new windfarm sites were explored.

32. All thought that it was essential to develop management and mitigation options for RSA in MPAs, and that we need to understand the potential benefits of MPAs for RSAs.

33. Support was expressed for the RSA research being conducted, but it was asked that the work was advertised widely so that RSAs could become involved if desired.

34. It was reiterated that, as soon as possible, RSAs wanted to see the objectives and criteria for MCZ networks that are coming forward through the 4 regional projects.

35. It was agreed that all RSAs attending this meeting would act as regional/national contacts, and would disseminate information regarding from this and future meetings on RSA-MPA work.

(See also: http://www.sacn.org.uk/Articles/Marine_Protected_Areas_and_Angling.html )


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» Marine Bill Consultation Responses
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