Response to Consultation Queries Regarding Network Design
The legal basis for the network – queries were raised from the fishing industry as to the validity of a Scottish network. The Scottish Government’s view is that by contributing to a UK network the Acts did not prevent designation of a Scottish Network as an exercise of the powers to conserve features. The Joint Administrations Statement sets out the work that is being done together with other UK administrations, but does not limit Scottish Ministers from designating a Scottish network for the conservation of marine flora and fauna, as well as geological features.
Designation of non-OSPAR threatened & declining features - some questions were asked by the fishing industry as to the inclusion of features not on the OSPAR threatened and declining list. The Scottish Government’s view is that MPAs can be designated or include designation for any marine flora and fauna considered to be of conservation value regardless of OSPAR status.
Network design - a view was raised by the fishing industry that the Scottish MPA network could only be designated once the UK network was in place, where Scotland would fill the gaps left by UK administrations. The Scottish Government’s view is that not only is there no prevention to having a Scottish network that iteratively adapts to developments in the UK network, but in fact it would also jeopardise delivery of duties.
Replication/representation – a challenge was made from the fishing industry that the provision in the Acts to designate more than one MPA for a feature meant only two MPAs per feature; our interpretation is that this provision does not limit the number of MPAs for any given feature.
Evidence – to ensure the scientific rigour of the evidence used to underpin the MPAs and to re-assure certain stakeholders, Marine Scotland commissioned an independent scientific review of the recommendations on MPA designations and the scientific evidence supporting the designations of the MPAs in Scottish offshore and territorial waters. The findings of the review supported the approach to network design and the case for designation of individual MPAs.
Management - concerns were raised over the management of MPAs at the point of designation. Designations by themselves only affect licensed and recreational activities. Fisheries management requires a separate process and we are in discussions with those who undertake the activities to design forthcoming measures that satisfy conservation objectives whilst minimising unnecessary damage, and will continue to do so post-designation. In many areas fishing will continue as normal, so long as they do not affect the species or habitats in question. Seabed habitats tend to be the most sensitive, and management in relation to these features is required but in most cases not across the entirety of a given MPA.
Displacement - questions were raised by the fishing industry at consultation over the possibility of displacement of fishing activity and fishing interests, and the industry was not willing to proceed until this had been addressed. Subsequent work undertaken as part of a fisheries displacement study has identified that these effects can be minimised. This will entail designing the measures around fishing activity where possible to ensure that the intervention required is practical and proportionate.
Levels of conservation objectives – queries were raised as to why there were not more recover objectives built into the network. We are aiming to develop an MPA network which best achieves the balance of protecting and enhancing our marine environment, while maintaining sustainable development of our existing and emerging marine industries. The recommendations we have received from our statutory nature conservation advisers suggest there is an appropriate level of enhancement of species and habitats in the MPA network given the known historic and present condition of our seas, the evidence and the ability for features to recover.
Contribution of existing protected areas – queries were raised as to the inclusion of fisheries management areas in the network. In the duties to identify a network, Scottish Ministers are required to consider how the new nature Conservation MPAs would complement existing protected areas for the delivery of an MPA network in the UK marine area. From an administrative perspective the inclusion of fisheries closed areas is useful for the considerations of the Scottish contribution to this wider network, as the conservation benefit is the same whether fisheries management areas are an official part of the network or not.
Monitoring and enforcement – work is under way to consider: the frequency with which offshore monitoring surveys will be carried out; the requirement for, compliance and enforcement of any inshore fisheries management measures; and the costs associated with securing CFP measures. Surveying and monitoring would be part of a wider package of survey work to ensure proper advice for wider marine planning.
Designation of Black Guillemot in the MPAs – a query was raised by the fishing industry as to the validity of designating MPAs for seabirds, as they questioned the status of Black Guillemot as being marine fauna. The advice we have received confirms that as they are dependent on the marine environment they are eligible for protection under MPAs.
Inclusion of more species of seabirds in the network – calls were made during the consultation and in subsequent correspondence for there to be more seabirds included in the MPA network.
There are currently 47 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU Wild Birds Directive, and a further 17 SSSIs already providing protection of seabirds in the MPA network. These existing protected areas already, therefore, include protection for a wide range of species, from the Arctic Skua to the Arctic Tern, as well as Puffins, Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and Razorbills and other species. Thirty-one seabird colony SPAs have marine extensions. These extensions encompass areas used for maintenance activities by seabirds nesting at the colonies and include some areas used for foraging. Other measures being taken that assist in the conservation of seabirds include the control of non-native species, surveys of seabirds at sea and continued monitoring of sites (seabirds are long-lived and we are only just beginning to understand what drives their population numbers) and seaward extensions to SPAs.
The only species of seabird in Scotland not covered by Special Protection Areas provisions of the EU Wild Birds Directive is the Black Guillemot. Consequently nature conservation possible MPAs were identified, under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, for this species to ensure it has the same level of protection as all other seabirds found in Scotland. It is envisaged that completion of all of these designations will provide a resilient MPA network for seabirds. The periodic reviews of the network as required by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 will provide an opportunity to ensure that this is the case.
Formal advice on 14 more marine SPA proposals for other species of seabirds from SNH and JNCC has been received and Marine Scotland will be considering this advice in the coming months.
Implications of an MPA network that includes existing protected areas – clarification was requested as to the status of existing protected areas that would be included in the wider MPA network. For the purposes of considering the extent to which Scottish marine conservation spatial measures contribute to the wider OSPAR network, it is useful to combine all Scottish marine conservation spatial measures under the umbrella of the ‘wider MPA network’. This wider MPA network includes the new Nature Conservation MPAs, as well as existing SACs, SPAs, SSSIs, fisheries management measures and Ramsar sites, as they all contribute to the conservation of the marine environment in some way. However, the management and legislative basis of each of these spatial measures will not change under a wider MPA network. Therefore each form of designation will continue to have its own form of management under the relevant legislation i.e. EU Wild Birds Directive for SPAs or EU Habitats Directive for SACs.