Section 3 State of the Environment
This section of the report provides a baseline assessment of the UK's marine and coastal characteristics and the current trends in key related biological and socio-economic indicators and its likely evolution without the EFF5. It then goes on to identify the main environmental issues relevant to fisheries and aquaculture development over the seven year planning period.
3.1 Baseline conditions and trends
In 2005 the fishing industry in the UK had 6,341 fishing vessels, with a further 381 vessels registered in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Some 708,000 tonnes of sea fish were landed into the UK and abroad by the UK fleet with a total value of £571 million. In addition the UK imported some £1,686 million of fish. The UK also exported fish and fish products to the value of £925 million. The UK has a substantial fish processing industry of around 573 businesses, which employ some 18,383 people. At the retail level there were approximately 1.3 thousand fishmongers in the year 2005. 85 per cent in volume and 80 per cent in value of chilled and frozen products were sold through supermarkets. This does not include canned produce. Fish is also consumed in restaurants and in 'take away' from fish and chip shops. A small proportion of the catch is used to make fish oils and animal feeds. Some of the species caught by UK fishing vessels find a better market abroad and these species are usually exported or landed directly abroad. In 2005, UK vessels landed directly into non- UK ports 216 thousand tonnes of sea fish with a value of £115 million (Marine and Fisheries Agency, 2007). Aquaculture in the UK directly employs some 3,980 people, increasing at around 5.4% per annum.
A number of broad environmental topics are identified in Schedule 2 of S.I. 1633 (2004). The main environmental elements relevant to the OP are examined below in terms of their current baseline conditions, historical trends and likely direction without implementation of the OP.
3.1.1 Biodiversity, flora and fauna
The main biological elements affected by fisheries are the target species being removed, the non-target species being impacted in terms of incidental catch, and the physical habitat and its biological communities being affected by controlled and abandoned / lost / discarded fishing gear ( ALDFG). These are examined in more detail below.
Target fish stocks
Each year the International Centre for Exploration of the Seas ( ICES) is asked by fisheries management bodies, such as the European Commission ( EC) and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission ( NEAFC), to provide advice on the status of fish stocks and on future catch levels. Increasingly that advice is sought and given in a form which provides for a precautionary approach to fisheries management. In recent years, some seriously depleted stocks have become the subject of emergency measures and recovery plan proposals. Since 2003, the TAC and fishing mortality limits for these stocks has been linked to effort control measures such as restricting the number of fishing days at sea. Since the 2002 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, efforts have been made to put stock management onto a long term basis and management plans have been developed for Western Channel sole, North Sea flatfish, and are being developed for West of Scotland herring. There are also joint long term management arrangements with Norway and other third countries for North Sea herring, saithe, haddock, blue whiting and mackerel. In the light of this and our obligation to the WSSD objectives ICES are developing target fishing mortality rates that are consistent with a large stock strategy.
The UK targets a wide range of demersal and pelagic fisheries. Many of these stocks are shared with other European nations and are managed accordingly. Demersal fisheries in the area are mixed fisheries, with many stocks exploited together in various combinations in different fisheries. In these cases management advice must consider both the state of individual stocks and their simultaneous exploitation in demersal fisheries. Stocks in the poorest condition, particularly those which suffer from reduced reproductive capacity, become the overriding concern for the management of mixed fisheries, where these stocks are exploited either as a targeted species or as a by-catch. The stocks below the Safe Biological Limits ( SBL) that are of particular concern for ICES are shown in Table 2, which indicates the spawning stock biomass and recruitment of age 1 fish over the period 2002 - 2006.
During the 1990s the percentage of fish stocks considered to be 'harvested sustainably' was no more than 20 per cent. By 2000 this was 10 per cent, but has increased to 35 per cent in 2005. Despite such increases, these trends show that around 70 to 75 per cent of fish stocks in seas around the UK have suffered reduced reproductive capacity and have been harvested unsustainably each year since 2001. These are briefly examined below.
According to ICES ( ICES, 2007a) most demersal stocks in the North Sea (IVabc) and Eastern Channel (VIId) are subject to quotas and other controls. In many cases, there is continuing concern over the state of the stocks with some notable exceptions. Key stocks include:
- Cod in the North Sea and Eastern Channel fishing mortality remains above target agreed in the recovery plan despite a marked reduction in fishing effort, although the most recent stock assessment did indicate a modest improvement. The future for gadoid fish is complicated by climate change that compounds the effects of fish mortality.
- Haddock in the North Sea is harvested sustainably and in full reproductive capacity. The long term management plan agreed with the EU and Norway has set a target fishing mortality that is consistent with a large stock strategy. This year the quota has been reduced because the fishing mortality remains above target.
- Anglerfish:, survey data indicate that biomass has been increasing over the 1997-2006 time-series and recruitment in 2001, 2002, and 2004 appear to be above average.
- Nephrops: the Moray Firth stock increased by around 40% in 2002, probably due to good recruitment in that year. Surveys indicate that the stock has been relatively stable since 2002, while length compositions in the catch have been relatively stable for 10 years. The Fladden stock is probably exploited sustainably ( ICES, 2007a).
- Plaice is also under a management plan but the stock is not considered healthy and has a reduced reproductive capacity.
- Sole ICES consider North Sea sole to be of reduced reproductive capacity. It too is under an agreed management plan with resulted in a reduction in quota in 2008. The 2007 advice for the eastern Channel stock indicated that the stock was healthy and fished sustainably.
- Less is known about status of whiting stocks, although it is considered overexploited. This stock has been difficult to assess. There seems to be high local variation within the stock but, despite anecdotal evidence of high abundance, the stock seems to be in decline.
- There is concern about the stocks of spurdog, porbeagle, and a number of skate and ray species mostly taken as bycatch in fisheries directed towards other species. Bycatch limits have been set for spurdog (5%) and skates and rays (25% for over 15m vessels) in the recent TACs and quotas regulation.
- There is concern about the overexploitation of North Sea herring, caused by the serial poor recruitment and increase in fishing effort.
Table 2: Key UK fish stock status indicators (2002 - 2006) for species of concern to ICES
A) North Sea
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 1) (million fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 0) (billion fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 1) (billion fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 1) (million fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 1) (million fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 0) (billion fish)
B) Irish Sea
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 0) (million fish)
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 2) (million fish)
C) West of Scotland
biomass ('000 tonnes)
Recruitment (age 1) (million fish)
Source:- WG reports and reports of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management 2006
Please note that (0) does not mean that there is no biomass or recruitment, but that the assessment was not accepted by ACFM.
In the Western Channel (VIIe), Western Approaches (VIIhjk) and Celtic Sea (VIIfg)
- Western Channel sole is under an agreed management plan because ICES consider the stock to be at increased risk due to high fishing pressure.
- VIIe-k cod stock is at a low level, but recent reductions in fishing effort mean they are harvested sustainably. The Trevose Head area closure has been designed to protect spawning concentrations of cod, and the EC intends to extend the recovery plan to this area (i.e. introduce effort limitations).
- Less is known about haddock where ICES recommend a limit on effort rather than TAC management.
- Plaice is generally overexploited and at increased risk relative to the precautionary limits.
- Anglerfish stocks are considered in an acceptable state, although they are overfished in relation to target reference points.
- Megrim stocks are also considered in an acceptable state, although again they are overfished in relation to target reference points.
Of the more widely distributed stocks in the North East Atlantic ecosystem, many are either overfished or uncertain, including:
- Mackerel:ICES consider the stock to be uncertain, partly because there used to be a large amount of 'unaccounted for removals (i.e. illegal fishing, discarding etc) which has been gradually addressed over the past couple of years, but is still impacting on the stock assessments.
- Herring stocks in the Celtic Sea are considered uncertain and precautionary management advised.
- Blue whiting is considered to be harvested unsustainably.
In the Irish Sea (VIIa):
- Nephrops is most important stock in the Irish Sea. There is no separate Irish Sea Nephrops assessment, but there is one for area VII. Nephrops advice is only produced every 2 years.
- Cod stocks in the Irish Sea are seriously depleted, and landings fell rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s. The fishing rate has been very high, but recent effort has rapidly decreased. Spawning stocks have fallen below the precautionary and the lower limit level. Cod is under a recovery plan and subject to seasonal closures.
- As a bycatch species of the Nephrops fishery, there was no whiting assessment in 2006 but long-term information on the historical yield and catch composition indicates that the present stock size is low.
- In the relatively new fishery for haddock, although no quantitative assessment could be made, indications are that the haddock stock is increasing.
- The plaice is in a healthy state with low fishing pressure consistent with a large stock strategy. Irish Sea plaice, although very important for a small contingent of the UK fleet, are not considered to be a key UK stock.
In West of Scotland (VIa):
- The state of herring stocks in the south are uncertain, although ICES recommend no fishing until a rebuilding plan is put in place. Herring stocks in VIa(north) are lightly exploited with a relatively stable biomass Cod SSB is at an all time low and a recovery plan has been put into place by the EC.
- In contrast haddock is at full reproductive capacity, although at risk of being over-exploited.
- Monkfish stock status is also unknown, although logbook and observer data suggest that it is not in decline ( ICES, 2007a).
- The status of Nephrops are uncertain but generally stable. This is an important stock and for the Nephrops fisheries in general, there has been an increase in fishing effort, particularly in the face of declining fishing opportunities whitefish.
Salmon: the ICES North Atlantic Salmon Working Group makes an annual assessment of the status of national stocks in the Northeast Atlantic ( NEAC) area as a basis for advising managers, where the pre-fishery abundance ( PFA) of salmon for each country (defined as the number of salmon alive in the sea on January 1 in the first sea winter) is estimated. The NEACPFA model suggests that, for salmon from rivers in England and Wales, the overall PFA has declined by over 60% from the 1970s to the present time. The majority of this decline has been in the non-maturing (i.e. potential MSW) component of the PFA, which is thought to have declined by over 70%, whilst the maturing (i.e. potential grilse) component has declined by about 40%. It should be noted that these trends mask conflicting changes in individual river stocks. Many rivers have experienced more serious declines but these are obscured by the very substantial improvements in others. The results also suggest that there was a marked decline in PFA around 1990, which is consistent with the general perception of a decrease in the marine survival for many stocks around the North Atlantic at this time ( CEFAS / Environment Agency, 2007). In Scotland the non-maturing component and maturing component of the PFA has declined by 70% and 60% respectively ( ICES, 2007b)
Eels: available information indicates that the stock is at a historical minimum in most of the distribution area and continues to decline. Fishing mortality is thought to be high both on juvenile (glass eel) and older eel (yellow and silver eel). Recruitment is at a historically low level (15% of the pre-1980 level) and most recent observations do not indicate recovery. Estimated total yield has declined to about half that of the mid-1960s ( ICES, 2006). At present the eel fishery is subject to byelaw and licence controls which do not limit size of catch in the same way that salmonids controls do. Effort controls are being sought under new national legislation. Under the EU Programme, River Basin Eel Management Plans have been developed with the target of achieving 40% escapement of adult silver eels. Reductions in fishing days may have to be considered if these escapement targets cannot be met (Environment Agency, 2007).
Smelt: a nationally uncommon species also known as sparling, smelt ( Osmerus eperlanus) have been reported from two Scottish sites that are both considered to be in favourable condition. However smelt are a commercial commodity and being predictable in their spawning behaviour are incredibly simple to catch. These factors mean that it is highly vulnerable to overfishing and this activity could eliminate the population in any given year. Furthermore, they are relatively weak swimmers, so river engineering or agricultural operations which reduce water quality could have a significant negative effect.
Target shellfish stocks
Native oyster: the importance of the species, both in terms of fisheries and cultivation outputs and as an indicator of the health of the marine and estuarine ecosystems, has warranted its designation as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan ( BAP) species. Although stocks remain at threat from Bonamia, there is cautious optimism that their overall status is improving.
Mussel: the mussel is of strategic importance to the shellfish production industry, both the fisheries and cultivation sectors. It is also unique in that it is the only commercial species found throughout inshore waters from estuaries to the edge of the continental shelf and capable of occupying multiple habitat types. Within the near shore environment, mussel stocks are subject to multiple pressures including those from commercial interests and nature conservation interests. Mussel populations are affected by the availability of sites, by limited supplies of seed mussel, and by the capricious nature of natural recruitment of mussels in some large estuaries (e.g. the Wash, where recruitment failed completely in the 1990s).
