Fishing bans, such as the one saught for blue fin tuna by the World Wildlife Fund and the US government or New Zealand’s supposed ban on bottom trawling, can often be controversial. The conflict between conservationists wanting to protect our threatened marine resources and fishing communities trying to make a living can be a painful one. At least that is the perceived wisdom. However, the Guardian brings us an inspiring story about the Isle of Arran, off the coast of Scotland, where the fishing industry and conservationists have worked together to found the UK’s first community marine conservation site. It sounds like it has been a long time coming:
"It was the islanders who first raised concerns about the decline in fish and other marine life in the bay. Arran was once renowned for its fishing, with hundreds of sea anglers flocking to the island for its annual fish festival. That was decades ago when cod, haddock, hake, dab, plaice and turbot were plentiful in the waters of the Firth of Clyde.
Today the Clyde fishing fleet is a fraction of its original size, and the white fish have gone, leaving only prawns, langoustines and a dwindling stock of scallops. Islanders said the bed of the bay had been left barren after being dragged clean by dredgers — a claim refuted by the fishermen."
This concern led to a unique collaboration between all stakeholders, eventually resulting in the proposals for significant no-take zones to allow fish stocks to recover. Such zones have been set up before in the UK – a pilot project in 2003 around Lundy Island reported significant recovery in marine life after just 18 months. This is, however, the first time such an effort has been brought about through grassroots collaboration, rather than top-down planning. The result is a significant area of marine habitat that will be left undisturbed by fishing, with an even larger area set aside for strict management:
"Under the proposals, the result of a unique collaborative effort between the commercial fishermen and the islanders, 267 hectares of the bay will now be designated as a no-take zone, where fishing is banned, with a further 660 hectares set aside as a fisheries management area, subject to scientific regulation."
Given that the fishing industry relies on, well, fish, it is inevitable that moves must be made to reverse the horrific decline in our common marine resources. Let’s just hope these efforts don’t come too late. ::The Guardian::via site visit::