On Tuesday 13 October, Armand Quentel, member of Blue Fish, Chair of its Environment and Maritime Planning group, and Chair of the Environment Committee of the Regional Fisheries Committee of Brittany (France), spoke at the event “MPAs and Fisheries Management”, organized by EBCD, and chaired by Isabelle Thomas (S&D, France).
Speaking alongside Armand Quentel were Serge Garcia, Chair of the IUCN Fisheries Experts Group; François Gauthiez, representative of the French Agency of Marine Protected Areas; Ernesto Penas Lado, Director for “Policy development and coordination” at DG MARE; and Bertie Armstrong, from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation.
In his presentation, Armand Quentel explained how Marine Protected Areas can become useful tools for fishermen, to ensure ecological, economic and social sustainability of European coastal and marine areas. He also insisted on the necessary cooperation between all the actors operating in an MPA, to maintain biodiversity and ecological sustainability.
Drawing on the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, he highlighted the role of the fishing sector in contributing to tackling the growing food challenge worldwide. In order to feed humans worldwide, fishermen have to provide consumers with “healthy, loyal and merchant” products.
According to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive declares that in order to ensure clean healthy and productive oceans and seas waters, “the collective pressure of [human] activities [must be] kept within levels compatible with the achievement of good environmental status”.
All maritime actors have a role to play in this regard. In particular, MPAs play a major role in helping fishermen keep European waters clean. Indeed, they should play a role of “shields for the littoral”, in order to protect the seas and oceans from pollution coming from land.
Cooperation between MPAs management authorities and fishermen can be an efficient tool in helping restoring fish stocks, while ensuring a high level of protection of the marine environment. The example of the Parc Naturel Marin d’Iroise, on the coasts of Brittany, shows how a co-management system can be implemented, to fulfil production and conservation objectives. In this particular example, fishermen managed a langoustine stock, and restored it to sustainable levels, with the help of the MPA management authority. However, the raison d’être of MPAs is not to manage fishing stocks and fishing efforts.
Armand Quentel insisted that creating MPAs where no fishing activity is allowed (“No-take zones”) is not the right solution. Indeed, this solution not only disregards the socio-economic aspects of sustainable development, by cutting off any or all economic activity, but also forgets to address the fact that fisheries are not the only “human activities” operating in the European marine areas. Moreover, creating marine sanctuaries means leaving other marine areas unprotected, and open to intensive human activities, that could reach levels incompatible with the achievement of good environmental status. In addition, while entirely closing off certain areas may well protect them from certain human activities, it does not provide any protection from global warming or ocean acidification.
The main points developed by other speakers were the following:
- Isabelle Thomas underlined two issues linked with MPAs. The first one being the privatization of the oceans, ie. the monopolization of the seas by one industry. Her second point linked back to democracy and governance of the oceans: management of these areas cannot only be left to NGOs or experts, all professionals operating in these areas should have a say on the way they are managed.
- According to Serge Garcia, MPAs can encourage economically viable fisheries while minimizing their impact on the environment.
- François Gauthiez explained that the French government was considering MPAs as a tool to protect nature and biodiversity, not to manage fisheries. They support a cooperation between all the actors in the management of these areas.
- Ernesto Penas Lado explained that MPAs are a tool to reach objectives, such as the protection of juveniles, of natural habitats, and the diminution of fish mortality, not an objective as such.
- Bertie Armstrong insisted on the fact that fishermen support properly managed, protected and healthy biodiversity. However, he also recalled that fishing is often a local activity. If a large local marine area becomes a “no-take zone”, then fishermen can lose their source of income.
The presentations of all speakers are available here.