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Managing marine protected areas in Europe: moving from 'feature-based' to 'whole-site' management of sites

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Abstract

A paper investigating the value of the UK approach to protecting features in Marine Protected Areas, rather than moving to protecting the whole of sites, investigating management, legal opportunities and current governance mechanisms to put this in place.
... Non-fed aquaculture such as bivalve farming does not report to have as many negative effects as finfish farming (Danovaro et al. 2004;Fabi et al. 2009;Keeley et al. 2009;Rampazzo et al. 2013;Hilborn et al. 2018). With a role in the provision of ecosystem goods and services, mussel farms can mitigate the consequences of nutrient loading and eutrophication (Ferreira et al. 2011;Kumar & Cripps 2012;Gallardi 2014;Matarazzo Suplicy 2018;Newell et al. 2019) having a positive contribution to the surrounding ecology due to their sediment stabilisation capacity, biofiltration function and ability to uptake CO 2 (Matarazzo Suplicy 2018; Sheehan et al. 2019;Solandt et al. 2020). Research indicates that production of non-fed species can be a more sustainable source of protein crucial in providing food security with minimal environmental impact (FAO 2016;Hilborn et al. 2018;Matarazzo Suplicy 2018). ...
... Although some argue that sustainable fisheries and conservation should not be merged, they are complementary (Sala et al. 2018) requiring an integrated ecosystem-based approach to management (Solandt et al. 2020) where offshore aquaculture can be a part of the solution. Offshore mussel farming has the potential to enhance fisheries by achieving sustainable resource extraction within a healthy ocean (Froehlich et al. 2017a;Le Gouvello et al. 2017;Clavelle et al. 2018;FAO 2018;Sheehan et al. 2019) throughout a mosaic of interconnected ecological 'corridors' (Solandt et al. 2020). ...
... Although some argue that sustainable fisheries and conservation should not be merged, they are complementary (Sala et al. 2018) requiring an integrated ecosystem-based approach to management (Solandt et al. 2020) where offshore aquaculture can be a part of the solution. Offshore mussel farming has the potential to enhance fisheries by achieving sustainable resource extraction within a healthy ocean (Froehlich et al. 2017a;Le Gouvello et al. 2017;Clavelle et al. 2018;FAO 2018;Sheehan et al. 2019) throughout a mosaic of interconnected ecological 'corridors' (Solandt et al. 2020). Though, we must keep in mind that there's a distinction between biodiversity focused areas and areas important for the ecosystem services they provide which do not always share the same objectives (Rees et al. 2020). ...
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With a growing human population and the need to protect our oceans from overfishing, there is a requirement for society to source alternative means of sustainable protein. Mussel aquaculture has rapidly expanded in many countries serving as an important supply of protein, but its development has been limited due to competition for coastal space and the associated environmental impacts of farming in inshore waters. Offshore aquaculture developments have the potential to overcome such issues. This review synthesises the current literature on the ecological and oceanographic interactions of longline offshore mussel farms with the aim to elucidate the main knowledge gaps in a context of management and conservation. Large offshore aquaculture installations interact with the hydrodynamics of the area causing water flow distortions and current attenuation, wake formation and distorting water column stratification which can have an effect on the supply of nutrient and seston as well as altering material dispersal, biodeposition and resuspension, having in turn, a knock‐on effect on the carrying capacity of the system, ultimately affecting the surrounding ecology and its ecosystem services. Offshore mussel farm studies report an increase biomass or numbers of benthic and pelagic organisms beneath and around mussel ropes relative to control sites using the structure for shelter, refuge and nursery. Improving our understanding of offshore aquaculture–environment interactions is crucial to identify the priorities needed for future research to inform policy and management practices as well as its role as part of the Blue Growth Agenda and as ‘other effective area‐based conservation measures’ (OECMs).
... Most MPAs in the EU and UK are designated for individual features (i.e., species and/or habitats), which has given rise to a management approach that aims to avoid direct impacts only on those designated features, rather than a "whole-site" approach that considers the ecological integrity of MPAs (Rees et al., 2013;Solandt et al., 2020). To evaluate the effectiveness of European MPAs, it is important to understand whether they provide even this minimal level of feature-based protection. ...
