The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is currently seeking input from fishers and other stakeholders in the marine industry to manage fishing activities in England’s marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are designated areas in the ocean that are established to protect vital habitats and species essential for healthy and functioning marine ecosystems. The purpose of MPAs is to safeguard and restore important habitats and species in English coastal waters from damage caused by human activities.
In February 2023, the MMO launched proposals to protect the most sensitive MPA habitats and species, which are now in Stage 2 consultation. This consultation aims to gather feedback on a proposed MMO bylaw that will regulate bottom towed gear across 13 MPAs, including Cape Bank, East of Haig Fras, Farnes East, Foreland, Goodwin Sands, Haig Fras, Hammond and Winterton, Haisborough, Hartland Point to Tintagel, Land’s End and Cape Bank, North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef, Offshore Brighton, South of Celtic Deep, and Wight-Barfleur Reef.
Alongside the formal consultation, the MMO is also conducting a Stage 3 call for evidence to seek views and information on evidence and analysis of the impact of fishing on seabed habitats & species across the MPA network. The MMO is requesting feedback on three “impacts evidence documents” that review the interactions between fishing gear and designated seabed features, which have not been assessed under Stages 1 and 2. These impacts evidence documents focus on the interactions of anchored nets and lines, bottom towed gear, and traps on the reef, sandbanks and subtidal sediments, ocean quahog, fan mussel, sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities, fragile sponge and anthozoan communities, and pink sea fans.
According to Michael Coyle, Head of Marine Protection and Operations Services at the Marine Management Organisation, the engagement of stakeholders is crucial to ensure appropriate management of MPAs, protection of habitats and species, and support of sustainable fishing activities around the coast for the future. Coyle encourages everyone to participate in the consultation and call for evidence before it closes on 28 March 2023.
In conclusion, the MMO is seeking input from fishers and other marine stakeholders to manage fishing activities in England’s MPAs. The formal consultation and call for evidence are now in their final stages, and stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on the proposed MMO bye-law and impact evidence documents. This feedback is essential to ensure that MPAs are managed effectively, and habitats and species are protected while supporting sustainable fishing activities.