Alternative Marine Conservation Zones in Irish Sea mud habitat: Assessment of habitat extent and condition at “Queenie corner” and assessment of fishing activity at potential MCZ sites. Public

27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in Secretary of State and English waters were designated by the UK government, acting through Defra, in a first tranche in 2013, followed by a second tranche of 23 MCZs designated in 2016. Consultation of a third tranche is planned for early 2017, including potentially a number of sites of particular concern to the Northern Ireland fishing industry (Slieve Na Griddle, South Rigg and Mud Hole). Defra previously identified that these three sites, which were originally suggested through the Irish Sea Conservation Zones project, require further consideration due to their location within important fishing grounds, and that their designation “could have a significant impact on the fishing sector, particularly within Northern Ireland”. Defra has encouraged the fishing industry to develop alternative site proposals for protecting subtidal mud habitats in the Irish Sea region, and that all available options will be then be considered in the third tranche of designations (Defra, 2015). Alternative sites were proposed following stakeholder engagement in a report for Seafish by AFBI in 2015 (AFBI, 2015); this concluded that the “least worst” options in terms of potential fishery displacement, yet representing the key habitat of interest, subtidal mud, were West of Walney in the eastern Irish Sea and a new site, “Queenie Corner”, in the western Irish Sea. West of Walney was included in Tranche 2 of the MCZ designations, and this included a co-location zone with wind farms which had held up its submission in Tranche 1. It passed through consultation and was designated in January 2016. The site proposed as “Queenie Corner” in AFBI (2015) was formally proposed to Defra for consideration in October 2015, with support of both the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation Ltd. and Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation Ltd. However, due to the introduction of the Welsh Fishery Zone, the site had to be re-drawn to avoid overlap with this zone, which reduced the original site area proposed. During 2014 and 2015 additional surveys were completed by AFBI aboard the RV Corystes to provide the habitat evidence required for full consideration of Queenie Corner by Defra. Seafish provided funding for processing of samples and work up of these data to evaluate the presence, extent and condition of the habitat at Queenie Corner, and compare this to similar evidence at the remaining potential sites of Slieve Na Griddle, South Rigg and Mud Hole. This work is reported here, along with a comparison of fishing effort between 2006 and 2014 over each of these sites, and also West of Walney, to provide an overview of how these sites compare in terms of potential fisheries displacement should designation occur and management measures require banning of mobile gear fisheries.
  • Dr Annika Clements,
  • Dr Matt Service
Publication date
01 March 2016


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