Scallop: scallop stocks in England are not assessed, and resources have been insufficient to undertake comprehensive surveys of the main stocks in the western Channel and Western Approaches, so there is no estimate of stock size for calculating a catch limit. The number of scallop vessels > 10 metres is limited by licensing, but not their fishing power, and the only other significant management measure is the minimum size. On a precautionary basis the Channel stocks are considered to be fully exploited whilst the Manx stocks are depleted (Bannister, 2006).
Cockle: cockles stocks vary considerably from year to year due to variations in spatfall, and require careful management to achieve sustainable fisheries. The large natural stocks in the main estuaries are surveyed and managed under Regulating Orders. Although the threat of a natural failure of recruitment (as occurred in the Wash in the 1990s) can never be removed, sustainability is being achieved in the Burry Inlet and the Thames Estuary, and the Wash stock is rebuilding. It is important to retain sustainability to alleviate nature conservations concerns about food for wading birds (Bannister, 2006).
Whelk: whelk fisheries have been developing regionally, and there may be some areas where further development could occur. The stocks are not assessed or monitored routinely, however, which limits the ability to evaluate the effects of fishing, and to assess development potential. There is concern that local stocks are vulnerable to overfishing for biological reasons (absence of larval drift, and low adult mobility, limit the chance of depleted areas being re-colonised). The EU minimum size is too small to be effective in most areas (Bannister, 2006).
Lobster: the native lobster is the most valuable shellfish species in terms of unit value and availability. Fishery stocks are typically fully exploited within inshore waters and measures are in place to control recruitment over-fishing. Whilst three are no signs of reduced recruitment, stocks are considered depleted in Northumberland and North Wales. The loss of specific habitat types in inshore waters is likely to have impacted on the ultimate capacity for stock levels, and in some instances enhancement has been attempted through deploying small scale artificial reefs.
Brown crab: brown crab fisheries have expanded in the western Channel and off the north-east and east coast. Most grounds accessible to the fisheries are known and fully utilised. The stocks are assessed, and appear to be fully exploited, tending towards growth overfishing. Females dominate the catches but there is no evidence of recruitment overfishing. The stocks are managed by regional technical measures and the new national licensing scheme.
Brown shrimp: Although some brown shrimp fishing occurs in the north-west, the main fishery is the autumn fishery in the Wash and along the coast of Lincolnshire, which produces shrimp for export to Holland. CEFAS studies show that abundance of fishable shrimp in the Wash has fluctuated considerably, but shows no overall trend. The brood strength of shrimp varies in relation to nutrients (positive effect), temperature (negative) and whiting abundance (negative).
The catch of non-target species as 'incidental catch' has been of concern to both fisheries managers as well as wider environmental interests for a number of years. At present most incidental catch is discarded with high levels of mortality - this has both effects on the fish stocks themselves as well as the ability of fisheries scientists to estimate true fishing mortality for stock management purposes. Bycatch is not restricted to non-target commercial fish species, but includes other non-commercial fish species, marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds and other, sometimes rare, endangered or threatened species.
Non-target species discards
The discard ratios presented show a predictable picture ( STECF, 2006): bycatch species are frequently discarded; target species vary between fleets, they can be targeted by one gear but be considered bycatch in others; beam and single trawl are one of the gears with high discard rates and in a wide range of the studied species, while other gears such as hooks, gill nets and trammel nets have low discards as they are more selective. Beam trawl is a non-selective gear, but also a very targeted fishery, and consequently beam trawl fisheries catch several species but only retain a few species. It is important to note that some of the bycatch species (such as pelagic species in demersal gears), although having a 100% discard rate are seldom caught and therefore the actual amounts discarded can be small.
In the North Sea, the important pelagic species and species fisheries have low discard rates. Nevertheless, total annual North Sea discards have been estimated to be between 500,000 tonnes (comprising 120,000 tonnes of roundfish, 200,000 tonnes of flatfish and 180,000 tonnes of benthic invertebrates) and 880,000 tonnes (Camphuysen, et al., 1995; Tasker, et al., 2000). Since 1981 there has been a tendency for the discard rate to increase ( EC, 2002) partly as a result of overfishing and high catches of juveniles, although recent declines in catch and effort means that the total quantity of discards may have decreased in recent years. High inter-annual variation in the total quantity of North Sea discards is closely related to the magnitude of the year classes of whiting, haddock and cod.
The discard ratios obtained show that the demersal trawl and seine discard most species considered were around 20%. Trammel nets discard around 40% of the catch of herring, horse mackerel, mackerel, mullets and whiting with year-to-year variability; while pelagic trawl have low discard rates of only pelagic species. Beam trawl discards between 40 to 60% of targeted and non-targeted species.
There is greater species diversity in waters of the Atlantic fisheries under the jurisdiction of EU members than the more northerly European waters. The dominance of demersal trawl gear and high discards by the important shrimp, Nephrops, and flatfish trawl fisheries are major factors that contribute to high aggregate discard rates in the EU Atlantic fisheries. Overfishing of demersal stocks is also a primary contributing factor to the high level of discards in many EU fisheries.
In the northern part of the North-east Atlantic (ie ICES areas (V, VI, XII, XIV), pair bottom trawl and Scottish seine discard between 20 to 40% of the catch of haddock, herring, mackerel, plaice, saithe and whiting. In ICES area VII (except the Eastern Channel VIId) trammel nets, pelagic trawl, Scottish seine and twin bottom trawl discard less than 20% of a small number of species. In contrast, beam trawl and single bottom trawl around 60 and 40% respectively of the majority of species considered. Single bottom trawls discard mainly herring, haddock and mackerel, while twin bottom trawls discard mostly anglerfish, herring, hake, horse mackerel, mackerel and whiting ( STECF, 2006).
Bycatch of non-commercial animals
Marine mammals: marine mammals can be divided into two groups in UK waters: whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) and seals ( pinnipeds). Although generally not considered to be marine mammals, otters also occur in estuarine and coastal waters. Otters have been caught and drowned in fyke nets set for eels and in creels/pots set for crustaceans. All fyke nets must now be fitted with otter guards which are provided by the Environment Agency. The introduction of mandatory otter guards in fyke nets has reduced the otter bycatch, but illegal nets still catch otters on an annual basis.
Very little data exists on the bycatch of seals in UK waters, but bycatch deaths are thought to be in the low hundreds per year. These are mainly grey seals associated with the herring and mackerel fisheries. In a recent study, 2% of tagged seals were killed in fishing gear, mainly gill and tangle nets. The effect of this bycatch level on the seal population is not thought to be significant. However, deaths from shooting and those associated with fish farms have not been taken into account and may be significant in some areas.
In contrast, cetaceans are one of the more high profile victims of accidental capture in fishing nets. It was estimated that almost 60,000 cetaceans are killed globally each year through entanglement in fishing gear. In European waters, there have been a number of studies of such incidental bycatch. These, though not complete or comprehensive, indicate that the bycatch of cetaceans is widespread, and may threaten the integrity of dolphin and porpoise populations. In particular, the harbour porpoise bycatch from bottom-set gill nets is estimated to be over 7,000 animals annually in the North Sea. This exceeds 2% of the population and is considered unsustainable. Dolphins tend to be caught more often in pelagic trawls. Observers recorded 91 common dolphins caught in 313 hauls in the pelagic trawl fisheries for bass (south west England) between 2001 and 2003. However, injuries and entanglement in broken warps etc may cause illness, starvation and death at a later date.
The UK is party to several agreements with legal obligations to protect small cetaceans, including the EU Habitats Directive, the Agreement of the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Sea ( ASCOBANS) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Technical, educational and legal measures can be taken to avoid or reduce cetacean by-catch. In March 2004, the EC introduced a new regulation aimed at reducing the bycatch of harbour porpoises in bottom set gillnets and entangling nets. From the summer of 2005, pinger use became mandatory on bottom-set gillnets or entangling nets in the North Sea and the Skaggerak & Kattergat region deployed from vessels greater than 12m in length. Similar rules were applied to the western English Channel and South Western Approaches from January 2006, and to the east English Channel from January 2007. This regulation also made provision for the monitoring of dolphin bycatch in trawl fisheries in the English Channel, Irish Sea and off western Britain and Ireland, and in the North Sea and west Scotland.
Seabirds: Much of the work examining seabird bycatch in longline fisheries has focused on the southern hemisphere and the Southern Ocean in particular. However, this method of fishing is expanding in European waters and rates of seabird bycatch (0.16 to 0.69 birds per 1,000 hooks set) are comparable to those observed elsewhere. Longliners in European waters have caught gannets ( Sula bassana), fulmers ( Fulmarus glacialis), Manx shearwaters ( Puffinus yelkouan), Cory's shearwaters ( Calonectris diomedea), Balearic shearwaters ( P. mauretanicus), Audouin's gulls ( Larus audouinni) and yellow legged gulls ( L. cachinnas). Bycatch tends to be highest in the vicinity of major breeding colonies, decreasing rapidly with distance from such sites. However, in recent years the industry has undergone major changes with the increased use of mitigation measures.
Sea turtles: marine turtles are prone to accidental capture by a wide variety of fishing methods. The highest known incidence of bycatch in UK and Irish waters is recorded for leatherback turtles in inshore pot fisheries and pelagic driftnets. The significance of marine turtle bycatch in the region is not known. Leatherback turtles are globally endangered however, and Spotila et al (1996) suggest that the effect of bycatch on Atlantic leatherback populations may be unsustainable. The primary sources of data for this region are records held in the database ' TURTLE' (Pierpoint, 1999). Additional data have been gathered from marine mammal and discard monitoring programmes. Most ' TURTLE' bycatch records involve the leatherback turtle (94% of records identified to species), the species most frequently reported from UK and Irish waters. There are a small number of records of loggerhead, Kemp's ridley and hawksbill turtles. The most common method of incidental capture for leatherback turtles is entanglement in rope, particularly those used in pot fisheries targeting crustaceans and whelk. Rope entanglement occurs predominantly between July and October, on the north, west and south-west coasts of the UK and the south and west coasts of Eire. Of 83 capture records since 1980, entanglement in rope accounts for 36 records, 62% of leatherback bycatch for which the method of capture was specified. Recorded mortality was 61%; 11 turtles are known to have been released alive (30.5%). There are no data on injury or post-release mortality.
Marine and coastal habitats and species
The seas of the United Kingdom extend to some 867,400 km 2. Of this, about 161,200 km 2 lies within territorial waters (including Rockall, but excluding the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), while the remainder extends over the continental shelf and some areas of the adjacent continental slope.
In coastal districts, and in the southern North Sea, the seas are shallow, usually less than 50 m in depth, while in the northern North Sea, the Channel, south-west approaches, Irish Sea and inshore waters off the western coast of Scotland, the seas are rather deeper, shelving to some 200 m depth at the upper edge of the continental shelf. West of St Kilda, and offshore from Shetland, the seabed descends rapidly to the foot of the continental shelf at about 1,000 m. Beyond this, the sea floor is interrupted by a number of banks and seamounts. Further offshore still, a succession of deep-water banks and troughs descend to an extreme depth of over 3,000m, 200 miles west of Rockall ( CHM, 2002).
The UK coastline encompasses almost all types of temperate intertidal habitat, from hyper-saline and brackish lagoons, estuaries, coastal marsh and mudflats, shingle and sand dunes, sea cliffs to sandy and rocky shores with every degree of exposure and widely varying profile. Some sections of the coastline are unspoilt and contain internationally important examples of habitats and species. Other areas are the focus for intense human activity which can affect the natural environment. At present six percent of UK territorial waters are covered as a Special Area of Conservation under the Natura 2000 system (see table below and box overleaf).
Table 3: Area of SACs and SPAs in the UK
Area of SACs (including, for the purposes of this table, SACs, SCIs and cSACs) in each part of the , and actual and percentage land area within the SAC series, with a comparison for SPAs, and the total area of Natura 2000 sites in the UK (May 2006)
England & Scotland
England & Wales
Total national land area (km 2) (incl. inland water)
Total area of UK territorial waters (km 2)
Number of SACs
Total SAC area (km 2)
SAC land area (km 2)
% SAC of total land area
Total area of SACs in territorial waters (km 2)
% SAC cover of UK territorial waters
Number of SPAs
Total SPA area (km 2) (classified/designated SPAs)
Total area contained within Natura 2000 sites (km 2)
Total land area within Natura 2000 sites (km 2)
Total % N2K land cover
Source: JNCC ( http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1483)
Box 1: Natura 2000
Natura 2000 (N2K) is a European network of protected sites which represent areas of the highest value for natural habitats and species of plants and animals which are rare, endangered or vulnerable in the European Community. The Natura 2000 network will include SACs and SPAs:
Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs):SACs are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive. Article 3 of the Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network of important high-quality conservation sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving the 189 habitat types and 788 species identified in Annexes I and II of the Directive (as amended). The listed habitat types and species are those considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds) ( http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-23) .
