Black - Environment correspondent, BBC News website
years without fishing around Lundy Island off the coast of Devon have brought
a significant revival in sea life, scientists report. Lobsters are seven
times more abundant within the protected zone than outside. The eastern
coast of Lundy is the UK's only "no-take" zone, where fishing
is completely prohibited. Conservation groups say UK seas need more of them,
but the government's recent Marine Bill promises much vaguer "marine
conservation zones". It is not clear what levels of protection these
areas would have. "The site wasn't only set up to protect lobsters
- it's to protect the whole environment"
Davis, Natural England The Lundy zone was set up five years ago by Natural
England and the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee, which administers fishing
along the county's coasts, in partnership with local fishermen. Natural
England scientists believe the zone should help Devon's lobster-potters
by providing a refuge where young lobsters can grow to maturity, then migrate
into areas where commercial fishing is permitted.
main result we have seen is an increase in the number of large lobsters
in the no-take zone compared to areas where fishing is on-going," said
Miles Hoskin, the marine biologist engaged by Natural England to lead the
research. There are more lobsters caught inside the zone, and they are larger
Recent surveys have found that lobsters above the minimum landing size are
between six and seven times as abundant within the zone as outside.
recent years we've also found an increase in the number of small lobsters
within the zone and adjacent to the zone," Dr Hoskin told BBC News.
"In the next year or two they're all going to be lobsters that fishermen
team surveys five sites - one in the no-take zone, two commercially fished
sites around Lundy, and two comparison sites further afield, one on the
north coast of Devon and one in South Wales. Surveying consists of laying
and then retrieving strings of commercial lobster pots, and counting and
sexing the animals inside.
The approximate doubling in numbers of young lobsters has not been seen
at the two distant sites, suggesting that it is a consequence of the no-take
Scientists are now putting tags on the lobsters they catch. Fishermen are
being encouraged to report catches of tagged animals, in order to show how
far they are migrating out of the no-take zones.
are generally cautious about no-take zones, which is one reason why the
government plumped for the much more adaptable "marine conservation
zone" concept in the draft Marine Bill.
difficult to to say whether it's helped us - we didn't used to fish in there
much anyway, except close to shore, but it was always good for lobsters,"
said John Barbeary, whose lobster and whelk boat works out of Ilfracombe.
we were asked about it we were all for it... (but) we couldn't afford to
have the zone made any bigger because it would completely ruin our business,
and I think you'd find that with a lot of fishermen around the country -
it would make it totally uneconomic."
Sarah Clark from the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee said she believed the
zone was good for the industry. "Having a larger brood stock especially
of females within the no-take zone will obviously produce more juveniles,"
she said. "We're tagging them to see if they're moving out - if they
are, they'll be moving out of the no-take zone into the area that's being
fished, and and that can only help with the fishery, and help fishermen
England's root reason for wanting the zone closed was not to help fishermen,
but to return a tiny fraction - 0.002% - of the UK's seas to the state they
were in before the era of modern fishing.
site wasn't only set up to protect lobsters - it's to protect the whole
environment," said Chris Davis, the agency's senior specialist in marine
A crayfish is a surprise catch - "the first in five years"
about protecting the fish and the sponges and the coral that's here as well,
and it's doing a good job, though it's a bit difficult to say on some of
the species because they don't reach maturity for 30 or 40 years."
A by-product of nature protection may be an increase in the tourist trade.
A full analysis has yet to be done, but anecdotally the numbers of divers
visiting Lundy has risen. However, the views of fishermen are likely to
be highly influential when it comes to deciding how many of the new marine
conservation zones - which are several years away from being proposed -
acquire full protection. So will the views of the burgeoning renewables
industry, given the potential of UK seas for generating electricity through
tidal and wave technologies as well as offshore wind turbines.