Buffer zone proposals will extend areas closed to fishing vessels in the three English HPMAs

The MMO announced last week a new consultation exercise on management and protection of the three HPMAs confirmed for English waters earlier this year – Allonby Bay in Cumbria, the Farne Deeps off Northumbria, and Dolphin Head in the English Channel, which runs along the median line with French/EU waters.

The consultation, which is open until 14 September, is, says the MMO, about ‘proposing specific management measures that will support the recovery of the HPMAs to a more natural state’.

The HPMAs themselves were formally designated on 3 July, but restrictions on fishing activity within them is unlikely ahead of further comprehensive legislation expected to be formalised in early 2024.

Defra has already confirmed that no form of extractive fishing activity will be allowed within HPMAs. However, no mention was made during the designation process of the creation of additional buffer zones around the areas.

The MMO proposal suggests a minimum 100m buffer around each HPMA, to prevent any sediment from fishing activities reaching the HPMAs themselves.

In addition, based on recommendations from English Nature, there is a suggestion of a minimum buffer zone to exclude fishing boats that is four times the water depth in areas shallower than 25m at ELWS, three times water depth in water depths of 25m to 200m, and two times the depth below 200m. This would suggest a minimum buffer zone around the whole of the Farne Deeps of an additional 300m, significantly extending the size of the no-go zone for mobile-gear vessels there.

Estimates made in the supporting documentation suggest that the net effect of the buffer zones would be to increase the size of the Farne Deeps closure to fishing vessels by 6%, and by 2% in Dolphin Head, unless the EU agreed to implement a buffer zone inside French/EU waters.

Announcing the consultation, Hilary Florek, chair of the MMO, said: “HPMAs will play a key role in helping to recover vital marine ecosystems around our coastline. With England’s first three HPMAs now officially designated, it’s MMO’s role to make sure activities including marine developments, fisheries and recreational marine activities are professionally managed in accordance with the high level of protection required by these sites.

“To achieve this, we are taking the first steps and proposing specific fishing management measures for HPMAs.”

Marine minister Lord Benyon said: “Highly Protected Marine Areas will make sure that important species and habitats are protected whilst building on our mission to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

“These management measures will help to support the full recovery of precious underwater environments, enhancing fish populations so that we can deliver on key environmental goals and targets while supporting a sustainable fishing industry.”

The consultation document is available at: bit.ly/3rWGcEs

Included with the proposals are a raft of documents, including statutory impact assessments and the draft byelaw.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.50 here

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