EU regularly reviews how the directive is being implemented and will report member states to the Commission and European Court for non-compliance. Activities undertaken in such sites (e.g. aquaculture development) are subject to much greater interrogation of impacts.
Marine Special Areas of Conservation can be both intertidal and sub-tidal areas, and also land adjacent to the shore where it is used by marine species (Boyes, Warren & Elliott, 2003). In relation to marine areas, regulation 3(3) of the states that any "competent authority having functions relevant to marine conservation shall exercise those functions so as to secure compliance with the requirements of the Habitats Directive".
SAC designation requires Member States to establish conservation measures which correspond to the ecological requirements of Annex I habitats and Annex II species present on the site (Article 6.1), and to take appropriate steps to avoid deterioration of the natural habitats and habitats of species, as well as significant disturbance of species, for which the site is designated (Article 6.2). This includes the appropriate assessment of the implications of any plans or projects that, alone or in combination, are likely to have a significant effect on the site in view of the site's conservation objectives (Article 6.3). If a negative assessment is concluded, a plan or project can only proceed if it is for imperative reasons of overriding public interest and no alternative solutions are possible, and the Member State must take compensatory measures to ensure the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network (Article 6.4).
Special Protection Areas ( SPAs):SPAs are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/ EEC), also known as the Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979. They are classified for rare and vulnerable birds, listed in Annex I to the Birds Directive, and for regularly occurring migratory species ( http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-162 ).
The Directive provides a framework for the conservation and management of, and human interactions with, wild birds in Europe. It sets broad objectives for a wide range of activities, although the precise legal mechanisms for their achievement are at the discretion of each Member State. In particular, Article 1 of the Directive states that:
1. This Directive relates to the conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies. It covers the protection, management and control of these species and lays down rules for their exploitation.
2. It shall apply to birds, their eggs, nests and habitats 6."
The location of the existing SACs and SPAs in the UK are provided in the Figure below.
Figure 2: UK Natura 2000 Network sites ( SAC & SPA) with marine components
Offshore sites: at present there are no SACs, SCIs or cSACs in UK offshore waters. However, there are seven possible SACs and one draft offshore site that has not yet been submitted to the European Commission. New regulations, the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats & c. 7) Regulations have now extended the area over which SPA and SAC sites need to be identified to waters within British fishery limits and the seabed within the UK Continental Shelf area. Responsibility for the identification of such offshore sites rests with the JNCC.
Lat 58.9895° N
Long 1.4826° W
Lat 59.7583° N
Long 7.2167° W
Lat 50.2592° N
Long 7.7830° W
North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef
Lat 53.34° N
Long 2.13° E
Lat 58.2833° N
Long 0.9667° W
Lat 56.2508° N
Long 7.9369° W
Wyville Thomson Ridge
Lat 59.9735° N
Long 6.7149° W
Marine fauna in the UK is rich and varied; of the 624 scarce or rare plants in Great Britain, 121 occur in coastal habitats. Marine and Coastal Habitats and Species Action Plans have been developed by the UK Biodiversity Group. Species Action Plans include species of mammal, reptile, fish, crustacean, molluscs, polychaetes, algae, coral and stoneworts.
Eight species listed on Annex II to the Habitats Directive are known to occur in UK waters away from the coast:
- Bottlenose dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus)
- Harbour porpoise ( Phocoena phocoena)
- Grey seal ( Halichoerus grypus)
- Common seal ( Phoca vitulina)
- Sea lamprey ( Petromyzon marinus)
- Allis shad ( Alosa alosa)
- Twaite shad ( Alosa fallax)
- Otter ( Lutra lutra)
Otter and river lamprey occur only in inshore and inland waters. Lamprey, sturgeon and shad are all rare in UK offshore waters and without regular places of occurrence. Loggerhead turtle is primarily a tropical and subtropical species which may wander into temperate waters and is recorded infrequently in UK waters. No sites 'essential to their life and reproduction' are likely to be identifiable for these Annex II species in waters away from the coast.
For the two seal species, coastal SACs have already been designated in the UK to protect breeding colonies and moulting and haul out sites, and three SACs have been designated for bottlenose dolphin within UK territorial waters. The UK currently has no proposed SACs for harbour porpoise.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan Species
The UK List of Priority Species and Habitats was comprehensively revised in June 2007 and the revised list has been adopted by the governments of the four UK administrations. This list, a result of the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken in the UK, contains 1149 species and 65 habitats that have been listed as priorities for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan ( UKBAP). The process to refine the priority actions will be achieved through a consultation period extending until February 2008 ( UK Biodiversity Action Plan, 2007). A report by the Biodiversity Reporting and Information Group suggests actions to address their conservation concern (Biodiversity Reporting and Information Group, 2007). This report identifies 43 species that fall under the action category requiring Fisheries control measures/policy and legislation.
The tables below summaries the freshwater and marine species in the new list of UK priorities.
Table 4: Freshwater and Marine Species in the List of UK Priorities
No. of taxa on new list
No. also on existing UKBAP list
Total no. of taxa
Table 5: List of Priority Freshwater Fish Species Listed in the UKBAP 2007
II & IV
II & V
* Action plan for this species is being updated.
A summary of each species with an action plan is included below:
Common sturgeon: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Allis shad: This species is found along the coasts of Western Europe, from southern Norway to Spain, and in the Mediterranean eastwards to northern Italy. It occurs mainly in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, but in the breeding season may penetrate large rivers to spawn. The population of this fish has declined significantly throughout Europe. In the UK adult fish occur in small numbers round the coast in most years. Although it may breed in the Solway Firth, there is no definite evidence of spawning stocks at present. It may now only breed in a few French rivers. The Allis shad is protected under Schedule 5 of the WCA 1981.
Current factors causing loss or decline include: pollution; overfishing; habitat destruction; and artificial river obstructions.
Twaite Shad: The twaite shad occurs along the west coast of Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and in the lower reaches of a few large rivers along these coasts. It has declined in many parts of Europe: in the UK it is now virtually absent in several rivers where it is believed previously to have spawned. Rivers which still have spawning stocks include the Wye, Usk, Severn and Tywi. It may also spawn in river mouths around the Solway Firth, the only known area around Scotland where mature fish are found each summer.
Current factors causing loss or decline include: pollution; barriers in rivers and estuaries; overfishing and habitat destruction.
European eel: The status of eel stocks is summarised in Section 3.1.1. There is no BAP plan as yet.
Spined loach: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Vendace: In the UK, the vendace has only been known to occur in four lakes: two in Scotland and two in England. The Scottish populations were formerly described as a distinct species, however, one population has not been recorded since shortly after a local sewage works was opened in 1911, and the species has not been recorded at the other site for over a decade, so that population may also be regarded as extinct. In 1966, vendace were found to be common in Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater in Cumbria. Since then further specimens have been taken under licence for research. The vendace is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Current factors causing loss or decline include pollution, in particular eutrophication caused by nutrient enrichment; and habitat destruction.
Pollan: In the UK, the pollan occurs only in Lough Neagh and Lower Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. It could also be found in Upper Lough Erne, but there are no recent records of that population which must now be considered extinct. The species has declined in Lower Lough Erne over the past two decades to such an extent that is not easy to find specimens. The Lough Neagh population still supports a local commercial fishery. Elsewhere, populations may be found in Loughs Ree and Derg, and on the Shannon system in the Irish Republic. Little is known about the status or abundance trends of these populations. Genetically similar species occur in Russia (known as Omul), and in Arctic Canada and Alaska (known as Arctic Cisco). Current factors causing loss or decline include eutrophication of lake habitats; competition with introduced roach ( Rutilus rutilus); and commercial exploitation.
Whitefish: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
River lamprey: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Burbot: The burbot is the only fish known to have become extinct in Great Britain in recent centuries. It was restricted to rivers in eastern England from County Durham to the Great Ouse. There has been no authenticated record of the species in the UK for over 50 years. The burbot has a northern circumpolar distribution, occurring in clean lakes and rivers throughout much of northern Europe, Asia and North America. In Europe it is known from 19 countries, but is considered substantially threatened in several of these. The burbot is given special protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is neither listed on Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive nor Annex III of the Bern Convention.
Current factors causing loss or decline: Despite debate over the last two decades, there is no consensus on the reasons for the extinction of the burbot in England. Certainly, all the rivers from which the species was previously recorded still contain fish. One of the objectives of its action plan is to seek a consensus view on the most likely causes, using evidence from England and continental Europe.
Smelt: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Sea lamprey: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Atlantic salmon: A summary of the status of salmon has been presented in Section 3.1.1. No BAP is available for salmon as yet.
Brown/Sea trout: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Arctic charr: No BAP is available for this species as yet.
Of the marine species in the UKBAP, there are 36 species that required common measures for protection. These species have been assembled in Grouped Species Action Plans (see Table 6) and these are summarized below.
All species of cetaceans are protected under schedule 5 in both the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. All whales are listed on Annex A of EU Council Regulation 338/97 and therefore treated by the EU as if they are on CITES, Appendix I, thus prohibiting their commercial trade. They are listed in Appendix I of CITES (except for Balaenoptera acutorostrata population of West Greenland which is on Appendix II), Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive. Whaling is illegal in UK waters (Fisheries Act 1981) but neighbouring countries maintain the right to hunt. The UK recognises only the authority of the International Whaling Commission ( IWC) in matters concerning the regulation of whaling.
Some species are deep-water migratory whales present in all oceans and latitudes. Whaling during the late 19th and 20th century greatly reduced its abundance. Their abundance has been reduced through whaling during the 19 th and 20 th centuries.
Blue whale: There is some evidence of recovery from this and other whaling in the central-north Atlantic. Although rarely seen in UK waters except along the shelf edge, sightings data and recent studies using bottom-mounted hydrophone arrays indicate their presence in waters to the west and north of the UK for most of the year.
Fin whale: In UK waters sightings data and recent studies using bottom-mounted hydrophone arrays indicate that fin whales are generally confined to the shelf edge and are most frequently seen in summer.
Sei whale: Current status is uncertain and is generally considered a rare species in UK waters. Recent sightings data have added to our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of Sei whales off the UK although confusion in identification may occur with fin whales.
Table 6: List of Priority Marine Mammal, Reptile and Fish Species Listed in the UKBAP 2007
Baleen whales (6)
Northern right whale
Toothed whales (7)
Northern bottlenose whale
Cuvier's beaked whale
Sowerby`s beaked whale
True`s beaked whale
Long-finned pilot whale
Small dolphins (6)
Atlantic white-sided dolphin
Marine turtles (5)
Kemp's ridley turtle
Commercial marine fish (8)*
Cod ( NS, EC, CS, WS)
Hake ( NS, CS, WS)
Herring ( NS)
Saithe ( NS, WS)
Whiting ( CS)
Mackerel ( NS)
Plaice ( NS, EC, ECW, BC)
Sole ( NS, EC, ECW, BC, IS)
Deepwater fish (3)
* Status of stocks in 1997 ( ICES, 2005): NS = North Sea; EC = English Channel, ECW = English Channel West; BC = Bristol Channel; CS = Celtic Sea; WS = West Scotland; IS = Irish Sea
Minke whale: A common migratory species present in all oceans. Fairly common in UK waters north of about 55° and in the South-West Approaches, particularly in summer. The abundance was estimated at 8500 in the North Sea and adjacent waters in summer 1994 and at 110,000 in the eastern north Atlantic in summer 1995. Recent sightings data have added to our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of Minke whales in UK waters and adjacent offshore areas.
Humpback whale: In the north Atlantic humpback whales feed mainly in coastal waters in high latitudes, including off Norway and Iceland in summer. There is evidence of recovery from whaling, and abundance in the North Atlantic was estimated at 10-15,000 in 1992/93. The few but regular sightings in recent could be indicative of a return of the humpback whale to UK waters.
Northern right whale: A very rare species in the North Atlantic as a result of hunting from the 11th century to the 20th century. Currently believed to number no more than 300 individuals and there is no evidence of recovery. Ship strikes and fisheries entanglements cause mortality off North America. This species is extremely rare or possibly extinct in the eastern north Atlantic.
An Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic and North Seas ( ASCOBANS), formulated in 1992, has now been signed by seven European countries, including the UK. Under the Agreement, provision is made for protection of specific areas, monitoring, research, information exchange, pollution control and heightening public awareness. Although aimed primarily at dolphins and porpoises, ASCOBANS includes all toothed whales except the sperm whale. The northern bottlenose whale is also listed on Appendix II of the Bonn Convention, as are Eastern North Atlantic populations of the killer whale and the North Sea and Baltic Sea populations of the long-finned pilot whale.
The present status of each of the toothed whale species is unknown and therefore, it is difficult to evaluate any population changes. All toothed whales spend most of their time offshore where they are likely to be relatively little affected by human disturbance, coastal fisheries and pollution. In general, factors affecting loss or decline are not well understood. However, concerns have been raised about contaminants, traditional drive fisheries, acoustic disturbance and interactions with fisheries. Global climate change may also have an effect on toothed whales, although effects on marine mammals are very difficult to predict.
Pilot whales may be particularly vulnerable as their social behaviour makes them suitable for herding and in the past, thousands were taken in the Faeroe Islands drive fishery between 1970 and 1992. Killer whales in particular enter nearshore UK waters during the summer, where they may be exposed to a number of human activities that may be detrimental to them, for example disturbance from recreational craft including whale-watching vessels.
Fisheries, particularly for cephalopods, may affect the abundance or availability of prey species for toothed whales, as may do fisheries for other deep-water species. There have also been cases of sperm whale, Cuvier`s beaked whale, killer whale, and long-finned pilot whale becoming entangled in fishing gear, both in the UK, particularly in the North Sea, as well as in the Mediterranean but the scale of the problem is unknown.
The present status for each of the dolphin species occurring in UK waters is not known sufficiently to evaluate properly the extent to which population changes have taken place. However, four main human activities are recognised as currently likely to be detrimental to dolphins: a) activities leading to ecosystem changes; b) interactions with fisheries; c) boat activities; and d) contaminant inputs.
Ecosystem changes resulting from the widespread over-exploitation of marine biological resources in European waters have the potential to affect energy budgets and thence reproduction and survival of all UK dolphin species.
Fisheries: All the dolphin species considered here have been recorded as by-catches of various fisheries. There is evidence of substantial numbers of dolphins (mainly common and Atlantic white-sided dolphins) caught in pelagic trawls (targeting tuna, hake, bass, horse mackerel, mackerel and herring) in the south-west approaches to the English Channel and Celtic Sea.
Boat activities including merchant shipping, seismic, military and recreational activities in coastal waters pose threats to dolphins by direct physical damage (collisions, and propeller damage) and by the sounds introduced into the environment, where potential harm may be caused by direct auditory damage at close distances and interference with navigation, food-finding, and communication further away. The English Channel is one of the most intensively used waterways in the world, and the North and Irish Seas are not far behind. In recent years, seismic activities have started in the Irish Sea, parts of the Channel, and along the Atlantic Frontier, west and north of Scotland and Ireland, following earlier emphasis on the northern and central North Sea.
Contaminants including organocholorines, may effect the reproductive potential or cause immune-suppression in marine mammals, including dolphins. High concentrations of bio-accumulating chemicals have been detected in the tissues of marine mammals, and long-lived animals such as cetaceans are more at risk of accumulative heavy pollution burdens than shorter-lived ones. In Cardigan Bay, a few years ago the body of a dead bottlenose dolphin calf was found to have one of the highest levels of contaminants such as PCBs, DDT and mercury ever found in a mammal.
Global climate change may also have an effect on small dolphins but effects on marine mammals are very difficult to predict.
Current factors causing decline in marine turtles include over-harvesting of turtles for meat or eggs abroad, mainly in the vicinity of nesting areas in tropical and sub-tropical regions. This is the major cause of decline in the waters of UK Overseas Territories. Detrimental impacts of the tourist industry (such as the construction of tourist developments along egg-laying beaches, the purchase of curios made from turtle products) and other development pressures on turtle populations abroad. Collisions between turtles and boats and damage caused to the turtles by propellers. Incidental capture and drowning of turtles resulting from a range of fishery practices and detrimental impacts of trawling techniques on seagrass beds.
Pollution, particularly marine debris which can be ingested by turtles at sea or which cause obstructions on beaches to nesting females and hatchlings. Predation on eggs by various species may be increasingly significant on beaches where predator numbers may be increased or concentrated through human activities. Disease is a major cause of decline for the green turtle.
Commercial marine fish
Very few, if any of the marine fish species exploited commercially by UK fishermen are believed to be in immediate danger of biological extinction as they are found across wide geographic areas. Within these wide distributions, however, there are local stocks of fish subject to excessive exploitation and risk of collapse even though the species itself may not be in immediate danger. Such a collapse would represent a reduction in the natural range of the species and effective action to minimise this risk is required under the UKBAP. For these reasons, the action plan for commercial marine fish is aimed at particular stocks rather than the species as a whole. Stocks contribute to the species' overall gene pool and it is therefore important to maintain them.
The stocks of immediate relevance are those which ICES assesses are below SBL. Furthermore, this grouped action plan reflects the fact that the majority of species are caught in mixed, i.e. multi-species, fisheries rather than directed single species fisheries. Fish with stocks close to or below SBL, in the most recent years for which information is available, are listed in Table 2. The spawning stock biomass of the saithe stock is at an all-time recorded low and there is a high probability that the same will be true for the cod stock within the medium-term.
Much of the available information on the deepwater fish and their fisheries has been assembled by the ICES Study Group on the Biology and Assessment of Deep-Sea Fisheries Resources. The majority of the deep water species are considered highly migratory and straddling stocks. Responsibility for their management falls to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission ( NEAFC). There are currently not many details for the landing statistics relating to catches by species, fleets and gear and the biological status of the stocks.
The possible state of the stocks for some of the exploited species is summarised as follows:
- Blue ling: Biomass considered to be below Upa 8 and at or slightly below Ulim.
- Roundnose grenadier: At present considered to be within safe biological limits.
- Black scabbardfish: Unknown.
- Orange roughy: Biomass considered to below safe biological limits (below Ulim) in ICES area VI and below Upa in area VII.
At present, the only management measure applied to the deep-water fisheries is the regulation of total fishing effort by EU vessels and Total Allowable Catch for monkfish/angler fish.
Fishing, aquaculture and seafood process activities are primarily based in rural and coastal communities. Thus, the sector provides a vital source of employment in these communities. Fishing activities and seafood processing is concentrated in coastal counties such as Humberside, SW England, Fleetwood in England and Peterhead, Fraserburgh, the Shetlands, Stornaway and Ayr in Scotland and Kildee and Portavogie in Northern Ireland and their hinterlands are heavily dependent on the seafood processing and services industries (see table overleaf). Aquaculture activities are concentrated at coastal locations in the west coast of the Scottish highlands and islands (salmon and rope-grown mussels), south-east and south-west England, NW Wales and the Wash (shellfish) and inland areas (trout).
With the decline in fleet size and landings has come a reduction in the number of fishers. Additional reasons include a declining willingness of the younger generation to work at sea and declining earnings relative to other opportunities 9. This decline was particularly marked over 1997 to 2003 but appears to have stabilised since then and actually rose slightly over 2005 - 2006 (see figure overleaf).
Figure 3: No. of fishers and fleet size (1997 - 2006)
Data derived from MFA, 2007
Although the number of fishers has declined, those employed by processing and aquaculture have increased - from 17,682 to 18,180 and 2,727 to 3,582 respectively over the aggregate periods 1996-1998 to 2002 - 2003 (Saltz et al, 2006). Although there is scope for further cuts in capacity and fishing effort, it is expected that, without the OP, employment in the sector is likely to remain static or possibly suffer a further minor decline.
3.1.3 Human health
Seafood consumption in the UK has gradually risen over the past five years from 144 g per person per week to 168g over 2005 / 2006, especially for fresh and prepared fish products, although frozen seafood consumption has dropped over the same period. Expenditure of seafood has risen similarly (see table below), especially on prepared products.
Table 7: Fish purchases and expenditure in the UK (2000 - 2006)
Processed and Shell
Prepared, including fish products
Frozen, including fish products
Source: Expenditure & Food Survey / National Food Survey (scaled and adjusted for comparison with EFS)
Table 8: Number of Fishermen by Region (2005 - 2006)
England & Wales
Scrabster & Wick
Mallaig & Portree
Source: Marine and Fisheries Agency (2007).
Direct benefits: seafood has recognised health benefits in terns of cardiovascular disease prevention (coronary heart disease, sudden death, stroke, etc), neuro-development (fetal, infant, child development and adult cognitive function) as well as other health outcomes (cancer prevention, improved mental health and behaviour, muscular and skeletal development and improved immune system performance. In particular, there is evidence that suggests association between EPA and DHA omega3 fatty acids in fish and reduced risk of cornary heart disease (2005 Dietary Guidelines). Recent research from the Avon Longitudinal Study Group has shown that omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish - particularly oily fish - are associated with boosting children's future brain power and social skills. However in the UK, pregnant women are advised not to eat more than two tuna steaks a week (weighing about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or four medium-size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can) because of the levels of mercury. Oily farmed fish such as salmon and trout also bioaccumulate lipophilic Persistent Organic Pollutants ( POPS) such as PCBs, dioxins and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers ( PBDEs) should they be present in the feed components (Hites, et al, 2004).
Indirect benefits: the Environment Agency estimates suggest that the annual economic activity associated with angling is up to £2.75 billion, employing around 20,000 people either full or part-time (Environment Agency, 2006). The Agency claims that truancy rates and anti-social behaviour have fallen greatly, while self-esteem and educational achievement have gone up significantly among young people who have taken part in specialist angling projects.
Soils occupy a somewhat unique position in earth heritage environmental assessment, because they are not explicitly covered by any of the existing designated area legislations in Britain. Because soils do not fit neatly into a site-based framework, they can be overlooked in environmental assessment ( SNH, 2005). The position of soils at the interface between the geosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere further compounds this, as they cannot be easily compartmentalised. They also play an important part in biodiversity conservation, so it is vitally important that soils information is included as an integral part of the environmental assessment process, not only because changes to soils can have subsequent effects on other parts of ecosystems, such as vegetation composition and watercourses, but also because of the intrinsic value of the soil resource in its own right.
The fisheries and aquaculture sectors have the potential to affect soils, mainly through the development of terrestrial sites for land-side facilities in port areas as well as the construction of buildings on green field sites. These are briefly examined below.
Port and harbour development: with a general shortage of coastal land suitable for port development, many recent schemes have required reclamation of bay areas or extensive landscaping of existing shorelines. This may impact soil condition (especially salinity levels) as well as introducing other forms of contamination and affecting soil strength and stability. It is not possible to determine baseline conditions at this study scale, and site by site assessments should be undertaken where appropriate.
Construction of new building facilities: the construction of new buildings will inevitably result in the displacement of soil, either to elsewhere on the site or away from the site entirely. If soil is displaced within the site, this might affect the drainage (due to compaction and homogenisation) and other characteristics of the site, as well as releasing contaminants if present. If soil is removed from the site, off site effects will need to be assessed. In green field sites, soil loss, contamination and structure damage to the soil system as a whole are all potential issues.
The EC Shellfish Waters Directive aims to protect or improve shellfish waters in order to support shellfish life and growth, therefore contributing to the high quality of shellfish products directly edible by man. It sets physical, chemical and microbiological water quality requirements that designated shellfish waters must either comply with ('mandatory' standards) or endeavour to meet ('guideline' standards). The original Shellfish Waters Directive (79/923/ EC), adopted on 30 October 1979, was repealed by the codified Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/ EC), adopted on 12 December 2006.
Defra is committed to improving water quality to a level where all designated shellfish waters can support at least 'class B' production areas (see Related Legislation). This is regarded as an achievable interim target towards meeting the guideline faecal coliform standard for shellfish flesh quality under the Shellfish Waters Directive, providing significant environmental benefits as well as benefits to the shellfish industry.
The Directive will be repealed in 2013 by the EC Water Framework Directive. When this occurs, the Water Framework Directive must provide at least the same level of protection to shellfish waters (which the WFD classifies as protected areas) as the Shellfish Waters Directive does.
There are currently 98 designated shellfish waters in England, 108 in Scotland, 26 in Wales and 9 in Northern Ireland, a total of 241 shellfish waters in the UK. Shellfish waters are formally designated under the Shellfish Waters Directive through the issue of a Notice and Schedule. Generally, shellfish water quality has been improving. Over the last five years an average of 93% of shellfish waters reached the standards of the Shellfish Directive. In 1991 this figure was just 44 per cent. In 2004, only 11 out of the 224 shellfish waters in England and Wales did not meet the standards set by the Shellfish Directive. In England and Wales, over the past five years the main change has been the increase in the number of Class C waters being upgraded to Class B (see figure below).
