Skip to main content

No-trawl area impacts: perceptions, compliance and fish abundances

  • H.J. BLOOMFIELD (a1) (a2), C.J. SWEETING (a1), A.C. MILL (a3), S.M. STEAD (a1) and N.V.C. POLUNIN (a1)...

MPAs are being established worldwide at an increasing rate, however empirical evidence for benefits to mobile species of small areas closed to fishing in temperate regions are little known. Using two North Sea prohibited trawling areas (PTAs) established > 80 years ago, social (fishers’ perceptions), management (fishing effort and compliance) and ecological (fish abundance and size) data were combined to assess the PTAs against their primary societal (conflict resolution) and secondary ecological (stock protection) objectives. Fishers perceived that the PTAs resolved conflicts between static and mobile gear sectors, despite evidence of non-compliance. However, few fishers perceived that they personally benefited from the PTAs. Fish abundance and size data from baited traps (BT) and video (BV) provided no evidence of PTA effects, but trawling effort was a significant predictor of BT fish abundance data and improved the model of BV fish abundance data. The absence of PTA effects on fish is attributable to non-compliance, the high mobility of the fish involved and their continued exploitation within the PTAs using static gear. This points to the need for greater understanding of the behaviour of fishers in relation to closures. The study also highlights the challenges of quantifying possible fishery benefits of small temperate closed areas and questions whether widely advocated fishery benefits may have enhanced initial support, but failure to deliver them may erode faith in such closures as a fisheries management tool.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Helen Bloomfield, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK e-mail:
Hide All
Agardy T., Bridgewater P., Crosby M.P., Day J., Dayton P.K., Kenchington R., Laffoley D., McConney P., Murray P.A., Parks J.E. & Peau L. (2003) Dangerous targets? Unresolved issues and ideological clashes around marine protected areas. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 13: 353367.
Agardy T., di Sciara G.N. & Christie P. (2011) Mind the gap: addressing the shortcomings of marine protected areas through large scale marine spatial planning. Marine Policy 35: 226232.
Allen J.H. (2008) Ecological assessment of Yorkshire coast prohibited trawling areas. Report to North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee, July 2008. Report number ZBB663-F-2008, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies, University of Hull, Hull, UK.
Beukers-Stewart B.D., Vause B.J., Mosley M.W.J., Rossetti H.L. & Brand A.R. (2005) Benefits of closed area protection for a population of scallops. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 298: 189204.
Beyer H.L. (2004) Hawth's Analysis Tools for ArcGIS [www document]. URL
Blyth R.E., Kaiser M.J., Edwards-Jones G. & Hart P.J.B. (2002) Voluntary management in an inshore fishery has conservation benefits. Environmental Conservation 29: 493508.
Blyth R.E., Kaiser M.J., Edwards-Jones G. & Hart P.J.B. (2004) Implications of a zoned fishery management system for marine benthic communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 41: 951961.
Blyth-Skyrme R.E., Kaiser M.J., Hiddink J.G., Edwards-Jones G. & Hart P.J.B. (2006) Conservation benefits of temperate marine protected areas: variation among fish species. Conservation Biology 20: 811820.
Bohnsack J.A. (1996) Marine reserves, zoning, and the future of fishery management. Fisheries 21: 1416.
Botsford L.W., Micheli F. & Hastings A. (2003) Principles for the design of marine reserves. Ecological Applications 13: S25S31.
Byers J.E. & Noonburg E.G. (2007) Poaching, enforcement, and the efficacy of marine reserves. Ecological Applications 17: 18511856.
Caddy J. (2008) The importance of ‘cover’ in the life histories of demersal and benthic marine resources: a neglected issue in fisheries assessment and management. Bulletin of Marine Science 83: 7.
Caveen A.J., Sweeting C.J., Willis T.J. & Polunin N.V.C. (2012) Are the scientific foundations of temperate marine reserves too warm and hard? Environmental Conservation 39: 199203.
Charles A.T. (2001) Sustainable Fishery Systems. London, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Christie P. (2011) Creating space for interdisciplinary marine and coastal research: five dilemmas and suggested resolutions. Environmental Conservation 38: 172186.
Christie P., McCay B.J., Miller M.L., Lowe C., White A.T., Stoffle R., Fluharty D.L., McManus L.T., Chuenpagdee R., Pomeroy C., Suman D.O., Blount B.G., Huppert D., Eisma R.L.V., Oracion E., Lowry K. & Pollnac R.B. (2003) Toward developing a complete understanding: a social science research agenda for marine protected areas. Fisheries 28: 2226.
Day J.C. (2002) Zoning: lessons from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Ocean and Coastal Management 45: 139156.
Dayton P.K., Sala E., Tegner M.J., & Thrush S. (2000) Marine reserves: parks, baselines, and fishery enhancement. Bulletin of Marine Science 66: 617634.
