German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

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Fisheries management in marine protected areas


Map of North Sea and Baltic Sea marine protected areas.
Map of North Sea and Baltic Sea marine protected areas.

For BfN, establishing a network of marine protected areas where fishing is managed in a way that avoids negative impacts on protected species and habitats would be a milestone on the way to ecosystem-friendly fisheries. The primarily purpose of such protected areas would be the conservation of threatened species and habitats. By implementing appropriate management measures, they could additionally serve as retreats and later as recovery areas for threatened and overfished stocks. Regrettably, fisheries management measures of this kind have so far only been implemented in German marine protected areas on a very small scale.

Benefits of protected areas for fisheries and the marine environment

Marine protected areas have been shown to benefit fish stocks provided that the areas are large enough and have sufficiently strict protected status. This means a large proportion of no-take areas/zones and areas where specific, harmful fishing methods such as bottom trawling are banned. Advantages:

  • Increase in biodiversity in the protected areas,
  • Conservation of vulnerable species (such as marine mammals and sea-birds) and habitats (such as sandbanks and reefs),
  • Conservation of species at specific life stages (such as juvenile fish in ‘nurseries’) and fertile mature fish,
  • Conservation of feeding and spawning grounds,
  • Spillover effect with juvenile and adult fish spreading out from the protected areas into surrounding marine areas.

Basis provided by conflict analysis

In a three-year research project for BfN, “Environmentally Sound Fisheries Management in Marine Protected Areas” (EMPAS, 2006-08), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) assessed the impacts of fisheries on species and habitats in marine Natura 2000 sites in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea EEZ and developed management options for sustainable fisheries in German EEZ protected areas. The study focused on habitat types and species that enjoy special protection under the EU Habitats Directive and Birds Directive: sandbanks and reefs along with relevant marine mammals, seabirds and a number of fish species. It identified key points of conflict between nature conservation objectives and the impacts of fishing activities:

  • Impacts of mobile, bottom-contact fishing gear on the sandbank and reef benthic habitat types and their characteristic ecological com-munities (North Sea),
  • Seabird bycatch in passive fishing gear, primarily in bottom-set gill and trammel nets (Baltic Sea),
  • Bycatch of harbour porpoise in passive fishing gear, primarily in gill and trammel nets (North Sea and Baltic Sea).

The management measures recommended by ICES include no-take zones and times for specific forms of fishing in marine Natura 2000 sites. Mandatory use of ecosystem-friendly fishing gear (such as fish traps) could also aid in the attainment of the conservation objectives.

Proposed management measures in German EEZ Natura 2000 sites

Based on the EMPAS study mentioned above and the conflict analysis between fishing activities and conservation objectives, researchers at BfN and the Thünen Institute in 2011 drew up a joint proposal for management measures in the form of no-take times and zones in Natura 2000 sites in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea EEZ. Examples of the proposed measures include a ban on bottom trawling in sensitive habitat types (reefs and sandbanks) and bans on set net fishing at times when particularly large numbers of seabirds rest or moult in a protected area. Following in-depth review and consultation, individual management measures were decided on for each protected area in the German EEZ. Those management measures are now pending applications for European Commission approval from the responsible ministries – the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

Fisheries management measures can only be implemented in EEZ waters under the framework of the CFP.


Management measures proposal from Sell. et al. (2011) for protection of the reef habitat type: Year-round ban on all mobile bottom-contact fishing gear from the central area of the Sylt Outer Reef Natura 2000 site.
Current management measures: Plaice box: bottom trawling with vehicles over 300 HP (221 kW) banned in eastern Sylt Outer Reef Natura 2000 site (east of 7° E/7° 15’ E).

Management measures proposal from Sell. et al. (2011) for protection of the reef habitat type: Year-round ban on all mobile bottom-contact fishing gear from the central area of the Sylt Outer Reef Natura 2000 site.


 

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