VEGA's response to a consultation on measures to protect marine biodiversity interests in Lyme Bay from the impact of fishing with dredges and other towed gear.
Below is VEGA's response to the consultation on measures to protect marine biodiversity interests in Lyme Bay from the impact of fishing with dredges and other towed gear.
The Pink Sea Fan (Eunicella verrucosa) is under threat from e.g. commercial fisheries, scallop dredging and diving. If potting and diving is allowed in the area (for development of possible alternative income streams into the local economy), the possibility of fin-strike damage by scuba diving damaging or killing colonies must be taken into consideration. However, divers can also be a source of people to survey and monitor the area, even if in an unofficial way. Studies have shown that E. verrucosa bend under the weight of pots but are not seriously damaged and they bend back when the pots have passed. However, long-term effects of collisions are not known and potting could cause disturbance.
The continuation of diving and potting relies on healthy corals, something that will not be sustained by scalloping in the area, and monitoring must be in place to survey the health of the area. Scallop diving is also in place in the area, and if scallop dredging is excluded scallop diving should be monitored to survey impacts of a possible increase in scallop diving.
E. verrucosa is also a host species for the sea fan anemone, Amphianthus dohrnii, another BAP species. Are there recordings of A. dohrnii in the area, and if not have surveys been undertaken to that extent as to exclude the possibility of the species in the area?
We think that option C “Exclude the use of all towed gear, by either SFC Byelaw or Order, in the 60 square mile area originally proposed by NE in May 2006”, is the only viable option, even though it will have some economic implications on the scallop dredging activities. This 60 square mile protection zone is still only a small part of the whole of Lyme Bay.