MPAs and Fisheries

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are recognized for their contribution to the conservation of marine resources and surrounding habitats, as well as for their potential contribution to fisheries management goals. HELCOM Guidelines for management of Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPAs) recommends that management plans for BSPAs shall consider all possible negatively effecting activities including harmful fishing practices. However, currently the marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea have very few fisheries management measures in place.

The implications of the use of MPAs for fisheries, and in particular their benefits or effects, are the subject of many studies. In some areas, strict fisheries bans within MPAs have increased fish stocks outside the protected areas. Thus, such a strict fisheries management measure has benefited not only the local ecosystem but also commercial fisheries.

While potential conflicts between fishing practices and the conservation of marine habitats and species can be easily imagined, their practical analysis is much more time demanding. There is a clear need for further development of management options for fisheries management in the Baltic Sea MPAs especially in order to avoid by-catches of seabirds, marine mammals and non-target fish species. To this end, HELCOM has been developing a project called BALTFIMPA, aiming at better management of fisheries in Baltic marine protected areas.

The 2013 Copenhagen Ministerial Declaration addresses fisheries actions in MPAs and the ministers and the commissioner agreed to continue addressing fisheries practices which have a negative impact on conservation goals and threatened species and habitats and to initiate new measures by 2015. It has also been agreed to further work with developing and implementing sustainable fishing methods into management plans for marine protected areas and to further develop and test the HELCOM generic decision-support tool to map negative impacts of gear types on threatened or declining species and habitats in order to develop measures to address the impacts (Declaration points 9B, 10B and 11B).

Regarding fisheries management within MPAs, the Baltic Sea Action Plan requests competent authorities, in co-operation with the Baltic Regional Advisory Council (RAC) under the EU Common Fisheries Policy and HELCOM, to collaborate closely with the Contracting Parties in developing and implementing management measures for fisheries inside marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea area in order to fulfill conservation targets by 2010.