Figure 4: Shellfish Water Classifications in England and Wales (2001 - 2005)
Source: Cefas, 2005
Between 1990 and 2005 the percentage of rivers of good biological quality in England rose from 60 to 71 per cent. In 2005, 56 per cent of rivers in Northern Ireland and 80 per cent of rivers in Wales were of good biological quality (see figure below).
Figure 5: Rivers of good biological quality, 1990 to 2005
In Scotland some 78% of rivers, 98% of estuaries and 99% of coastal waters are currently classified as either excellent or good quality. The situation has continued to improve from that reported by SEPA in 1996 ( SEPA, 1996) and 1999 ( SPA, 1999). The amount of poor quality or seriously polluted (class C and D) rivers, estuaries and coastal waters has declined by 16%, 44% and 57% respectively since 2000. The situation will change when the classification scheme is amended and the monitoring changed (see www.sepa.org.uk/wfd/monitoring/index.htm) to meet the more wide-ranging requirements of the Water Framework Directive
Table 9: Water quality classification in Scotland (2005)
Trend (excellent and good quality combined) since 2000
8,004 km (31%)
12,053 km (47%)
Not possible to make direct comparisons due to sampling site changes
692 km2 (86%)
95 km2 (12%)
11,103 km (94%)
579 km (5%)
735 km2 (78% or 123 in number)
8% decrease (since 1995)
Designated bathing waters (60)
Designated shellfish growing waters (104)
Designated salmonid waters (205)
*Greater than 1 km2 in area. Data from 2000 classification.
Source: SEPA (2007)
3.1.6 Water, air and climate
In general, the UK fisheries and aquaculture industries are not considered highly polluting industries. The three areas of highest risk - waste water production from aquaculture, water usage by processing and fuel consumption by the UK fishing fleet - are examined further below.
Waste water from aquaculture
In waste management terms, the cage aquaculture of salmonids - principally salmon in marine waters - are the main point source of pollution from aquaculture that is difficult to control. Despite this, considerable progress has been made in reducing both the input of nutrients through better feeding practises and improved dietary formulation, as well as siting farms where the assimilative capacity is relatively high.
Based on loadings estimates for 2005, salmon farming contributed 12% of the total nitrogen input to Scotland's waters and 14% of the phosphorus input ( SEPA, 2007). Earlier figures ( OSPAR, 2000) suggest that this might be higher at around 27% each. As this was based on around 76,000 tonnes production in 1995, current levels might be significantly higher given that 2006 salmon production was around 131,000 tonnes.
Table 10: Contribution of aquaculture to total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) loads in selected European countries
Total load (t)
Load from aquaculture (t)
Contribution from aquaculture (%)
Norway (North + Norwegian Seas)
Source: Calculation based on total production ( FAOFISHSTAT Plus), total Nutrient Loads ( OSPAR 2002 & HELCOM 1998) and waste nutrients proportion of production ( OSPAR 2000) presented in EEA Indicator Fact Sheet FISH3 (Aquaculture production), 2004.
Some areas of the west of Scotland, particularly those with small catchment areas and low levels of human habitation, aquaculture inputs represented the majority of the total direct nutrient inputs. Direct inputs of nutrients to west coast marine waters are, however, insignificant compared with the nutrients transported to the area on oceanic and coastal currents.
A review (Tett and Edwards, 2002) of the occurrence of harmful algal blooms confirmed that the present level of fish farming is having only a small effect on the growth rate of phytoplankton (not a cause for concern except in a few heavily-loaded sea lochs). Additional work to review the eutrophication status of Scottish coastal waters in relation to fish farming ( FRS, 2003) found that neither winter nutrient concentrations nor summer chlorophyll a levels exceeded the assessment criteria (50% above background in any of the areas surveyed).
Solid waste management
A Seafish survey in 2004 identified that approximately 312,875 tonnes of seafood processing waste is produced each year in the UK (Seafish, 2005). Approximately 80% (249,950 tonnes) of this is finfish waste whereas 20% (62,925 tonnes) is shellfish. A further 28,000 tonnes is dumped at sea from on-board processing. Scottish aquaculture produces around 6-8,000 tonnes of farm mortalities and a further 52,400 tonnes processing waste (Mack et al, 2004).
Figure 6: Location and volume (t) of finfish and shellfish waste production in the UK
Source: Seafish, 2005
The majority of finfish processors have access to fishmeal and other income generating routes, which currently generate approximately £5.5 million each year. However in regions including Central Scotland, Northern Ireland, East and South-West England, finfish processors largely pay to dispose of waste. Current disposal costs are approximately £1.85 million each year. In these regions, they are concerned that the situation will get worse and costs will rise significantly in future (Seafish, 2005).
The shellfish industry largely pays to dispose of its waste through a number of routes, although landfill is still the major route for shellfish waste disposal across all the UK. Current disposal costs are approximately £2.7 million each year. Over 80% of shellfish processors expect the situation to get worse when landfill is no longer available, as there is limited availability of alternative waste management facilities at the moment. Costs are expected to rise significantly as processors may have to transport waste further to suitable outlets.
Fish processing uses a lot of water. No figures could be found on the overall consumption of water, but unit values for standard fish processing methods could be considered as baseline values (see table overleaf):
Table 11: Water use for white fish processing
Water used to produce one tonne of white fish fillets (m 3/tonne)
Defrosting and filleting
Defrosting, filleting and enrobing
Source: ETBPP, 1999
Fuel consumption and air pollution
Seafish estimates that the entire UK fishing fleet consume around 300 million litres of fuel per year. With the rapid rise in oil prices, fuel consumption has become a significant component of operating costs as well as an environmental concern. A Seafish report (Curtis et al, 2006) demonstrated the potential for the industry to reduce fuel consumption and so both cut emissions and reduce operating costs through different approaches (see Table below).
Table 12: Estimated industry uptake and scope for further uptake of fuel efficiency measures by fleet segment
Estimated number and % of vessels in each segment
Estimated industry uptake
(number and % of vessels in each segment)
Scope for further uptake
(number and % of vessels in each segment)
Change trip practices
60 - 90
55 - 95
45 - 135
20 - 55
25 - 90
(5 - 20%)
35 - 55
Reduce towing speed
5 - 30
(5 - 25%)
15 - 40
(5 - 15%)
25 - 45
(5 - 10%)
10 - 35
(5 - 20%)
10 - 45
0 - 45
(0 - 10%)
35 - 55
215 - 270
45 - 90
90 - 135
Change landing port
10 - 35
30 - 55
10 - 20
(5 - 10%)
0 - 135
(0 - 30%)
5 - 10
(5 - 10%)
0 - 30
(0 - 10%)
25 - 45
(5 - 10%)
10 - 20
(5 - 10%)
0 - 90
(0 - 20%)
(10 - 35)
(5 - 20%)
Change fishing method
10 - 35
25 - 110
(1 - 40%)
0 - 45
(0 - 10%)
0 - 35
(0 - 20%)
25 - 90
(5 - 20%)
0 - 55
(0 - 30%)
Change target species
5 - 25
(5 - 20%)
15 - 55
(5 - 20%)
15 - 30
(5 - 10%)
0 - 55
(0 - 30%)
Stop fishing temporarily
5 - 12
(5 - 10%)
70 - 120
245 - 270
45 - 180
0 - 20
(0 - 10%)
10 - 35
(5 - 20%)
10 - 25
25 - 55
(0 - 20%)
25 - 45
(5 - 10%)
0 - 20
(0 - 10%)
90 - 225
35 - 90
Fit gear monitoring
90 - 135
Reduce crew costs
0 - 15
(0 - 5%)
0 - 45
(0 - 10%)
0 - 20
(0 - 10%)
0 - 25
(0 - 5%)
0 - 10
(0 - 5%)
Source: Curtis et al, 2006
If these options were taken up, the report goes on to estimate that seven million pounds could be saved (whitefish trawlers £3.6 million, nephrops trawlers £2.25 million, beam trawlers (£870K) and scallop dredgers £245K). At the current level of fuel consumption, around 45,000 tonnes CO2 is produced by the UK's fishing fleet on an annual basis. If the improvements in efficiency discussed above were realised, this would save around seven percent, or over 7,000 tonnes CO2 emissions per year.
3.1.7 Material assets
The key material assets maintained by the sector include:
- Fishing vessels: in 2006 there were 6,372 fishing vessels with a total registered tonnage of around 208, 656 tonnes. Of these 1,476 were over 10 m in length and 4,896 under. The number of vessels has declined by around 20 percent since 1997 although the registered tonnage has remained more or less the same (see table overleaf).
- Fishing ports and harbours: there are 452 harbours listed on the 'Ports and Harbours of the UK' website ( http://www.ports.org.uk) as used for fishing. An analysis of the Defra vessel lists for the UK indicate there are 31 administrative ports and 335 other home ports where fishing vessels are registered, totalling 366 in total. Most major UK ports are private sector ports owned by listed companies or private equity ("plc ports") and are independent statutory corporations, governed by their own unique local legislation and controlled by an independent board. The majority of these ports are public, trust (ports that are not owned and run by a company, a local authority or a nationalised industry) or less common, private.
- Fish processing, storage and distribution facilities: the processing and related cold chain represents the bulk of the fishing and aquaculture industry's onshore material assets. This includes fish processing facilities, chillers (for storing fresh fish upon landing, temporary storage or distribution, coldstores (for longer-term fish storage) and road distribution assets. We are not aware of any inventory of such facilities.
- Aquaculture facilities: finfish aquaculture facilities consist mainly of cage farm sites in Scotland and land-based facilities in the rest of the UK. In Scotland, there are currently around 261 salmon and trout sea cage sites and 58 salmon smolt cage sites ( FRS, 2007). In addition there a further seven freshwater pond/raceway sites and five freshwater cage sites for trout. In addition there are 33 seawater cages sites for cod and halibut farming. Shellfish farming is active (growing and placing on the market) in 327 sites and produced (placing on the market for table and ongrowing) in 156 sites. In England and Wales there are around 192 fish farms, of which 80% produce less than 50 tonnes per annum ( CEFAS, 2007). In 2006 there were 118 registered shellfish farm sites, a net increase of 4 on the previous year. These sites belonged to 98 businesses, an overall increase of 4 businesses. The equivalent shellfish site figures for Wales are 12 farms belonging to 11 businesses. There are currently 103 licensed aquaculture sites in Northern Ireland (Rosemary Russell, pers. comm.) - of these 66 are licensed for the cultivation of shellfish (64 marine and 2 land-based) and 37 for the cultivation of finfish (35 inland and 2 marine).
- Training and education facilities: fishermen now have access to a wide range of vocational qualifications - within the Marine Vessel Operations NVQ/ SVQ framework - which enable them to train to nationally recognised industry standards. At present, there are around 37 formal non-degree courses on marine and freshwater fisheries subjects at twenty-two different colleges around the UK plus thirteen undergraduate courses at five universities. There is also a network of eighteen Group Training Associations within the UK to support vocational training. Aquaculture is also well represented with 58 undergraduate course at 19 universities and 13 non-degree courses at seven colleges. The majority of these universities and colleges are multi-disciplinary teaching and research institutions, but there are also a number of dedicated regional centres such as the NAFC Marine College in the Shetlands.
Table 13: UK fishing vessels by Department of Administration: 1997 to 2006
United Kingdom (excluding Islands)
Number of vessels
Over 10m vessels:
England, Wales & N. Ireland
Number of vessels
Number of vessels
Total Over 10m
Number of vessels
10m and under vessels
Number of vessels
Number of vessels
Source: MFA, 2007
3.1.8 Cultural heritage
The historic environment was created by past human activity and might be a village, a town, or an area of rural landscape (English Heritage, 2007). In addition, cultural heritage is the cultural value associated with the environment e.g. for religion, folklore, painting, cultural and spiritual traditions ( DEFRA, 2007b).
Legislation giving statutory protection to ancient monuments dates back to 1882. The primary legislation governing the historic environment is largely shared by England and Wales. The principal protection for underwater heritage in the UK's territorial waters is provided by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. In 2007, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published the White Paper 'Heritage Protection for the 21st Century', which sets out extensive changes proposed to legally protect and manage the historic environment in England and Wales. However, the proposals made for the marine historic environment apply to the entire area of the UK Territorial Sea. This reform may also apply to Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Historic Scotland is preparing a Scottish Historic Environment Policy for consultation in 2008 (Pater, 2008).
