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The UK’s first community Marine Protected Area

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    Recent news suggests that UK communities are becoming increasingly aware of the degradation to the marine environment occurring in their local area. 10 years of discussions, conflict and compromise has led to approval for a marine conservation area off the Isle of Arran; the first time statutory protection has been given to a marine area as a result of proposals being developed at grassroots level. Blue Ventures has been working towards the establishment of Madagascar’s first community managed marine protected area for the past three years and recently received temporary status from the government.

    In both the UK and Madagascar, lengthy discussions between environmentalists, fishermen and community members have resulted in unique collaborations. The Scottish government recently approved the idea, which will be sent out to consultation before final approval from Holyrood. The plans for the Velondriake MPA were recently approved by the Malagasy government and it has been awarded temporary status as an MPA protecting it from destructive fishing methods and other unregulated activities.

    In both instances, fishermen have reported declines in fish abundance and catch size and communities and conservationists have intervened to try and reduce this decline. The Isle of Arran is planning to designate 267 hectares of Lamlash bay as a no-take zone, where fishing is banned, with a further 660 hectares set aside as a fisheries management area, subject to scientific regulation. Fishermen do not support the claim that repeated dredging of the local seabed has left it bare of marine life, and are generally antagonistic towards interfering environmental NGOs. Similarly in Andavadoaka concerns are being raised over the increasing number of trawlers sighted in the lagoon, and the potential damaging effects these will have on the coral reefs.

    The UK’s first no-take zone was set up in 2003 at Lundy Island off the North Devon coast, after pressure by English Nature and the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee. Within 18 months, conservationists were reporting that sea life was recovering, with three times as many lobsters in the no-take area compared to areas where fishing was allowed. Fishermen may also benefit from ‘spillover effects’, where stock density increases within the no-take zone to the extent that species ‘spillover’ into areas outside the protected area where fishing is allowed, thus increasing catch size outside of the no-take zones.

    Striking a balance is a key aspect of marine resource management today. Fishermen who depend on the sea for their livelihood must understand the logic behind the establishment of MPA’s, and allowances must be made by local communities and conservationists to ensure self-sufficiency is maintained. Both Blue Ventures and the Community of Arran Seabed Trust have made the first steps to ensuring the long term sustainability of marine resources. Collaboration with supportive local communities and fishermen is the only way to ensure this sustainability is maintained.

    For the full story check out the Guardian website

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