De Young C., Charles A. & Hjort A. (2008) Human dimensions of the ecosystem approach to fisheries: an overview of context, concepts, tools and methods. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 489, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Rome, Italy [www document]. URL
EC (2003) Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2244/2003 of 18 December 2003 laying down detailed provisions regarding satellite-based Vessel Monitoring Systems. Official Journal of the European Union L333: 1727 [www document]. URL
Fernandes L., Day J., Lewis A., Slegers S., Kerrigan B., Breen D., Cameron D., Jago B., Hall J., Lowe D., Innes J., Tanzer J., Chadwick V., Thompson L., Gorman K., Simmons M., Barnett B., Sampson K., De'ath G., Mapstone B., Marsh H., Possingham H., Ball I., Ward T., Dobbs K., Aumend J., Slater D. & Stapleton K. (2005) Establishing representative no-take areas in the Great Barrier Reef: large-scale implementation of theory on marine protected areas. Conservation Biology 19: 17331744.
Frank K.T., Shackell N.L. & Simon J.E. (2000) An evaluation of the Emerald/Western Bank juvenile haddock closed area. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57 (4): 10231034.
Goodman L.A. (1961) Snowball sampling. Annals of Mathematical Statistics 32: 148170.
Grafton R., Kompas T. & Schneider V. (2005) The bioeconomics of marine reserves: a selected review with policy implications. Journal of Bioeconomics 7: 161178.
Gubbay S. (2004) Marine protected areas in the context of marine spatial planning: discussing the links. A report for WWF-UK, Godalming, Surrey, UK [www document]. URL
Guidetti P. (2002) The importance of experimental design in detecting the effects of protection measures on fish in Mediterranean MPAs. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12: 619634.
Halpern B.S. (2003) The impact of marine reserves: do reserves work and does reserve size matter? Ecological Applications 13: S117S137.
Halpern B.S. & Warner R.R. (2002) Marine reserves have rapid and lasting effects. Ecology Letters 5: 361366.
Hiddink J.G., Hutton T., Jennings S. & Kaiser M.J. (2006) Predicting the effects of area closures and fishing effort restrictions on the production, biomass, and species richness of benthic invertebrate communities. ICES Journal of Marine Science 63: 822830.
Hiddink J.G., Johnson A.F., Kingham R. & Hinz H. (2011) Could our fisheries be more productive? Indirect negative effects of bottom trawl fisheries on fish condition. Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 14411449.
Hilborn R., Stokes K., Maguire J.J., Smith T., Botsford L.W., Mangel M., Orensanz J., Parma A., Rice J., Bell J., Cochrane K.L., Garcia S., Hall S. J., Kirkwood G.P., Sainsbury K., Stefansson G. & Walters C. (2004) When can marine reserves improve fisheries management? Ocean and Coastal Management 47: 197205.
Holland D.S. (2000) A bioeconomic model of marine sanctuaries on Georges Bank. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57: 13071319.
Horwood J.W., Nichols J.H. & Milligan S. (1998) Evaluation of closed areas for fish stock conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 35: 893903.
Howard G., Hill T., Maxwell S., Baptista T., Farias M., Coelho C., Coulter-Kern M. & Coulter-Kern R. (2009) What's wrong with research literatures? And how to make them right. Review of General Psychology 13: 146166.
Hutton T., Mardle S., Pascoe S. & Clark R.A. (2004) Modelling fishing location choice within mixed fisheries: English North Sea beam trawlers in 2000 and 2001. ICES Journal of Marine Science 61: 14431452.
Jackman S. (2011) pscl: Classes and Methods for R. Developed in the Political Science Computational Laboratory, Stanford University, California. R package version 1.03.10 [www document]. URL
Kaiser M., Collie J., Hall S., Jennings S. & Poiner I. (2002) Modification of marine habitats by trawling activities: prognosis and solutions. Fish and Fisheries 3: 114136.
Kaiser M.J. (2005) Are marine protected areas a red herring or fisheries panacea? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 62: 11941199.
Kritzer J.P. (2004) Effects of noncompliance on the success of alternative designs of marine protected-area networks for conservation and fisheries management. Conservation Biology 18: 10211031.
Laurel B.J. & Bradbury I.R. (2006) ‘Big’ concerns with high latitude marine protected areas (MPAs): trends in connectivity and MPA size. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63: 26032607.
Le Quesne W.J.F. & Codling E.A. (2009) Managing mobile species with MPAs: the effects of mobility, larval dispersal, and fishing mortality on closure size. ICES Journal of Marine Science 66: 122131.
Lester S.E., Halpern B.S., Grorud-Colvert K., Lubchenco J., Ruttenberg B.I., Gaines S.D., Airamé S. & Warner R.R. (2009) Biological effects within no-take marine reserves: a global synthesis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 384: 3346.
Mills C.M., Townsend S.E., Jennings S., Eastwood P.D. & Houghton C.A. (2007) Estimating high resolution trawl fishing effort from satellite-based vessel monitoring system data. ICES Journal of Marine Science 64: 248255.
Monteiro S., Vázquez X. & Long R. (2010) Improving fishery law enforcement in marine protected areas. Aegean Review of the Law of the Sea and Maritime Law 1: 95109.
