Benthic protection areas. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)
SFP releases report on best practices for benthic protection areas
Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 16:00 (GMT + 9)
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) this week launched a new report on best practices in protecting representative areas of the seabed (benthic habitats) that are important for conservation. “Benthic Protection Areas: Best Practices and Recommendations” draws on internationally agreed best practices for protected area network design, such as those endorsed by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and examines some of the current leading examples of benthic protection worldwide.
Benthic Protection Areas (BPA) afford habitat protection by limiting or eliminating direct fishing impacts to benthic habitats; they are not zero-fishing areas and can allow gear types that do not impact the seabed. A BPA network, which is a type of marine protected area (MPA), is an essential component of ecosystem-based fisheries management, SFP wrote.
A more systematic process, called protected area network design, maps habitats, species and ecological functions as well as resource use, and uses a participatory approach to identify how to protect a representative sample of habitats while minimising the impact on economic uses. The report draws on the best practices for this design.
The report includes best practices guidance to support fisheries and seafood supply chains working to create BPA networks as part of a strategy to address the impacts of bottom trawling and other harmful fishing practices. This requires, in part, that stakeholders work together to design and protect a representative network of vulnerable and important seabed areas.
In countries and fishing areas where the current regulatory and consultative processes are insufficient, SFP advises the creation of Ecosystem Improvement Projects to bring together stakeholders from the fisheries, NGOs, science, regulators and seafood supply chain.
While a BPA network is a critical part of the solution, other measures are required as well: SFP recommends that where bottom trawls and other bottom-impacting gears operate, technical gear modifications and other measures should be taken on to slash their impacts on the seafloor outside BPAs.
“In many cases there is a lack of agreed national or regional conservation objectives and a framework for identifying priorities for protection,” Jim Cannon, CEO of SFP, said. “This results in an ad hoc process where NGOs and industry square off over one disputed area after another, or NGOs call for a bottom trawl ban.”
“In our analysis, an approach that defines conservation objectives and an agreed framework for identifying protected areas can result in more constructive dialogue, and wider support for the resulting conservation measures among both NGOs and the catch sector. We hope this report provides useful general guidance to fisheries on how to design and implement BPA networks, and to the seafood supply chain on how to monitor and encourage their progress,” he added.
Over the last 4 years, SFP has been building a global fisheries online database, FishSource, to get actionable fisheries information in front of major seafood buyers and to build a network of contributors to share and update that information as they use the database for their research.
By Natalia Real