The European Symposium on Marine Protected Areas, held in September 2007 in Murcia, Spain, provided a wide range of findings and perspectives on the use of MPAs for ecosystem conservation and fisheries management (

MPA News attended the symposium and featured selected presenters and findings in our October 2007 and November 2007 editions (MPA News 9:4 and 9:5). Coverage of the symposium concludes in this month’s edition, in which we examine questions on two aspects of MPA planning:

  1. What is the right amount of fishing industry involvement in MPA planning?
  2. What is the right balance between conventional fisheries management activities and MPAs?

A. How Much, and How Often, Should The Fishing Industry Be Involved in MPA Planning?

Much of the discussion in Murcia addressed the relationship between MPAs and fisheries, with substantial focus on the impacts of no-take areas on the industry. In one panel discussion, a question arose concerning what role the fishing industry should play in MPA planning. That is, should some types of MPA planning be done without significant involvement of industry stakeholders? Or would that go against what some MPA planners have suggested – i.e., that stakeholders should always be involved in MPA planning?

Two panelists who addressed this question have agreed to continue their discussion of it in MPA News:

  • Jeff Ardron is scientific advisor on MPAs for the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, and Northeast Atlantic regional coordinator for the Marine Program of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA-Marine);
  • Michael Andersen is head of the secretariat for the regional Baltic Fishermen’s Association, and is scientific advisor to the national Danish Fishermen’s Association (Danmarks Fiskeriforening).

The following dialogue between Ardron and Andersen reflects their personal views, and does not necessarily reflect the views of their associated institutions.

Jeff Ardron: Ideally, involving stakeholders such as the fishing industry in MPA planning would always be a good idea. But practically speaking, this is not always easy, and some fishermen simply want nothing to do with MPAs. Furthermore, one has to be careful about what is being promised: that is, in what capacity should they be involved, and what say over the decisions should they have?

Fisheries effects are just one consideration of MPAs among many. There is a continuum of possible MPA purposes, ranging from industry management-oriented at one end, to strictly conservation protection-oriented at the other. I personally believe that the level of stakeholder involvement should reflect this continuum of purpose, and thus will vary accordingly.

I would be interested in hearing your perspective, Michael. As an industry representative, you might advocate for full participation. But is this realistic? Does the industry really want to be fully involved in every MPA decision? Would it even be appropriate? For example, some fisheries activities are likely to degrade or inhibit recovery of the ecologically significant habitats and species for which some MPAs were established. In these cases, it would appear that the (legal) obligations of states to protect conservation values of the MPAs would supersede industry interests.

Michael Andersen: Of course fishers should be involved – if for no other reason that they are affected directly and to a degree that vastly surpasses the influence on other people. I believe that this is common practice in a democratic society?

I also believe that participation is a prerequisite for success, simply because it is complicated to control marine areas. If fishers are involved in the management, there is a greater chance that they will respect the regulations. This does not imply that fishers shall be given the right to veto. It is obvious that fishing practices that degrade the very habitat for which an MPA is established cannot be allowed to continue. But in my mind it should be equally obvious that fishing practices that do not jeopardize this must be allowed to continue.

Whether the fishing industry shall be involved in all cases should be up to the fishermen who will be affected…not to civil servants. I find it hard to accept that fishers might be excluded from the process, merely because the “right-doers” find it easier without them. Fishers may even bring new knowledge to the process. Or are scientists the only source of information?

Ardron: While it is tempting to believe fishers are being “excluded”, the reality is more complicated. Long before the MPA discussion, fisheries and livelihoods declined. Trust between government and industry is now low. Many fishers are not willing to share data or experiences. Getting constructive participation in processes and studies is challenging. The job of “right-doer” civil servants is to invite participation, certainly, but they cannot achieve it alone.

In Europe, no-take MPAs virtually don’t exist (<0.05% of the marine area). Fishing industry’s intransigence is one reason why. Above, for example, you argue that fishing in MPAs “must” continue, unless it degrades a protected feature….

What are the ways forward?

  1. Recognize there is a continuum of MPA purposes.
  2. Encourage fishers to say proactively where they want to fish. The limitless ocean has already gotten rather small, and these key fishing places need to be identified.
  3. Fisher associations should assume greater responsibility for addressing the fears of their constituents, and securing fishing areas.