... In relation to fisheries, we argue that redressing MPA management failings requires a drastically scaled-up approach. First, countries should adopt a "whole-site" approach to MPA management, to better conserve and recover designated features while safeguarding ecosystem processes and functions (Solandt et al., 2020;Pikesley et al., 2021). This would involve establishing broader restrictions on fishing activities that contravene MPA conservation aims, rather than limitations only precisely where designated features have been identified. ...
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are critical for halting marine biodiversity loss and safeguarding ecosystems. However, efforts to designate additional areas as MPAs have generally taken precedence over ensuring that designated sites are effectively protected. Serious concerns exist about marine “paper parks” in Europe, particularly in relation to the threat of fishing. We focussed on 1,945 MPAs in EU and UK waters that are designated to protect habitats, and assessed the extent of fishing inside them with gears that are known to directly threaten those same habitats. Such “high-risk” fishing was widespread, occurring within 510 MPAs that represented 86% of the area assessed, and was more prevalent in larger, offshore sites. More intense high-risk fishing inside reef and sandbank MPAs was associated with the poorer conservation status of those habitats in countries’ waters. Our findings indicate that without systematic restrictions on damaging fishing gears, MPAs are unlikely to help reverse the ongoing declines of European marine habitats.
... Since Brexit, the approach to the conservation and management of MPAs has been under review and the effectiveness of a feature-based approach has been questioned (Pelletier 2020). An ecosystem-based integrated approach for the wider seascape has been proposed to facilitate sustainability in marine management through cost-effective monitoring and evaluation across a whole site (Rees et al. 2020;Solandt et al. 2020). ...
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A review of available research into the blue carbon potential of seagrass was undertaken. This was then used to inform an analysis of the potential current, historic, and future value of carbon sequestered and stored in the Essex Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The assessed status of Zostera in the SAC highlights the extent of historic loss and continued degradation of this designated sub-feature, and current water quality is incompatible with recovery or restoration. Seagrass blue carbon currently stored within the SAC equates to ∼18,350 t C at a sequestration rate of 117.15 t C yr ⁻¹ , with a lost/potential of 534,700 t C storage capacity. The calculated financial value of current stocks (£4.6 m) is dwarfed by the lost/potential monetary value of carbon storage, £135 m, and the forfeited sequestration of £860,000-worth of carbon annually from degraded habitat. The use of carbon offset credits could help fund the huge potential for restoration that exists within the SAC.
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Marine habitats are being altered by anthropogenic pressures, influencing the diversity and distribution of species. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are increasingly used as spatial management tools to mitigate these human impacts on marine systems, but levels of protection vary. MPAs that exclude bottom-towed fishing activities from all habitats within their boundaries while still allowing static gear fishing, taking a “whole-site approach”, have shown benefits in terms of increasing biodiversity and biomass on reef habitat. In this study we use Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs) to quantify differences in mobile species assemblage composition, diversity and abundance on mixed sediment habitats inside and outside three MPAs adopting this whole-site approach within Jersey's territorial waters. Greater numbers of taxa were recorded within all three MPAs compared to nearby unprotected areas, with an average of 4.9 ± 1.8 taxa observed per deployment inside the MPAs compared to 3.9 ± 1.7 taxa outside the MPAs. No significant difference was observed in the overall abundance. The proportion of presence of two indicator species (Labridae Spp. and juvenile bream Spondyliosoma cantharus) was greater within the MPAs than the nearby unprotected areas. IUCN threatened and vulnerable shark species were observed on more BRUVs inside the MPAs, while IUCN threatened and vulnerable ray species were present on fewer BRUVs in the MPAs, but both occurred in too few numbers to statistically assess. Not all species responded positively to the MPAs, with scavenging species such as spider crab (Maja brachydactyla) recorded in lower numbers in two out of the three MPAs compared to the nearby unprotected areas. BRUV surveys that have been used to survey MPAs that exclude bottom-towed fishing in Europe are sparse and have primarily focussed on reef habitat. This study provides the first account of how this whole-site approach for mixed sediment habitats in three MPAs affects mobile species. These results evidence the merit of an ecosystem-based approach to MPA management for species of both conservation and commercial importance.
Article
Fisheries are in decline worldwide, and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being advocated as tools that can not only protect and restore biodiversity but also improve fisheries sustainability and protect fisher livelihoods. To understand the role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in underpinning commercial fisheries, this study demonstrates the economic value of Jersey's benthic substrates (habitats) for five predominant species fished by Jersey and French vessels: Homarus gammarus, Cancer pagurus, Maja brachydactyla, Pecten maximus and Buccinum undatum. Value was apportioned between habitats that support these commercial species across their essential life history stages, and the proportional economic value that was protected from bottom‐towed fishing within MPAs was analysed. Multiple habitats across Jersey's territorial waters contributed a total economic value of £14,664,729, with £4,127,999 protected within MPAs. Overall, subtidal sediment was the most valuable habitat to both Jersey (£2.12 million) and French (£2.47 million) fisheries but was also the least protected habitat from bottom‐towed fishing (2.73%). Our findings support an ecosystem‐based approach to fisheries management and emphasise the importance of considering species life histories, and their habitat requirements, in management plans.
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Aim Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management has highlighted the importance of studying ecosystem functions and services, and the biological traits that drive them. Yet, ecosystem services and the associated benefits that they provide are rarely the motive for creating marine protected area (MPA). Therefore, many MPA monitoring projects do not explicitly study these functions and services or the underlying biological traits linked to them. Location Lyme Bay MPA, located in the SW of England, was established in 2008 to protect the reef biodiversity across a 206‐km² area, which includes rocky reef habitats, pebbly sand and soft muddy sediments. Mobile demersal fishing was excluded across the whole site to allow the recovery of the reef habitats. Methods Using a combination of towed underwater video and Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems changes in diversity (taxonomic and trait), and traits affected by mobile demersal fishing were assessed in Lyme Bay MPA over 10 years. Results There was a consistent increase in the number of taxa and the trait diversity they provide within the MPA as well as an increase in functional redundancy, which may increase community resilience to perturbations. Outside of the MPA there was an increase in the abundance of mobile species, while the MPA showed an increase in filter feeders. Main conclusions The MPA showed a trend towards more diverse and potentially resilient rocky reef habitats. This study constitutes a novel MPA assessment using multiple sampling methods to encompass a wide range of taxa. It also reinforces the importance of effective MPA monitoring, which has demonstrated changes in trait diversity and trait composition driven by changes in taxonomic diversity.
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creat ive Commo ns Attri bution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Abstract 1. Designated using a Statutory Instrument in 2008, Lyme Bay marine-protected area (MPA) is the UK's first and largest example of an ambitious, whole-site approach to management, to recover and protect reef biodiversity. The whole-site approach applies consistent management, in this case excluding bottom towed fishing, across the full 206 km 2 extent of the MPA, thus protecting a mosaic of reef-associated habitats from regular damage, while still allowing less destructive fishing methods, such as static gear, rod and line, and diving. 2. To assess the effectiveness of this management strategy for mobile taxa and the sustainability for those taxa that continue to be targeted, Exploited and Non-Exploited species' populations were compared inside the MPA, relative to open control sites spanning 11 of the 12 years of designation. baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVs) were deployed annually to assess mobile benthic and demersal fauna. 3. Overall, the number of taxa significantly increased in the MPA relative to the open controls while total abundance increased in both treatments. 4. Exploited fish showed increases in number of taxa (430%) and total abundance (370%) inside the MPA over 11 years. 5. Likewise, but to a lesser degree in the open controls, number of taxa of commercially Exploited fish increased over time, potentially showing 'spillover' effects from the MPA. 6. Non-Exploited fish did not show such changes. Regardless of constituting the majority of the fishery value, highly valuable Exploited invertebrates showed no significant changes over time. 7. Synthesis and applications. The Lyme Bay marine-protected area shows importance of protecting a whole site, comprising mosaics of different benthic habitats, through protection of sessile organisms that contribute to essential fish habitats.