Murawski S.A., Wigley S.E., Fogarty M.J., Rago P.J. & Mountain D.G. (2005) Effort distribution and catch patterns adjacent to temperate MPAs. ICES Journal of Marine Science 62: 11501167.
NESFC (2008) Summary of Fishing Effort 2008. Report by North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee, Bridlington, UK.
Pastoors M.A., Rijnsdorp A.D. & Van Beek F.A. (2000) Effects of a partially closed area in the North Sea (‘plaice box’) on stock development of plaice. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57: 10141022.
Pinheiro J., Bates D., DebRoy S. & Sarkar D. (2011) nlme: Linear and Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models. R Development Core Team. R package version 3.1–98 [www document].
Pipitone C., Badalamenti F., D'Anna G. & Patti B. (2000) Fish biomass increase after a four-year trawl ban in the Gulf of Castellammare (NW Sicily, Mediterranean Sea). Fisheries Research 48: 2330.
Pita C., Pierce G.J., Theodossiou I. & Macpherson K. (2011) An overview of commercial fishers’ attitudes towards marine protected areas. Hydrobiologia 670: 289306.
Polunin N., Bloomfield H., Sweeting C. & McCandless D. (2009) Developing indicators of MPA effectiveness: finfish abundance and diversity in a Yorkshire prohibited trawl area. Report to Marine and Fisheries Agency, London, UK [www document]. URL
R Development Core team (2011) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria, 2011 [www document]. URL
Roberts C.M. (1995) Rapid buildup of fish biomass in a Caribbean marine reserve. Conservation Biology 9: 815826.
Roberts C.M. & Hawkins J.P. (2000) Fully-protected marine reserves: a guide. WWF Endangered Seas Campaign, 1250 24th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA and Environment Department, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK [www document]. URL
Roberts C.M., Bohnsack J.A., Gell F., Hawkins J.P. & Goodridge R. (2001) Effects of marine reserves on adjacent fisheries. Science 294: 19201923.
Rogers S.I. (1997) A review of closed areas in the United Kingdom exclusive economic zone. Science Series Technical Report No. 106, CEFAS, Lowestoft, UK.
Russ G.R. & Alcala A.C. (1996) Do marine reserves export adult fish biomass? Evidence from Apo Island, central Philippines. Marine Ecology Progress Series 132: 19.
Sale P.F., Cowen R.K., Danilowicz B.S., Jones G.P., Kritzer J.P., Lindeman K.C., Planes S., Polunin N.V.C., Russ G.R., Sadovy Y.J. & Steneck R.S. (2005) Critical science gaps impede use of no-take fishery reserves. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 7480.
Stead S.M. (2005) Changes in Scottish coastal fishing communities: understanding socio-economic dynamics to aid management, planning and policy. Ocean and Coastal Management 48: 670692.
Stobart B., García-Charton J.A., Espejo C., Rochel E., Goñi R., Reñones O., Herrero A., Crec'hriou R., Polti S., Marcos C., Planes S. & Pérez-Ruzafa A. (2007) A baited underwater video technique to assess shallow-water Mediterranean fish assemblages: Methodological evaluation. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 345: 158174.
Sweeting C.J. & Polunin N.V.C. (2005) Marine protected areas for management of temperate North Atlantic Fisheries. Lessons learned in MPA use for sustainable fisheries exploitation and stock recovery. Report to DEFRA, UK [www document]. URL
Traves G. (2006) Flamborough, a Major Fishing Station. Driffield, UK: David Marley: 340 pp.
UK Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) UK Marine and Coastal Access Act [www document]. URL
Whitmarsh D., James C., Pickering H., Pipitone C., Badalamenti F. & D'Anna G. (2002) Economic effects of fisheries exclusion zones: a Sicilian case study. Marine Resource Economics 17: 239250.
Willis T.J. & Babcock R.C. (2000) A baited underwater video system for the determination of relative density of carnivorous reef fish. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 755763.
Willis T.J., Millar R.B. & Babcock R.C. (2000) Detection of spatial variability in relative density of fishes: comparison of visual census, angling, and baited underwater video. Marine Ecology Progress Series 198: 249260.
Willis T.J., Millar R.B. & Babcock R.C. (2003) Protection of exploited fish in temperate regions: high density and biomass of snapper Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) in northern New Zealand marine reserves. Journal of Applied Ecology 40: 214227.
Woolmer A. (2009) National Shellfish Resource Base: cost-effective and efficient methodology to map inshore <10 m fleet. Report to Shellfish Industry Development Strategy, UK [www document]. URL
Wright P.J., Neat F.C., Gibb F.M., Gibb I.M. & Thordarson H. (2006) Evidence for metapopulation structuring in cod from the west of Scotland and North Sea. Journal of Fish Biology 69: 181199.
WSSD (2002) Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. New York, NY, USA: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development.
Zuur A.F., Ieno E.I., Walker N.J., Saveliev A.A. & Smith G.M. (2009) Mixed Effects Models and Extensions in Ecology with R. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Bloomfield supplementary material

 Word (46 KB)
46 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 21 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 248 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.