Urgent need to assess impact of fishing on the seabed, finds Glasgow University report

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 9 November 2018 in News

University of Glasgow report calls for a more effective system of monitoring on effect of fishing on seabed

Image credit: PA

Scotland’s marine protected areas (MPAs) should be used to help assess the impact of fishing on the seabed, according to a new report from the University of Glasgow.

The report, which was commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group, examined whether current conservation measures included in MPAs go far enough to allow the marine environment to recover from the effect of human activities.

Finding that there is currently not enough information on seafloor conditions to properly assess progress toward international commitments, the report’s authors have called for a more effective system of monitoring.

Dr Charlotte Hopkins, marine scientist at the University of Glasgow, said: “What must be demonstrated is that the seafloor, including the species and habitats that exist there, must have the ability to rapidly recover to a natural state in the absence of pressures such as certain types of fishing gear.

“If recovery cannot be demonstrated within MPAs, this will be evidence of unsustainable use of the seas on a broader scale. This will depend on comprehensive scientific monitoring of the MPA network to make sure that change can be measured.”

The report follows a series of high-profile incidents in which seafloors were damaged by fishing activities.

The Scottish Government was last year forced to introduce an emergency ban on scallop fishing in Loch Carron after divers discovered extensive damage to the flame shell reef, caused by dredging activities.

But while ministers responded by designating the loch as a Marine Protected Area, environmental campaigners warned the action was “too little, too late”.

Responding to the University of Glasgow report, Calum Duncan, head of conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society and convener of LINK’s Marine Group, said: “The proof will be in the pudding. If Scotland’s MPAs are effectively monitored, we can find out whether protection measures are adequate and whether wider seabed use outside of MPAs is sustainable.

“This report highlights that we simply don’t know enough about whether existing and proposed MPAs, and other spatial measures, are sufficient to enable the seafloor to be healthy and used in a truly sustainable way.

“We warmly welcomed the extra resources committed to enable the consultation on the next four nature conservation MPAs to be brought forward, and this report underlines the need for further investment to better understand the health of our seabed and our impacts upon it in order to meet our national and international commitments.”

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