Much of the research and information available on marine cultural heritage is focussed upon archaeology, ancient monuments (Marine and Coastal Environment Group, 2004) and shipwrecks (Oxley, 2001). Marine biodiversity is also a critical part of our cultural heritage and identity (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005, 2006). The diversity of ecosystems affects the diversity of cultures, and many religions attach spiritual and religious values to marine life. The development and sustenance of many societies depends heavily upon marine ecosystems, in particular fishing communities. In addition, considerable value is placed upon the maintenance of culturally significant species. Varied marine life provides inspiration for arts, local customs, traditions, crafts and skills, language and dialect.
With the advent of modern fishing practices, traditional fisheries in the UK are declining. Such traditional methods include haff netting in Cumbria, oyster fishery off Manorbier, compass net fishery in Daugleddau, coracle fishery in Teifi, Towy and Taf and seine net fisheries in Teifi and Nevern in Wales. Coracles were also used in Scotland but they have not been seen there for 150 years. They were in use in Ireland until the late 1940's. Fishing communities in villages and ports are also a valuable part of our cultural heritage, particularly on islands. Their loss would be a significant loss of our cumulative cultural heritage. The UK Operational Programme for the EFF will need to ensure that these traditional methods are supported so that the socio-economic fabric and the environment are conserved.
With much of the UK's coastlines designated under either conservation objectives (see Section 3.1.1 above) or specific landscape designations (see below), any development within the coastal zone will need to be in keeping with the scale and nature of the surrounding countryside and seascape. Although this applies to capture fisheries infrastructure development, perhaps it is more relevant to the installation of aquaculture facilities, which are often placed in the shallow inshore waters (or inter-tidal zone in the case of shellfish) of remote areas. A recent strategy for aquaculture development on the Solway coast indicated that landscape issues were ranked top in terms of planning fish farm placement and design (Huntington et al, 2007).
Identifying baseline conditions for landscape relationships with fisheries and aquaculture is complex and not possible within the scope of this particular SEA. However we have summarised the various landscape-related designations relevant to the UK's coasts below in order to indicate the extent and location of coverage.
Table 14: List of National Parks in England, Wales and Scotland
Year of designation
Scheduled ancient monuments
Visitor days a year (million)
196, including 1 World Heritage Site
1, + 31 SSSIs & 3 NCAs
North York Moors
Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
In Scotland legislation to create National parks was passed by the Scottish Parliament in August 2000, and National parks were established in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs in 2002 and in the Cairngorms in 2003. In June 2005, the Scottish Executive announced their intention to create Scotland's first coastal and marine National Park by 2008.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: An AONB is an area of countryside with significant landscape value in England, Wales or N. Ireland that has been designated by Natural England on behalf of the UK government; the Countryside Council for Wales on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government; or the Environment and Heritage Service on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive. There are 35 AONBs in England (see map overleaf), four in Wales (Clwydian Range; Gower; Lleyn & Anglesey), one (Wye Valley) that is in both England and Wales and nine in Northern Ireland (Antrim Coast and Glens; Causeway Coast; Lagan Valley; Lecale Coast; Mourne; Binevenagh; Ring of Gullion; Sperrin and Strangford Lough).
Figure 7: Designated landscapes in England
Area of Outstanding National Beauty
1. The Broads; 2. Dartmoor; 3. Exmoor; 4. Lake District; 5. New Forest; 6. Northumberland; 7. North York Moors; 8. Peak District; 9. South Downs; 10. Yorkshire Dales
1. Arnside & Silverdale; 2. Blackdown Hills; 3. Cannock Chase; 4. Chichester Harbour ; 5. Chilterns; 6. Cornwall; 7. Cotswolds; 8. Cranborne Chase & West Wiltshire Downs; 9. Dedham Vale; 10. Dorset; 11. East Devon; 12. East Hampshire; 13. Forest of Bowland; 14. High Weald; 15. Howardian Hills; 16. Isle of Wight; 17. Isles of Scilly; 18. Kent Downs; 19. Lincolnshire Wolds; 20. Malvern Hills; 21. Mendip Hill; 22. Nidderdale; 23. Norfolk Coast; 24. North Devon; 25. North Pennines; 26. Northumberland Coast; 27. North Wessex Downs; 28. Quantock Hills; 29. Shropshire Hills; 30. Solway Coast; 31. South Devon; 32. Suffolk Coast & Heaths; 33. Surrey Hills; 34. Sussex Downs; 35. Tamar Valley; 36. Wye Valley
1. North Northumberland; 2. Durham; 3. North Yorkshire & Cleveland; 4. Flamborough Headland; 5. Spurn; 6. North Norfolk; 7. Suffolk; 8. South Foreland; 9. Dover-Folkestone; 10. Sussex; 11. Tennyson; 12. Hamstead; 13. Purbeck; 14. West Dorset; 15. East Devon; 16. South Devon; 17. Rame Head; 18. Gribbin Head-Polperro; 19. The Roseland; 20. The Lizard; 21. Isles of Scilly; 22. Penwith; 23. Godrevy-Portreath; 24. St Agnes; 25. Trevose Head; 26. Pentire Point-Widemouth; 27. Hartland; 28. Hartland (Devon) ; 29. Lundy; 30. North Devon; 31. Exmoor; 32. St Bees Head
National scenic areas: National Scenic Areas are Scotland's only national landscape designation. They are those areas of land considered of national significance on the basis of their outstanding scenic interest which must be conserved as part of the country's natural heritage. They have been selected for their characteristic features of scenery comprising a mixture of richly diverse landscapes including prominent landforms, coastline, sea and freshwater lochs, rivers, woodlands and moorlands. There are currently 40 NSA's in Scotland, covering a total land area of 1,020,500 ha and a marine area of 357,900 ha (see Figure below).
Figure 8: National Scenic Areas in Scotland
Source: Scottish National Heritage ( http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/nsa/maps.pdf)
The Heritage Coasts represent stretches of England's most beautiful, undeveloped coastlines. Varying from windswept salt marshes to towering cliffs, they now cover some 35% of the English seashore. Originally designed as 'selected stretches of undeveloped coastline of high scenic value', they represent a partnership between Natural England and local planning authorities to protect their use for conservation, informal recreation and community-based sustainable resource utilization. Their designation is not statutory, and thus development control is dependent upon DoE's town and country planning system, although the majority overlaps with or is adjacent to wider National Parks ( NP) or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( AONB) designations, which afford a degree of extra protection. The 32 designated Heritage Coasts in England vary in coastal length (4 to 110 km), area covered (1.25 to 165 km 2) and habitat types.
The table below summarises the interrelationships between the environmental topics in relation to the likely significant effects on the environment. The nature of these effect interactions is discussed in Section 5.
Table 15: Environmental topic inter-relations matrix
3.2 Key environmental issues
This section examines some of the key environmental issues identified in the Scoping Report as relevant to the implementation of the UKEFF Operational Programme. At this stage there is no attempt to quantify them, as the intention is to discuss the nature of such interactions before the effect assessment in the following sections of the SEA. Five main effect areas are examined.
- Effects on target fish stocks
- Effects of fisheries on non-target species and habitats
- Effects of aquaculture on aquatic habitats and species
- Effects on fishing communities
- Effects on landscape and cultural heritage
3.2.1 Effects on target fish stocks
Increasing fleet capacity / effort / catch
It is well documented that the increasing human activities in the marine environment call for integrated impact assessments of the multiple pressures on the marine environment and marine spatial planning (e.g. Eastwood et al., 2007; St. Martin and Hall-Arber, 2007; Marine Guidelines, 2007; Pedersen, 2007). Fisheries exert a particularly strong effect on marine ecosystems. Ecosystem effects of fishing include biomass removal of the target species; bycatch of marine mammals, seabirds, and fish; discarding of by-catch; and mechanical disturbance and damage of benthic communities by bottom trawling (Sewell and Hiscock, 2005; Kaiser et al., 2006; Hiddink et al., 2006, 2007; MAFCONS, 2006; ICES, 2006, 2007c). Moreover, fisheries are believed to have fundamental long-term effects on fish stocks such as shifting towards smaller and faster growing, but less fecund fishes, with victims of possible irreversible harm spanning from particular genotypes to the ecosystem function as a whole (Daan et al., 2005).
The fishing industry is an important economic and social activity in parts of the UK; some remote communities are highly dependent upon it. Worldwide, demand for fish is rising but many fish stocks are dwindling with several important stocks threatened in the EU.
It is acknowledged that several commercial fish stocks are threatened: 36% of the stocks (by value) to which the UK has access in the EU are classified as in danger or at risk. Those in the poorest state are whitefish such as cod, largely as a result of overfishing and a moratorium on fishing of cod was recommended by government scientists in 2001. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution ( RCEP) reported that overfishing for top predatory species like cod is the foremost human pressure in the marine environment. Related fishing activities such as the by-catch of non-target species (discards) and habitat damage are also among the most harmful activities in our seas ( RCEP, 2004; POST, 2005).
Fishing overcapacity has essentially been managed through decommissioning schemes. These took place over more than a decade but initially had limited effect on the actual fishing capacity in EU waters. In 2003, the last decommissioning round under FIFG did reduce the fleet in the UK. Fishing capacity is, however, difficult to assess and a thorough assessment of current UK capacity was recommended following the fleet reduction requirements suggested by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit.
Genetic effect of greater size selectivity
Most of the concerns about fisheries and aquaculture effects on biodiversity have centred on the effect of overfishing, physical impact on the habitat, overload of nutrients and spread of diseases. Less concern has been raised about possible genetic effects of decades of high and size selective fishing pressure (Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, 2001).
Sustained high fishing pressure affects genetic resources at different levels and includes selective fishing on stocks, genetic change in enhanced stocks, species extinction, disruptions to ecosystems, and removal of non-target species. Fishing exerts a selective force on natural populations by removing a restricted size range of individuals, so that traits linked with size and age are likely to be changed by selective fishing. Spawning stocks for many ground fish stocks are at critical levels and some even close to collapse. High fishing pressure may lead to reduced genetic variability and less effective and simplified food-webs where the energy flow in the ecosystem have been severely disturbed. Possible consequences are less resilient and less stability in the ecosystem. In addition, affected ecosystems may have reduced capacity to adjust to natural changes in the environment (Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, 2001).
The genetic effects of fishing have been difficult to demonstrate in wild populations, due to the phenotypic plasticity of many life history traits that respond to both biological and physical parameters as well as selection pressures. Species selection is likely to be fishery specific and dependent upon the interaction between fishing gear and the average size and age at onset of sexual maturity of the target species. Measured genetic effects in enhanced fisheries range from no detectable change to complete replacement of local stocks. Protocols have been developed that enable hatchery managers to minimize genetic change by careful choice of the origin and number of parents used for seed production (Smith, 1999).
The seriousness of this issue is not fully understood as the actual extent of effects by fisheries (including aquaculture) on biodiversity remains poorly understood, particularly in relation to genetic diversity, functional and ecosystem diversity. This poses a risk that serious damage might be incurred unnoticed. The very slow recovery of some stocks in the North Atlantic and lost spawning areas seems to indicate that such changes have occurred (Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, 2001).
Species extinction, and threatened and endangered aquatic species, are most common in freshwater and estuarine environments and affected more by habitat loss and degradation rather than the direct effects of fishing. However, marine fishes with low reproductive rates, large size at onset of sexual maturity, and restricted distributions, such some sharks and rays, are vulnerable to exploitation. Many collapsed stocks have maintained relatively large population sizes and would not be expected to lose genetic diversity (Smith, 1999).
Illegal harvesting of protected species and overfishing of quota species in high seas fisheries urgently requires new initiatives in conservation and sustainable management. Most genetic problems relate to overfishing and, while biological solutions to problems of overfishing seem obvious, such as reducing fleet size in industrial fisheries and creating closed areas in artisanal fisheries, the socio-political measures to resolve the conflict between long-term conservation goals and short-term economic gains are not easy to implement (Smith, 1999).
3.2.2 Effects of capture fisheries on non-target species and habitats
While fishing activities are usually focussed on a single species, a particular fishery will commonly take a bycatch of non-target species, some of which may be landed or else discarded at sea. Part of the catch of exploited species may also be discarded to comply with fisheries regulations, for example undersized fish, which cannot be legally landed, or individuals caught over the allowed species quota (or total allowable catch, TAC). Commercial fisheries generally target stocks of adult fish, however, the catches often include small, immature fish, which are either discarded or landed, depending on regulations, quotas and the market.
The most common effects of commercial fishing activity include:
- The mortality and discarding of undersized fish and non-target species of fish, shellfish, seabirds, marine mammals and turtles, through their incidental capture in fishing gear.
