Yes, this blog is still alive. I was knocked out by disease for a week but I am back and ready to catch up on all things missed. Let's start the new week on a more positive note with some encouraging news.
Fisheries for king and queen scallops is a growing business worldwide and e.g. in the UK it has become a very important one, generating more than 90 million dollar first sale every year. As a result fisheries for scallops have grown dramatically over the past decade, but there are concerns over the damage to the seabed caused by the dredges and trawls normally used to catch them.
Both the English and Scottish governments have recently declared networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) around their coasts and are currently deciding on how to manage them. However, there are concerns that the preferred option of both governments is to do little to actually restrict fishing within these MPAs despite good experience documented by countries such as the US. New research also confirms that this would be a wasted opportunity.
The first and only fully protected marine reserve in Scotland is Lamlash Bay marine reserve created 2008 off the Isle of Arran, following a decade-long campaign by the local Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) and it is this backing from the local community that has been crucial to its success. COAST assisted with the research and encouraged the community to keep a watchful eye on activities in the area. In other marine reserves illegal fishing has been a problem, but in this case any suspicious activity has been reported to the authorities and in several cases fishing boats have been encouraged to move on by COAST members.
A new study reports on monitoring surveys conducted inside and outside the marine reserve by researchers in the Environment Department at the University of York from 2010 to 2013. Over the course of this new study, the abundance of commercially important juvenile scallops was consistently higher within the reserve than outside. These scallops were strongly associated with seaweeds and other marine life thriving on the seabed within the protected area. The colleagues found strong evidence that protecting Lamlash Bay from fishing has allowed seaweeds, hydroids and other organisms on the seafloor to recover. These animals act as a magnet for settling juvenile scallops which seek out these habitats for shelter, and to mature to adulthood. Adult scallops showed benefits too. Their size and reproductive capacity was much higher inside the reserve by the end of the study. The resultant high level of breeding within the reserve is likely to be seeding the surrounding fishing grounds.
The authors conclude that protecting some areas from fishing activity can benefit both conservation and fisheries:
Overall, this study is consistent with the hypothesis that marine reserves can encourage the recovery of seafloor habitats, which, in turn, can benefit populations of commercially exploited species, emphasising the importance of marine reserves in the ecosystem-based management of fisheries.
Scallop fisheries are ideally suited to management using protected areas. This approach can protect sensitive habitats, which also act as nursery grounds for scallops and other species, while boosting the overall productivity of the fisheries. We urge the UK governments to create more highly protected areas which can provide this win-win scenario for the management of our oceans.