Fish stock recovery areas

euAt the EU Fisheries Committee meeting 8–9 October 2012, a report, by Callum M. ROBERTS, Julie P. HAWKINS Environment Department, University of York, UK was presented which examines a proposal to establish a network of ‘fish stock recovery areas’ to cover 10-20% of territorial seas of EU Member States.

Such protected areas in Europe and elsewhere have produced rapid and long-lasting recovery of many commercially important species. They have also benefited surrounding fisheries through spillover and export of offspring from protected stocks. Fish stock recovery areas could make a major contribution to improving the status and productivity of fisheries, as well as safeguarding marine biodiversity.

Key Recommendations ::

  • The protection areas be established to cover 20% of fishing grounds.
  • Buffer zones should be created around fish stock recovery areas, in which low impact fishing methods are employed by small scale fishers, and recreational fishing is allowed.
  • Because of the extended timescales of stock and habitat recovery, and the speed with which benefits can be dissipated on resumption of fishing, the establishment of fish stock recovery areas must be seen effectively as a permanent commitment if they are to contribute meaningfully to fish stock recovery and habitat conservation.
  • The only exception to this would be where particular reserves were demonstrably failing to achieve much in the way of stock or habitat recovery. Such an outcome would need to be determined on a case by case basis through fishery independent survey methods, but the five year suggested timescale in Amendment 68 for such a review is too short. 10 years would be more appropriate based on available evidence of the timescales of reserve benefit.
  • Fishers will need to be fully involved in the process of establishing fish stock recovery areas. Since the process will need to vary from region to region, reflecting variation in social and ecological conditions, the Regional Advisory Councils would be well placed to advise on site selection and implementation.
  • While compromises are essential in processes to establish marine protected areas, reducing the level of protection afforded by fish stock recovery areas would not be a sensible compromise, given that benefits are rapidly reduced by even low levels of fishing.
  • The process of establishing fish stock recovery areas will be expensive and will impose transitional costs on fishermen as they adapt to the new management regime. Financial support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund could facilitate an effective and equitable roll out of the policy.

Category: EU Government News

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