European Marine Sites

What are EMS?

EMS protect wildlife habitats and species of European importance through Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) that are covered by tidal waters. These sites contain some of England’s most vulnerable marine wildlife and habitats.

SAC are designated under the Habitats Directive to conserve marine habitats or species of European importance listed in Annex I and II of the Directive.

SPA, established under the Birds Directive, protect populations of bird species of European importance listed in Annex I of the Directive and/or regularly occurring migratory birds within the EU.

Are there EMS in Sussex?

Five EMS are partly or fully encompassed within the Sussex IFCA district:

What are the changes to managing fisheries in European Marine Sites?

In 2012 Defra issued a revised its approach to commercial fisheries management in European Marine Sites (EMS) in English inshore waters, to conserve important habitats and species in line with our obligations under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

Defra set up an Implementation Group involving key marine stakeholders, including fishing organisations and government organisations, with the purpose of advising on how the revised approach is implemented effectively and practically, considering the impacts of management measures available and timescales for delivery.

The revised approach is being applied on a risk-prioritised, phased basis. To support this process a matrix as developed which sets out the level of risk that fishing activities present to the species and habitats EMS are designed to protect. This categorises fishing activity as red, amber, green or blue by the level of risk that they present to the habitat and species conservation features of the EMS.

Red

Where it is clear that the conservation objectives for a feature (of sub-feature) will not be achieved because of its sensitivity to a type of fishing, - irrespective of feature condition, level of pressure, or background environmental conditions in all EMSs where that feature occurs – suitable management measures will be identified and introduced as a priority to protect those features from that fishing activity or activities.

Amber

Where it is clear that the achievement of that conservation objectives for a feature is highly unlikely to be affected by a type of fishing activity or activities, in all EMSs where that feature occurs, further action is not likely to be required, unless there is the potential for in combination effects.

Green

Where it is clear that the conservation objectives for a feature (of sub-feature) will not be achieved because of its sensitivity to a type of fishing, - irrespective of feature condition, level of pressure, or background environmental conditions in all EMSs where that feature occurs – suitable management measures will be identified and introduced as a priority to protect those features from that fishing activity or activities.

Blue

For gear types where there can be no feasible interaction between the gear types and habitat features, a fourth categorisation of blue is used, and no management action should be necessary.

By the end of 2013 regulatory management measures had to be introduced for all existing and potential commercial fishing activities which present a red high risk to sensitive protected features within EMS. The impact of fisheries on other features which are at lower risk of being damaged need to be assessed by the end of 2016 and management measures introduced where required.

Defra’s revised approach to the management of commercial fisheries in EMS overarching policy and delivery document describes its policy approach and intended implementation through statutory delivery bodies.

IFCAs are the primary delivery body for the management of fisheries within EMS encompassed in an IFCA District. Section 6 of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) define IFCAs as ‘competent’ and ‘relevant’ authorities in respect to implementation of the Habitats Directive. Consequently, Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive creates a legal duty on IFCAs to take appropriate conservation measures to avoid damaging activities in EMS.

For more information on the government’s revised approach to fishing in EMS, including the risk matrix and associated documents please visit the Marine Management Organisation's website:

www.marinemanagement.org.uk/protecting/ conservation/ems_fisheries.htm.

Are there red risks in Sussex?

Applying the government’s risk matrix to EMS within Sussex, seagrass beds within Chichester Harbour have been identified as a sensitive red risk feature and incompatible with towed (demersal) fishing, dredges (towed and other), intertidal handwork and bait collection.

Sussex IFCA formulated the ‘Chichester Harbour European Marine Site (Specified Areas) Prohibition of Fishing Method’ byelaw to protect the seagrass beds. In accordance with Defra guidance, the byelaw was consulted on between 21st August and 26th September 2013.

On the 26th November 2013 the ‘Chichester Harbour European Marine Site (Specified Areas) Prohibition of Fishing Method’ byelaw was confirmed by the Secretary of State and is now enforceable.