Despite their significant ecosystem impacts, it is not just about commercial fisheries. A “democratic society”, as you put it, includes other societal concerns. In Europe, the conservation role of MPAs, including no-take areas, remains largely unfulfilled. This should also be a priority.

Andersen: The continuum of purposes of MPAs is not questioned. Fishers, too, appreciate that marine protection is important – perhaps more so for the fishers than for others.

But it has yet to be documented that no-take zones as a rule-of-thumb provide benefits that cannot be achieved by less draconian measures. It appears to me that it is the advocates of no-takes that do not appreciate the continuum, by hinting MPAs have no value if they are not no-take zones.

You claim that “the conservation role of MPAs, including no-take areas, remains largely unfulfilled.” I would say that the “no-take” bit does not have to be fulfilled. People who want to promote introduction of MPAs would benefit greatly by showing more willingness to discuss no-take zones on a case-by-case basis, rather than promoting them as a panacea. Fishers are not intransigent, but they refuse to be excluded from areas without being convinced that it will serve a purpose other than “the majority wants it….” The majority has the right, yes – but that does not necessarily *make* it right!

Whether a particular position is considered constructive or not probably depends – in the absence of scientific documentation – on who gets to define good and bad.

For more information:

Jeff Ardron, Putbus, Rügen, Germany. E-mail:

Michael Andersen, Danmarks Fiskeriforening, Nordensvej 3, Taulov, 7000 Fredericia, Denmark. E-mail:

B. Finding a Balance Between Conventional Fisheries Management and MPAs: Interview with Peter Jones

Peter Jones is a lecturer at University College London and recently authored a paper detailing the views of fishermen on no-take MPAs. The paper, “Fishing industry and related views on no-take marine protected area proposals in SW England”, is available online at In Murcia, Jones delivered a keynote address in which he examined the differences between conventional fisheries management approaches and MPAs, as well as differences in the views between the proponents of both. MPA News spoke with him afterward.

MPA News: Your recent paper documents significant opposition from commercial fishermen to the concept of no-take MPAs. Yet you said in Murcia that there may be an opportunity for compromise between fishermen and MPA proponents.

Peter Jones: The fishing industry is increasingly frustrated at complicated and restrictive fisheries management measures, which basically are not working in Europe under the EU Common Fisheries Policy. It seems there could be potential here for streamlining conventional fisheries management approaches (CFMAs) in return for a proportion of seas designated as no-take MPAs. The idea would not be to get rid of CFMAs but instead have some practical rationalization – such as, for example, loosening of restrictions on bycatch or days at sea – as a quid pro quo for no-take MPAs. More than half of the south-west England fishermen I have discussed this with are interested in such an approach. So where the fishing industry is concerned, we could be pushing at an open door.

This would also be a means of moving toward the middle ground on the CFMAs vs. no-take MPAs debate. We need to reconcile the different “storylines” and find convergences between the aims of CFMA and no-take MPA advocates, as we need both approaches.

MPA News: In Murcia, you suggested that some conventional fisheries scientists seem to want to err on the side of “over-researching” MPAs – wanting to determine with near certainty, for example, that no-take MPAs can or cannot improve nearby fisheries. You said these people are “trying to know the unknowable.” What is unknowable about it?

Jones: The complexity and variability of marine ecosystems make it practicably impossible to determine the relative cause-effect relationships of CFMAs and no-take MPAs on the sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems, given that there are many other potential ecological and human factors that could be involved. Scientific studies of such cause-effect relationships will always be open to challenges from other experts within the scientific, fishing and other communities. Therefore we must accept taking decisions under uncertainty rather than striving for deterministic approaches based on scientific certainty.

MPA News: You make it clear, though, that you are not disregarding the need for scientific study of MPAs. Along this line, some people have criticized those who seem willing to accept the need for MPAs on the basis simply of “faith” and not necessarily science. Where is the middle ground between over-researching MPAs and under-researching them?

Jones: A key priority is to move toward developing accepted principles, “rules of thumb”, and transferable examples of MPA good practice and benefits – e.g., on different approaches to MPA network designation and governance, and their various actual benefits. This can be achieved through case study-driven comparative analyses that recognize the critical importance of context. Future MPA research should emphasize this rather than focusing on studying density gradients across no-take MPA boundaries. We know those gradients are there, so let’s stop studying them and move on!

For more information:

Peter Jones, Department of Geography, University College London, Pearson Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Tel +44 20 7679 0528; E-mail:; Web: