Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC SECTION: Temperate Marine Protected Areas

No-trawl area impacts: perceptions, compliance and fish abundances

H.J. BLOOMFIELDa1a2 c1, C.J. SWEETINGa1, A.C. MILLa3, S.M. STEADa1 and N.V.C. POLUNINa1

a1 School of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 7RU, UK

a2 School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK

a3 School of Biology, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 7RU, UK

SUMMARY

MPAs are being established worldwide at an increasing rate, however empirical evidence for benefits to mobile species of small areas closed to fishing in temperate regions are little known. Using two North Sea prohibited trawling areas (PTAs) established > 80 years ago, social (fishers’ perceptions), management (fishing effort and compliance) and ecological (fish abundance and size) data were combined to assess the PTAs against their primary societal (conflict resolution) and secondary ecological (stock protection) objectives. Fishers perceived that the PTAs resolved conflicts between static and mobile gear sectors, despite evidence of non-compliance. However, few fishers perceived that they personally benefited from the PTAs. Fish abundance and size data from baited traps (BT) and video (BV) provided no evidence of PTA effects, but trawling effort was a significant predictor of BT fish abundance data and improved the model of BV fish abundance data. The absence of PTA effects on fish is attributable to non-compliance, the high mobility of the fish involved and their continued exploitation within the PTAs using static gear. This points to the need for greater understanding of the behaviour of fishers in relation to closures. The study also highlights the challenges of quantifying possible fishery benefits of small temperate closed areas and questions whether widely advocated fishery benefits may have enhanced initial support, but failure to deliver them may erode faith in such closures as a fisheries management tool.

(Received June 30 2011)

(Accepted February 23 2012)

(Online publication May 01 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Helen Bloomfield, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK e-mail: h.j.bloomfield@liv.ac.uk