Click on the links below for the full byelaw text, associated impact assessment and maps:

Chichester Harbour European Marine Site (Specified Areas) Prohibition of Fishing Method byelaw (PDF, 348KB)

Impact Assessment (PDF, 562KB)

Seagrass maps and management polygons (PDF, 320KB)

This Byelaw relates to the area of Chichester Harbour which falls within the Sussex IFCA District, east of Emsworth Channel. West of Emsworth Channel is encompassed within Southern IFCA's District and their proposed management for Red Risks applies (www.southern-ifca.gov.uk).

Management does not involve complete prohibition within the harbour of the fishing activities outlined, instead these are restricted over the management areas encompassing mapped seagrass beds. Under the byelaw, specified fishing activities are currently prohibited from a total area of 0.85km2.

The map below illustrates the areas in which the feature has been identified over which the fisheries outlined will be managed, and highlights the localised distribution of known seagrass beds. Based on current knowledge on where activities occur Sussex IFCA does not anticipate any loss of known commercial fishing ground as a result of the proposed byelaw.

Sussex IFCA will continue to support work to improve existing datasets on the extent of these features and will review management at appropriate intervals.

Chichester Harbour European Marine Site (Specified Areas) Prohibition of Fishing Method

Why is seagrass important?

Seagrass (also known as eelgrass) are grass-like flowering plants with dark green, long, narrow, ribbon-shaped leaves.

Seagrass beds are an internationally important habitat and a key component sub-feature/attribute for the designation of the Solent Maritime EMS. It is a declining habitat, included on the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats (declining in Region II – North Sea and Region III – Celtic Sea, and threatened in Region V – Wider Atlantic). Seagrass is also a UKBAP Priority Habitat and an important feature in estuary Sites of Special Scientific Interest, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Seagrass beds provide important food for wildfowl, such as brent geese, and nutrients to support animal communities on the seabed. They are important nursery and spawning grounds for a variety of commercial fish and shellfish species and provide a sheltered home for many other animals. Seagrass beds also provide important ecosystem services. As well as promoting biodiversity, seagrass beds store carbon, cycle nutrients, support numerous industries (e.g. fishing and tourism) and help reduce coastal erosion as their roots catch and trap sediments. Seagrass/algae beds value is estimated as $19,004 ha-1yr-1 globally, some three times more than coral reefs (Constanza et al, 1997).

For further information on seagrass visit:

www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/marine/ mpa/mcz/features/habitats/seagrassbeds.aspx

Are there amber and green risks in Sussex?

Following the introduction of management to protect red risk gear/feature interactions, Sussex IFCA officers have been undertaking an extensive screening process of amber/green risks in the district. This has involved prioritising and identifying different scales of risk associated with amber interactions and research/evidence requirements to inform amber and green assessments.

This process has utilised information from the Cefas evidence audit, IFCO expert intel on local fishing activities and their intensity, sightings data collected since 2001 and NE liaison on conservation advice. Additional desk based research and data collection for certain activity types has also been required.

An initial assessment has then been made as to whether:

  • The activity can pass an initial test of Likely Significant Effect (tLSE), as a result of no activity, no feature interaction or existing management being in place
  • The activity may have an adverse effect and require a more detailed Appropriate Assessment (AA)
  • More evidence is required to feed into the process before a judgement can be made concerning the LSE

Through this process the following gear/feature interactions have been identified as requiring more detailed assessment within an AA:

  • Oyster dredges on subtidal and intertidal sediments within Chichester Harbour;
  • Pots and traps on sandbanks and subtidal sediments within Chichester Harbour;
  • Otter trawls on intertidal sediments within Chichester Harbour;
  • Static, drift, beach seine and ring nets on bird species/assemblages and supporting sub-features in Pagham Harbour
  • Bait/hand collection within Chichester Harbour, Pagham Harbour and Dungeness to Pett Level due to impacts evidence and activity data gaps

Sussex IFCA will continue to collect evidence to inform these assessments, including working with partners on an oyster dredging impacts project, desk-based impacts research, bait/hand gathering activity data collection and feature mapping.

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