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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have developed in number and area at an unprecedented rate over the past 20 years in the UK. As with all other states, UK MPA designation and management requires evidence on the location, state, extent and vulnerability of marine organisms. Whilst the evidence base has been used to designate 297 sites in two decades covering over 20% of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) area, the level of evidence required to manage activities and the necessary secondary legislative mechanisms and controls are unwieldy and overly complex. This makes the practical implementation of management measures difficult and blocks the ambition that such a large MPA network merits. Furthermore, a fundamental difference of opinion exists between government, regulators and civil society of levels of protection required to afford the marine environment 'good' status, given disagreement of baseline condition of our marine estate. Regardless of these difficulties, some regions of the UK have seen positive progressive management. It is hoped that the best examples of management can be transferred to other districts to encourage more efficient progress.
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Nature conservation and fisheries management often focus on particular seabed features that are considered vulnerable or important to commercial species. As a result, individual seabed types are protected in isolation, without any understanding of what effect the mixture of seabed types within the landscape has on ecosystem functions. Here we undertook predictive seabed modelling within a coastal marine protected area using observations from underwater stereo-video camera deployments and environmental information (depth, wave fetch, maximum tidal speeds, distance from coast and underlying geology). The effect of the predicted substratum type, extent and heterogeneity or the diversity of substrata, within a radius of 1500 m around each camera deployment of juvenile gadoid relative abundance was analysed. The predicted substratum model performed well with wave fetch and depth being the most influential predictor variables. Gadus morhua (Atlantic cod) were associated with relatively more rugose substrata (Algal-gravel-pebble and seagrass) and heterogeneous landscapes, than Melanogrammus aeglefinus (haddock) or Merlangius merlangus (whiting) (sand and mud). An increase in M. merlangus relative abundance was observed with increasing substratum extent. These results reveal that landscape effects should be considered when protecting the seabed for fish and not just individual seabed types. The landscape approach used in this study therefore has important implications for marine protected area, fisheries management and monitoring advice concerning demersal fish populations.
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Bottom trawling is the most widespread human activity affecting seabed habitats. Here, we collate all available data for experimental and comparative studies of trawling impacts on whole communities of seabed macroinvertebrates on sedimentary habitats and develop widely applicable methods to estimate depletion and recovery rates of biota after trawling. Depletion of biota and trawl penetration into the seabed are highly correlated. Otter trawls caused the least depletion, removing 6% of biota per pass and penetrating the seabed on average down to 2.4 cm, whereas hydraulic dredges caused the most depletion, removing 41% of biota and penetrating the seabed on average 16.1 cm. Median recovery times posttrawling (from 50 to 95% of unimpacted biomass) ranged between 1.9 and 6.4 y. By accounting for the effects of penetration depth, environmental variation, and uncertainty, the models explained much of the variability of depletion and recovery estimates from single studies. Coupled with large-scale, high-resolution maps of trawling frequency and habitat, our estimates of depletion and recovery rates enable the assessment of trawling impacts on unprecedented spatial scales.
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The protection of species requires an understanding of their habitat requirements and how habitat characteristics affect their distribution, survival and growth. This need is especially important in areas where anthropogenic pressures can not only have a significant direct impact on the survival of the species but also damage their habitat. The Firth of Clyde in southwestern Scotland was an important commercial fishing area for a variety of demersal fish species up until 1973. However, stocks rapidly declined thereafter and the catch of targeted species ceased in 2005, despite fisheries measures put in place to aid recovery. Changes in the availability and quality of fish habitat are possible explanations for this lack of recovery. Here, we report on stereo baited remote underwater video surveys in the Firth of Clyde between June and September in 2013 and 2014 to determine the habitat of juvenile Atlantic cod Gadus morhua, haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus and whiting Merlangius merlangus. Habitat predictor variables explored included substratum type, depth, wave fetch, and epibenthic and demersal fauna diversity. G. morhua were most abundant in shallow, sheltered areas composed of gravel-pebble containing maerl. M. aeglefinus and M. merlangus predominated over deeper sand and mud. Ontogenetic shifts in all 3 species were also observed. Relative abundances of G. morhua and M. merlangus were positively related to the diversity of epibenthic and demersal fauna. Our results indicate that spatial conservation measures to benefit demersal fish should be advised by patterns of epibenthic and demersal fauna diversity as well as physical substratum types.
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The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires an ecosystem-based approach to assess the state of Europe's seas. To date, assessment is carried out on an indicator by indicator basis. Integration of indicators is required to undertake a more holistic assessment of the state of the marine environment. Here, an integrated approach to assess benthic habitats is proposed. Within this conceptual method, four OSPAR benthic habitat indicators relating to biodiversity (D1) and sea-floor integrity (D6) descriptors are linked together. For the integration, benthos, environmental and anthropogenic pressure data are required. State indicators are assessed along a gradient of pressure to facilitate threshold values to be quantified and provide advice on management measures. The method also includes a feedback system whereby best available evidence on benthos, its sensitivity and disturbance assessments can be replaced with ground-truthed data. The proposed method can be expanded to include other related indicators under the different descriptors (e.g. commercial fish and shellfish (D3), food webs (D4) and eutrophication (D5)) where relevant. The concept is a first step towards integration of benthic indicators and could be applied to monitoring requirements under other Directives such as the Habitat or Water Framework Directive.
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The Natura 2000 network forms the cornerstone of the biodiversity conservation strategy of the European Union and is the largest coordinated network of protected areas (PAs) in the world. Here, we demonstrated that the network fails to adequately cover the marine environment and meet the conservation target of 10% set by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The relative percentage of marine surface cover varies significantly among member states. Interestingly, the relative cover of protected seascape was significantly lower for member states with larger exclusive economic zones. Our analyses demonstrated that the vast majority (93%) of the Natura 2000 sites that cover marine waters include both a terrestrial and a marine component. As a result, the majority of the protected surfaces is adjacent to the coastline, and decreases offshore; only 20% of Natura marine PAs is at depths >200 m. The lack of systematic planning processes is further reflected by the great variability in the distances among protected sites and the limited number of shared Natura sites among member states. Moreover, <40% of the marine sites have management plans, indicating the absence of active, or limited management in most sites. This work highlights the gaps in coverage and spatial design of the European conservation network in the marine environment, and raises questions on the unevenly treatment of marine vs. terrestrial areas.
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The UK network of Marine Protected Areas and the application of management measures to protect conservation features has grown over the past decade. Bodies that regulate activities within MPAs require advice from 'statutory' conservation bodies. Therefore to assess the developing MPA networks resilience it is important to assess the ability of bodies to provide effective conservation advice. Thus 'Natural England' officers were interviewed to assess their ability to provide scientific advice on the impacts of operations in English MPAs. Results highlight the opinions of UK statutory conservation advisors to be able to provide concrete evidence on the impact of MPA designations and management measures. Response scores were ranked from 1 to 5, with 1 representing a low score, and 5, high. For governance, there was a very positive response to the structures in place to provide conservation advice (4.5). However, in terms of the finance available to provide adequate scientific advice, responses scored lower at 3.1. The majority of NE respondents believe the budget available for 'feature condition assessment' to be insufficient for the current MPA network, with most advice derived from 'expert judgement' based on the precautionary principle rather than site-based observation of 'cause-and-effect' from different human activities. Yet although budgets are a problem, the relationship between Natural England and local fisheries regulators is very healthy, resulting in better joined-up communication over management measures applied to stakeholders. Hence this research recommends the development of private-public partnerships (co-management initiatives) to reduce costs, bring in affected stakeholders and their assets, and improve trust.
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The distribution of the fan mussel Atrina fragilis was studied at two contrasting areas of the north Aegean Sea (Thermaikos Gulf): one routinely trawled and one closed to trawlers for over 25 years. Significant differences were detected between the two areas with decreased values in density and size of A. fragilis individuals at the trawled area. As habitat differences, i.e. sediment composition and bathymetry, had non-significant effect, extensive trawling activities probably explain the observed results.
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