Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) today launched a new report on best practices in protecting representative areas of the seabed (benthic habitats) that are important for conservation. The report – ‘Benthic Protection Areas: Best Practices and Recommendations’ – draws on internationally agreed best practices for protected area network design such as those promoted by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and examines some of the current leading examples of benthic protection in the world. BPAs are not zero-fishing areas and can permit gear types that do not impact on the seabed. A BPA network is one essential component of ecosystem based fisheries management.

The report can be found here.

The report compiles best practices guidance to support fisheries and seafood supply chains working to create ‘Benthic Protection Area’ (BPA) networks as part of a strategy to address the impacts of bottom trawling and other fishing practices that impact the seabed. This requires, as part of the solution, that stakeholders work together to design and protect a representative network of vulnerable and important seabed areas. In countries and fishing areas where the current regulatory and consultative processes prove insufficient, SFP recommends the creation of Ecosystem Improvement Projects to bring together stakeholders from the fisheries, NGOs, science, regulators and seafood supply chain. 

A BPA network is a critical part of the solution, but other measures are also required. SFP recommends that where bottom trawls and other bottom-impacting gears are permitted, technical gear modifications and other measures should be adopted to reduce their impacts on the seafloor outside BPAs. Commenting on the launch of the report, Jim Cannon, CEO of SFP, said: “Many fisheries are facing the issue of addressing the impacts they have on sea bottom habitats and species. In many cases there is a lack of agreed national or regional conservation objectives and a framework for identifying priorities for protection. This results in an ad hoc process where NGOs and industry square off over one disputed area after another, or NGOs call for a bottom trawl ban. In our analysis, an approach that defines conservation objectives and an agreed framework for identifying protected areas can result in more constructive dialog, and wider support for the resulting conservation measures among both NGOs and the catch sector. We hope this report provides useful general guidance to fisheries on how to design and implement BPA networks, and to the seafood supply chain on how to monitor and encourage their progress.”