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Environmentalists' 'marine reserve' proposals misguided, report suggests

Proposals by environmentalists to declare small areas of the North Sea as 'no-fishing' zones would not save our flagging fish stocks, suggests a new report by Newcastle University for the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (DEFRA).

Marine protected areas (MPAs) would need to be tens of thousands of square miles in size at least as big as the size of Wales and would need to be established for decades to restore levels of cod and haddock, says the report.

Moreover, creating large MPAs would be likely to intensify fishing in the waters left open for business, so further measures to reduce activity would have to be brought in.

However, the report's authors, a team of marine ecologists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, suggest that these 'drastic' measures are unlikely to be feasible and would require a significant policy shift for them to be implemented.

They also acknowledge that there is an 'information deficit' regarding the costs and benefits of MPAs, particularly in the case of the North Sea, and call for more research.

Environmentalists and public bodies such as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution are lobbying the British Government to introduce MPAs in parts of the North Sea to conserve marine life and restore fish stocks. The Newcastle University researchers were asked by DEFRA to assess likely effects of MPAs in UK waters.

The report highlights that many MPA advocates are basing their opinions on scientific evidence garnered from small, conservation-oriented MPAs largely in tropical waters. Although the Newcastle team acknowledges that MPAs have brought many benefits to the tropics and elsewhere, it stresses this experience can not be applied to the North Sea, which possesses very different habitats and species.

The Newcastle University report suggests that small MPAs have conservation and localised fishery benefits in the UK, which is goo
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Contact: Prof Nicholas Polunin
n.polunin@ncl.ac.uk
44-191-222-6675
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
27-Mar-2006


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