- Habitat degradation, particularly through physical disturbance of the seabed by some types of fishing gear, leading to an adverse effect on seabed habitats and communities.
- Ecosystem imbalance as a result of shifts in population composition, community structure and food web dynamics.
- Changes in genetic diversity of populations.
- The generation of marine litter, notably discarded nets that entrap non-target wildlife.
- There are particular effects associated with commercial deep-sea, high seas (i.e. open ocean and deep-sea in international waters beyond state jurisdictions) and industrial fisheries, as well as with recreational fishing.
In the waters around Ireland and adjacent seas ( OSPAR region III Celtic Seas), juvenile whiting suffer a high mortality from capture in the Nephrops fishery. High rates of discarding of juvenile whiting in the Irish Sea led to the mandatory use of square mesh panels in UK trawl fleets in 1992 and in Irish vessels in 1994. Juvenile haddock in the Malin Sea are also subject to high mortalities ( OSPAR, 2000). Bycatch can include juveniles of both target and non-target species. Juvenile fish are sometimes unable to escape from trawl nets, particularly in fisheries where small mesh nets are used, such as fisheries for shrimp and Nephrops, and in mixed roundfish and flatfish fisheries ( OSPAR, 2000).
Fishing also impacts on a range of non-target species and those with low population sizes and low reproductive rates such as sharks, turtles, seabirds and marine mammals are vulnerable to accidental harvesting. In many managed fisheries, measures are being put in place to reduce mortalities on non-target species through gear restrictions and local closures. The move towards large-scale marine protected areas and seasonal closures will contribute to the conservation of non-target species (Smith, 1999).
The potential threat to non-target species, particularly seabirds will depend on the netting effort and concentrations of such species. This will be different from place to place and the timing of any fishing will be important. Gill netting is the most likely method where relatively large incidental catches of seabirds can occur. Generally species that pursue their prey underwater or aggregate in dense foraging groups are at greatest risk. The catch can be very variable with the greatest by-catch occurring when the seabirds and their prey are in areas frequented by the fisheries. Net mesh size, distances they are set from colonies and abundance of prey are all additional factors. There can be serious implications for birds because their slow reproductive capacity and low fecundity makes them highly vulnerable to even moderately increased mortality, but it is difficult to assess the effect of mortality on British seabird populations. A case in point was the reduction in breeding numbers of the puffins in the UK with the reduction in the availability of their food supply, ie sand eels.
Discard levels and pressures
Discards (or discarded catch) was defined ( FAO, 1996) as the portion of the total organic material of animal origin in the catch, which is thrown away, or dumped at sea for whatever reason. It does not include plant materials and post harvest waste such as offal. The discards may be dead, or alive. A review by Kelleher (2004) summarises the most recent global situation regarding marine fishery discards. In geographical terms the highest discards are in the Northeast Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, which jointly account for 40% of the discards ( FAO Areas 27 and 61, respectively).
In the North Sea, pelagic species and species targeted for fishmeal production jointly account for over 70% of North Sea landings. These fisheries have low discard rates. Nevertheless, total annual North Sea discards have been estimated to be between 500,000 tonnes (comprising 120,000 tonnes of roundfish, 200,000 tonnes of flatfish and 180,000 tonnes of benthic invertebrates) and 880,000 tonnes (Camphuysen, et al.,1995; Tasker, et al., 2000). Since 1981 there has been a tendency for the discard rate to increase partly as a result of overfishing and high catches of juveniles, although recent declines in catch and effort means that the total quantity of discards may have decreased in recent years. High inter-annual variation in the total quantity of North Sea discards is closely related to the magnitude of the year classes of whiting, haddock and cod. Discards within Large Marine Ecosystems ( LME) have been summarised by Kelleher (2004) who reported discards of 909,109 tonnes in the North Sea and 37,168 tonnes for the Celtic-Biscay LME.
The dominance of demersal trawl gear and high discards by the important shrimp, Nephrops, and flatfish trawl fisheries are major factors that contribute to high aggregate discard rates in the EU Atlantic fisheries. Overfishing of demersal stocks is also a primary contributing factor to the high level of discards in many EU fisheries. Nephrops trawlers in particular have a consistently high level of discards. Increasing pressure on stocks in the western waters (West of Ireland and Scotland) by Irish, French, Spanish and UK fleets has reduced average sizes of some species with a consequent increase in discards. In the UK, total landings were reported as 27,343, with discards of 16,654 and a discard rate of 37.9% (Kelleher, 2004).
The relative effect of discards on target and non-target populations may differ significantly, depending on the life history of the species in question. For example, species with low reproductive rates, elevated parental care, and low rates of natural mortality could reasonably be expected to suffer greater impacts. Thus, the effects of high discard numbers on cod, pollock and flounder may be less than relatively low discard numbers on marine mammals, turtles, sharks, skates, and deep-water species (Marine Work Group Ireland, 2006-2007a).
Catch of rare, threatened and endangered species
Recent developments in fishing gear technology have included exclusion devices for turtles and marine mammals. These have proved effective in protecting turtles and pinipeds from certain types of fishing gear. A simple alteration in the shape of a hook that is fitted to a long line can do much to improve gear selectivity and thereby reduce its bycatch. However, since many of the gear modifications that can help rectify bycatch also reduce the take of desirable species, there may be a need for them to become legal requirements on fishing gears in order to for these devices to become more widely used.
Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear
Until recently, the extent of the impacts from ghost fishing (e.g. continued fishing by fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned) on the environment had not been understood. A recent review by Brown et al (2005) provides a useful analysis of the current situation.
Lost fishing gear can potentially impact on habitats, species and the general environment in a number of ways. These include continued catching of target species; capture of non-target fish and shellfish; entanglement of sea turtles, marine mammals and sea birds in lost nets and debris; ingestion of gear-related litter by marine fauna; physical impact of gears on the benthic environment and; the ultimate fate of lost gear in the marine environment. In shallow waters, fishermen are able to recover their gear aided by GPS; however, in deeper waters in the north east Atlantic initial research suggests that around 25,000 nets may be lost or deliberately discarded in this fishery each year, with a total length of around 1,250 km. The cause and extent of ghost fishing is very fishery specific and any regulatory measures will need to take this into consideration. The overall effect of ghost fishing could be significant across the fisheries as some of these gears may continue to impinge on species or habitats for a long time. Some of the main reasons for gear loss include; conflict with other sectors, principally towed gear operators; working in deep water; working in poor weather conditions and/or on very hard ground; working long nets or fleets of nets; and working more gear than can be hauled regularly.
Effect of fishing activities (mainly trawling) on sensitive benthic environments
There is substantial evidence that the seabed has suffered considerable damage, particularly over recent years, from trawling for marine organisms (Beaumont and Tinch, undated; BGS, undated). Seabed samples, sonar and video images often show disturbance of the seabed consistent with fishing activity. Trawling alters the seafloor and results in the burial of surface sediment and the associated benthic biota which may take a long time to recover. The increasing extent of trawling and the developments in fishing technologies have resulted in increasing concerns regarding its impacts on other goods and services provided by the marine environment. These include fundamental services such as nutrient cycling and climate regulation, and indeed the capacity of this environment to provide a source of future fish stocks (Beaumont and Tinch, undated).
It is now known that the sizes of the disturbed areas are significant. For instance, a beam trawler travelling at 6 knots can disturb over a quarter of a million square metres of seabed per hour (Jennings et al., 2001). Watling and Norse (1998) calculate that an area equivalent to the world's continental shelf is swept by trawlers every two years. The impact of trawling will be more severe in intensively fished areas. Over the UK, continental shelf trawling is likely to have had a greater overall impact on benthic habitats, spawning, breeding and feeding grounds than other industries ( BGS, undated).
In 1999 demersal trawl, seine and nephrops trawls made up 43% of UK fleet and beam trawlers made up another 11% (P.C.M.E.A.E.F., 2000). Common target species include cod, plaice, shrimp and scallops. The industry is highly variable and complex, with vessels differing considerably in size, and utilises several different types of gear (Watling and Norse, 1998). In recent years the trawling gear has become more efficient (Frid et al., 2000) and trawls are taking place in deeper and more remote areas. Traditionally estuaries, bays and the continental shelf used to be fished using demersal trawling, but as fish stocks have diminished and fishing technology improved the harvested area has increased to depths of up to 1200m on the continental slope (Cryer et al., 2002).
Role of Marine Protected Areas ( MPA) and no-take zones
IUCN (1994) defines a marine protected area as "Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying waters and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment". OSPAR (2003) describes it as: "Marine protected area" means an area within the maritime area for which protective, conservation, restorative or precautionary measures, consistent with international law have been instituted for the purpose of protecting and conserving species, habitats, ecosystems or ecological processes of the marine environment. Other agencies or groups, such as WWFUK, use the term to describe areas designated specifically for the conservation of biodiversity (Gubbay, 2005a).
Zoning is an important element of an MPA. Zoning may include a series of management measures to achieve various objectives regarding nature conservation, fishing reserves including no-take zones, tourism, etc. Zoning in MPAs has proved very successful in many countries, e.g. the USA, South Africa and Australia. Zoning can be horizontal as in most cases, or vertical, as in the case of the Tasmanian Seamounts Reserve, which is a rare example where activities (principally fishing) are zoned by depth (Gubbay, 2005a).
In the UK, the first statutory MPA was designated around the island of Lundy in 1986. Today there are more than 50 MPAs in UK waters, most of which are also Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs), forming part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas required by the EC Habitats and Species Directive (Gubbay, 2005b). The Island of Lundy incorporates a no-take zone.
A 'No-Take Zone' ( NTZ) is an area of sea that has been temporarily or permanently closed to fishing and other extractive activities to protect fish stocks and natural habitats. NTZs can enable the ecosystem within the area to recover (at least partially) from the effects of fishing or other activities such as dredging. Many NTZs have been established around the world ranging in size from a fraction of 1km 2 to 10km 2 or more.
Experience from active NTZs around the world indicates that fishermen can expect larger catches of fish close to the zone boundaries. As no fishing is allowed within the NTZ, the survival rates of young fish should improve. The subsequent increase in larger fish may then spill over into neighbouring areas. However, their value depends on the life history and dynamics of the target stock. For highly migratory species, however, NTZ may be of limited use where the species would be subject to displaced fishing effort outside the NTZ ( JNCC, undated).
To be effective, NTZs need to be coupled with a reduction in overall fishing effort. Experience in the North Sea has shown that fishing effort from within an area that was closed moved to other nearby waters. This increase in nearby effort more or less cancelled out any beneficial effects of the closed area. NTZs of the right size and location (particularly as part of an appropriately designed network) could help in the restoration of fish numbers in the waters around the UK and enhance the marine environment ( JNCC, undated).
3.2.3 Effects of aquaculture on aquatic habitats and species
Potential environmental concerns from aquaculture activities inappropriately managed include marine animal entrapment in nets surrounding the farms, an impact on seabird populations, the escape of farmed species (and the potential for their establishment in the wild), inbreeding and genetic pollution, disease risk through the use of imported feed and an impact on the scenic amenity of coastal areas.
Paradoxically, some aquaculture production also puts more pressure on ocean fish stocks, rather than relieving pressure. Carnivorous species like salmon and shrimp depend on high-protein feed formulated from fishmeal-a blend of sardines, anchovies, pilchard, and other low-value fish. Some 10 to 15 percent of all fishmeal goes to aquaculture feeds, and it takes roughly 2 kilograms of fishmeal to produce a kilogram of farmed fish or shrimp. The result is a net loss of fish protein ( WRI, 1998-1999). The replacement of fish-derived protein in fish feeds is a major goal of industry and is now largely feasible, although may face some consumer resistance.
Wastes from aquaculture and effect on water quality and role of WFD
It is acknowledged that intensive aquaculture operations can lead to water pollution. When flushed into nearby coastal or river waters, heavy concentrations of fish faeces, uneaten food, and other organic debris can lead to oxygen depletion and contribute to harmful algal blooms ( WRI, 1998-1999). Recovery of benthic habitats on cessation of farming, may take several years. Impact on the sea bed is the most obvious pollution effect from fish farms and measures of this effect are the main method of regulating and controlling the size of fish farms such that the local environment is not overwhelmed. However, severe effects are generally confined to the local area (a few hundred metres at most) and the total area of seabed used for this purpose is insignificant in terms of the total coastal resource (Scottish Government, 2006).
