(ANIMAL ACTIVISM) ENGLAND — In an effort to help protect and preserve the ecosystem of Lyme Bay, fishermen have congregated and voluntarily signed an agreement to limit the amount of fishing done per year. These restrictions will be a big help in maintaining the nature and wildlife of the area, and improving conditions for animals. Read on to learn how fishermen and scientists are working together to protect the habitat. — Global Animal

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Guardian

Fishermen have agreed to limit the amount of fishing from permitted gear in a key UK marine reserve as part of efforts to manage the area for nature and local communities.

A partnership between fishermen, scientists and conservationists in Lyme Bay, the UK’s largest inshore marine protected area, aims to conserve seafood stocks and make the local fishing industry sustainable.

Organisers hope the alliance will be a blueprint for managing areas of the sea for the benefit of communities and for nature, ahead of the setting up of a network of marine protected areas around UK waters.

The partnership will also fund a scientific study by the University of Plymouth to see how much fishing the bay’s reefs can sustain.

In 2008 the government closed off 60 square nautical miles of Lyme Bay to scallop dredging and bottom-trawling – fishing methods that were damaging the reefs – which conservationists say has allowed a partial recovery of fragile habitat.

But it drove a doubling of fishing pressure from other techniques which are still permitted, with more use of static pots and nets causing overfishing and declines of up to 50% in some species, marine charity the Blue Marine Foundation said.

Under the new partnership, which is part-funded by Marks & Spencer, a voluntary code signed by fishermen from four ports in the bay comes into force today restricting the amount of gear used by any one fisherman to 250 crab and lobster pots, 500 whelk pots and individual nets of a maximum 600m.

At the moment up to 1,000 pots are being used by a few larger fishing vessels.

The voluntary restrictions, which come as regulators look at measures to limit the amount of fishing with static gear in the area, are the first example of self-regulation by UK fishermen, the Blue Marine Foundation said.

If it secures funding, the scheme could also boost tourism and the local economy through the establishment of a lobster fishery.

The partnership also plans to fund environmental assessments to show that low-impact fishing of shellfish and fish species through static gear can be sustainable.

Charles Clover, chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation and author of End of the Line which charts the overfishing crisis in the oceans, said: “The Lyme Bay project is designed to address two challenges the UK government has come up against to date in its efforts to create marine protected areas.

“The proposed scheme sets out not only to protect the ecosystem of Lyme Bay but also, crucially, to create some value for local fishermen through the process of conservation.

“British farmers are paid to conserve on land – our project will try to find ways in which fishermen can derive similar benefits from conservation at sea.”

Alex Jones, who represents a group of younger fishermen from Lyme Regis, said: “The future has to be with fishermen and scientists working together towards a common goal of sustainability, protecting areas but still keeping the fishing communities going.

“If we can show that we are fishing sustainably, then we are creating a better product than people who aren’t.”

More Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/02/fishing-limit-lyme-bay-catches