The Scottish government has announced management measures for fisheries in a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that have already been designated.
The management measures are not for whales, dolphins and porpoises directly, but none the less, they will benefit from restrictions to damaging fishing activities. Allowing some areas of the sea respite from fishing activities that can damage the seabed will have ecosystem wide benefits, by allowing healthy seabed habitats to thrive so fish can spawn and feed there. Banning some static nets in some areas will have a direct benefit in reducing bycatch of porpoises and dolphins, as well as seabirds, seals and other marine species.
This decision was following an impressive and really positive public response – over 95% of consultation respondants saying they wanted stronger management measures – including from WDC supporters.
Putting a network of marine protected areas in place is a process that takes time and there are many steps to be taken before the MPA network is complete. Legislation to implement the changes will be subject to Parliamentary approval (via the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee) and should be in effect from 1st October 2015. The Scottish Government will also develop further draft secondary legislation for fisheries management for more MPAs during the summer.
This summer will be particularly important for whales, dolphins and porpoises, as there will be public consultations on MPAs for minke whales and Risso’s dolphins, amongst other species such as basking sharks and sandeels, in Scottish waters. There will also be a consultaiton in Scottish, English and Welsh waters on harbour porpoise Special Areas of Conservation.
A report of the consultation was published.