The Water Framework Directive ( WFD) came into force in 2003 and requires that all inland and coastal waters out to one nautical mile in England and Wales and 3 nautical miles in Scotland will achieve "good environmental status" by 2015. The WFD has far-reaching implications for fisheries and aquaculture activities in rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters throughout the UK. Although the industry will benefit from a better environment, the WFD might create new controls for fishing and aquaculture, or not provide the same level of protection as the legislation it has replaced. For example, early work indicates that commercial fishing in some areas (Bristol Channel and Thames Estuary) would probably contribute towards the prevention of "good environmental status" being achieved. Other issues include; the lack of a microbiological standard in the WFD (which could put shellfish growing waters at risk when the Shellfish Waters Directive is repealed in 2013), and management committees deciding 'area plans' for designated districts (Seafish, undated).
Under the WFD a substantial amount of work has been carried out to characterise river basin districts in the UK, and more work is planned. Already some potentially adverse fishing effects have been identified. For instance:
- Impacts from fishing activities are a concern in two areas, the Dee and the Solent,
- Non-native species are a concern in 40% of estuaries and coastal waters (this raises concerns about further aquaculture development in these and other areas around the coast); and
- Commercial shellfisheries are a concern in 25 areas around the coast, including large parts of the Thames Estuary, the Solent, Wash and Burry Inlet.
Such concerns may lead to demands for regulation of fishing and aquaculture activities within these areas; and concerns about adverse impacts in other areas could result in new regulations elsewhere. The fishing industry has concerns regarding the effect of the WFD on their activities as the WFD has the potential to constrain the development of UK fisheries (Seafish, undated).
Effects of farmed fish and escapees on native populations
Wild salmon and sea trout are at risk from infective larval sea lice that may be associated with marine salmon farms. Salmon are most at risk in long fjordic systems where they have to pass several farms during their migration to sea. According to the Scottish Executive (2002), the transfer of other parasites from farmed to wild fish is not thought to be a major problem at present. The introduction of the parasite Gyrodactylus salaris from Scandinavia would probably devastate the Scottish wild salmonid population although it is not thought that transfers relating to farming represent the only, or greatest, risk of introduction. The potential exists for transfer of infectious diseases such as Infectious Salmonid Anaemia ( ISA) and Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis ( IPN) from farmed to wild stocks but the real level of risk is not quantifiable given present knowledge.
Escapees from fish farms may interbreed with wild populations resulting in losses of genetic variability, including loss of naturally selected adaptations, thus leading to reduced fitness and performance. Non-local genes have been introduced into wild salmonid populations for over a century, as a consequence of restocking programmes intended to increase population sizes. However, the effect of these programmes is probably insignificant compared with that caused by farm escapes simply owing to the large scale of escapes in comparison with the wild populations. Escapes from salmon farms, therefore, constitute a major threat to wild populations. Current methods to reduce fish farm escapes by reducing net damage from predators include the use of acoustic deterrents to exclude seals from the farm area. While these probably have no great consequence for seal populations they may exclude whales, dolphins and porpoises from a much larger area owing to their greater sensitivity to underwater acoustic noise (Scottish Executive, 2002).
Disease: In Scotland, the lack of long term monitoring programmes over the past 30 years makes it difficult to judge whether the perceived increase in Harmful Algal Blooms ( HABs) resulting from aquaculture activities is real and related to expansion in the fish farming industry. The sporadic data that do exist do not show conclusively that there has been a wide scale increase in the abundance of organisms responsible for harmful blooms in Scottish waters, although the number of reported incidents of toxicity (as opposed to abundance of toxic organisms) has increased. Recent east coast Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning ( PSP) incidents seem no worse than reported for 1968-1990 and the apparent spread of toxicity on the west coast and in the Northern Isles may be a result of wider monitoring or spread of toxic strains amongst existing populations. There is no evidence that the causative organism is becoming more abundant at new or traditional sites. Increased Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning ( ASP) toxicity similarly might be attributed to increased levels of toxin monitoring (Scottish Executive, 2006).
Alien species: According to WWF-Germany (2004), shipping and aquaculture are responsible for about 90% and 10%, respectively, of the introductions of marine alien species in Europe.
The introduction of alien species via marine aquaculture activities may be either intentional or accidental. Some species of finfish, shellfish (molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms) and aquatic plants (including seaweeds) are imported from other sea areas specifically for cultivation, either extensively for commercial reasons or otherwise for the aquaria trade or research. Some, such as mussels and oysters, are deliberately introduced to a location in the wild; others, such as farmed salmon, occasionally escape into the wild and establish themselves. In other cases, aquatic "hitchhikers", such as disease-causing and parasitic organisms or small larval forms of invertebrates, are unintentionally imported together with the species intended for cultivation. Introduced species compete with their native counterparts for food, vital space, may also interbreed with the local species altering their genetic makeup. Introduced species may also potentially alter habitats and the balance of existing communities, resulting in changes to the structure and function of entire marine ecosystems. Such ecological effects and the consequent loss of biodiversity may not be detected during pilot studies. The consequent ecological and socio-economic cost may be profound. Therefore, key international agreements and instruments (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity) play a vital role in requiring international, regional and national level measures to prevent, reduce and control the introduction of alien species (Marine Work Group Ireland, 2006-2007b).
Eno (1997) reports around 50 species that are now known to be present in UK waters ought to be regarded as non-indigenous. Most were introduced accidentally either via shipping or through movements of shellfish for cultivation purposes. The Pacific oyster was a deliberate introduction for aquaculture development purposes and the hard shelled clam ( Mya arenaria) may have been deliberately introduced. Of the 50 species classed as non-indigenous, seventeen are found in waters off the west of Scotland and of these only seven are animal species (the review excluded species < 20µm in size). Some of the introduced species are now common, for example Spartina anglica or common cord grass.
3.2.4 Effects on fishing communities
There are long established links between fisheries and coastal community welfare around the world as fisheries have been an important source of food security and income for substantial sections of the coastal populations. Historically, developments in the fishing industry allowed for the growth of towns, fishing related industry such as fish processing plants, fishing gear making, and other economic developments. However, there is growing concern that with the increasing over-exploitation of fishery stocks the welfare of coastal fishing communities will be affected, particularly in areas with small-scale fishing communities.
This is already being felt in Scotland, where food security is believed to be under threat from the depletion of local marine resources as a result of fishing pressure, pollution, and animal predation. The indigenous fishing fleet reportedly lands a fraction of the historic total catch; the majority of which is lost as a result of requirements to discard and predation during fishing activities by seals, other marine mammals and seabirds (Thomson, 2001). Despite long-term declines in this region's fisheries, the small-scale fishing sector still provides about 20% of the total employment of small scale communities such as the Herbides. Pressures on the region's fisheries since the early 1980's, include over-fishing and marine pollution; which coupled with the increasing cost of fishing licences have further decreased the small-scale fishing communities' participation in the fisheries.
Recreational fisheries and social benefits/effects
Recreational fishing has the potential to affect the environment as a result of habitat degradation by fishermen on coastal areas. In addition, littering and abandoned objects from fishing trips cause pollution and visual effects, particularly on AONBs. Nevertheless, fishing has a high recreational value and is one of the top hobbies for significant numbers of fishers. In the UK, fishing as a hobby is continuously growing. The benefits from recreational fishing are social, economic and environmental. The social value of fishing, as a source of recreation and as part of the cultural heritage spans all ages. Young people benefit greatly from participating in angling as a source of healthy outdoor recreation. In Wales for instance, which has a preponderance of club-based fisheries, traditional local ownership fosters care for the environment and the fishing is more affordable than anywhere else in the UK; there is also a varied spread of more exclusive, private fisheries. Organised recreational fishing activities provide sources of income for local communities, which in turn, benefit the area as a whole. Job creation in rural and coastal communities is one of the main benefits from well managed recreational fishing.
Added benefits for the environment include the improvement of fisheries by restoring good water quality and habitats to create a better environment not only for fish but also for a diverse range of flora and fauna, including insects, birds, amphibians and mammals. Many people with no particular interest in fishing enjoy visiting beautiful coasts, rivers and lakes, and that enjoyment is greatly enhanced when they can see trout rising or salmon leaping.
Anglers could also play an important role as 'early warning systems' for pollution and other threats to wildlife and the countryside. Reduced littering, earlier detection and action against pollution and other environmental crimes, will not only help the environment and species but will also increase the benefits that fishermen get from this popular activity in the UK.
3.2.5 Water and energy usage in fish capture and processing
Fish processing requires large volumes of water and similarly produces large volumes of effluent, which can have a high level of organic contamination. Traditionally, the effluent in UK coastal regions, where the fish processing industry largely remains, has been pumped out to sea at negligible cost, but this has changed. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/ EEC) required that from the year 2001, effluent must be treated before release into the sea. Recent trials from the fisheries industry in the UK found that a significant reduction in the volume of water used could be achieve with relatively low cost technology (Watson, 2003). The Seafish Industry Authority is concerned about the cost implications of the excessive use of water in fish processing and has conducted several studies that illustrate the water use in the UK, which is variable (Archer, 1998; Watson, 2003). Water wastage is due to two factors: bad practice and inefficient/ineffective equipment.
3.2.6 Effects on cultural heritage and landscape
Effects on marine archaeology and other sub-tidal and inter-tidal heritage and coastal architecture
Considerable numbers of wrecks and other debris bear testament to millennia of varied maritime activity. Along our coasts, substantial areas show distinctive imprints from fishing, wildfowling, coastal grazing, warfare and military defence, and, most recently, from the leisure and tourism industries, to name but a few. The scale and intensity of these effects are accelerating too from, amongst other effects such as natural resources extraction, wind and wave power generation, port development, shipping channel dredging and strengthening of our coastal sea defences (English Heritage, undated).
Fishing is one human activity that may directly affect shipwrecks. Disturbances to the seabed, or features on the seabed, impact on our historical heritage. Wrecks are artificial reefs, with entire ecosystems forming around them. Where there are fish, fishermen are not far behind. Sport fishermen may do some minor damage to shipwrecks, when their lines become snagged on wreck structures. However, it is commercial fishing that has a much greater impact on shipwrecks. Damage to the historic environment is acknowledged to occur as a result of anglers, pots, nets and sonic effects. Our cultural heritage may also be affected if fishing activities were to die out in communities, villages or ports. This could be particularly relevant in remote areas of the country, eg islands.
Effect of aquaculture on landscapes and seascapes
The landscape, townscape and visual character of most parts of the UK's coastline and its costal towns and villages has been fundamentally influenced by our historic association with the sea and our use of it. The lifeblood of many costal communities has grown and declined on the back of the aquaculture associated with the area and today many areas are still famed for their association with certain type of fisheries such as the 'Cromer Crabs' and the 'Arbroath Smokies'.
Man's use of the sea has had a profound influence on the types of buildings found in coastal regions. Jetties, quays and harbours form the manmade link between the land and sea are the staging posts between them, with warehouses, fish markets and fisherman's cottages creating the cultural and social backdrop. Even within the wider landscape, man's use of the sea has influenced how we appreciate it. Today we see lighthouses as key features in coastal landscapes that add character and a sense of history to the communities that surround them, yet in few other areas of the country, would tall buildings on prominent headland be so welcomed.
The character of the seascapes when viewed from the land also strongly influence the impression people have of coastal areas and it forms the focal point of coastal communities. The dynamic nature of the sea and our use of it mean that it is an ever changing environment, placid one moment and violent the next, yet we are all drawn to it for these reasons. Even in darkness man's use of the sea impacts on our visual impression of it as we have all witnessed the blinking of ships light in a sea of blackness that optically link the landscape, seascape and aquaculture.
When undertaking any landscape and visual impact assessments there are two key areas of assessment. The impact the development has on the landscape character of the area and the visual impact the development has from key viewpoints within this. These receptors, and the impacts on them, can then be given 'scores' using matrices that compare the importance of the landscape and the visual impact of the development on this. With aquaculture it is important to also understand that there are two potential environmental effects and both will need to be assessed. These are the water based activities of the proposals and the land based parts of the developments as identified above. To allow this to happen, much of the UK has been divided up into character areas, which include coastal regions and the views from the sea towards the land, and these will be used as the basis of the landscape assessment. Once the assessment has been undertaken and the key issues identified it will be possible to provide mitigation proposals that begin to minimise the effects of the development on the landscape.
Where the proposed development poses environmental effects on a city, town or village, it will also be important to include townscape within the remit of the assessment, this will only be required where either part of the developments (sea based or land based) effects on an urban area. Through a similar process of assessment, key environmental effects will be identified and then mitigated through careful design of structures to ensure that they are in keeping with the local vernacular