The CABFishMan project has created an innovative process to enable stakeholders to identify and score impacts of fishing gear on marine environments

The CABFishMan project has created an innovative process to enable stakeholders to identify and score impacts of SSF gear on marine environments

Assessing impact, for impact: Creating a bespoke system for identifying the perceived impacts of SSF gear on marine habitats

As part of its work to develop tools for collaborative management of small-scale fisheries, the CABFishMan project has created an innovative process to enable stakeholders to identify and score impacts of fishing gear on marine environments based on the expert knowledge of all sectors with a management interest in the inshore and small-scale sector across the European Atlantic.

Small-scale fishermen have contributed their insight and experience to an innovative new system to identify and score perceived environmental impacts of the gears most commonly used in their fisheries. Adding their views, fishermen from small-scale fleets in the UK, Spain, and Portugal have contributed to testing this approach with the aim of creating a tool that will enable stakeholders to share their knowledge and inform collaborative management of their fisheries.

The integral role that small-scale and inshore fisheries play in supporting coastal communities is widely recognised. By providing employment, generating income through tourism and selling catches, and contributing to the heritage and cultural identity, the need to protect small-scale fisheries is commanding increased attention from policy makers across the UK and Europe. But how can we truly make informed management decisions to ensure a sustainable future for our fisheries, when there is relatively little knowledge of the inshore sector’s complex interaction with the marine environment?

Over the last 10 years a great deal of research has been conducted on fishing impacts in the marine environment. However, such is the variation in how, where and when gears are deployed, little is known about the specific realities of the small-scale sector. This poses a problem for multiple reasons: SSFs encompass a wide range of gear types and fishing methods; are typically located in inshore areas that intersect with other marine users; and are seasonally adaptable to different target species, gear types, and fishing grounds. The complexity of SSFs mean that a new, bespoke system is needed to help estimate their impact in a way that supports bespoke management decision making and ensures a sustainable future for the industry.

The CABFishMan Project set out to meet this need. An international project working to develop tools for collaborative management of SSFs in the European Atlantic, CABFishMan has combined the insight and experience of fishermen, fisheries managers, conservationists, and researchers to develop a new system for scoring the impacts of SSFs in the marine environment.

The CABFishMan Impact Matrix aims to allow fisheries managers to better understand how stakeholders perceive the impact that small-scale fishing gears are currently having on the marine environment.

The CABFishMan project has created an innovative process to enable stakeholders to identify and score impacts of fishing gear on marine environmentsSo that it is easy to use, the results of the perceived impact scoring have been linked to values of fishing effort. This has allowed for maps to be created that highlight the areas where stakeholders perceive the greatest environmental impacts from SFF fishing. This will help fishers visualise areas where they may be able to adapt their businesses in order to reduce their impact. It can also be used to target areas for future research effort.

“Understanding how different sectors perceive impact is crucial in designing effective management that is accepted by sea users, delivers measurable environmental gain and is practical to enforce. We all want a sustainable future for the SSF industry and sharing our collective understanding of what and where the environmental impacts are is a critical first step to achieving that. The CABfishMan project helps us take that step” said Declan Tobin, of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Accompanying the Impact Matrix comes a summary of potential mitigation measures that seek to provide tangible, actionable steps for small-scale fisheries to help reduce their impacts on marine environments without diminishing their earning potential.

The Impact Matrix and suggestions for potential mitigation measures will be accessible via the CABFishMan GeoTool – an open access, online web tool designed to provide key evidence in support of management decisions for SSFs in the Northeast Atlantic. The GeoTool and other resources were showcased at the CABFishMan Final Symposium on 22nd March 2023. To see a recording of the online session, visit www.cabfishman.net.

Source: Press Release

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