The Isle of Man currently has six Marine Protected Areas.
Five are designated as Fisheries Closed or Restricted areas, primarily for the enhancement of the scallop stocks. The sixth is a Marine Nature Reserve, designated primarily for conservation and also for fisheries management.
The longest running of the Fisheries Closed Areas is the Port Erin Closed Area, which was established in 1989 and is recognised world wide for its success.
Manx fishermen have seen the benefits of closing patches of sea bed to dredging and have since requested other areas also be closed or restricted.
Subsequently, Douglas Bay was closed to mobile fishing gear in 2008 and Niarbyl Bay and Laxey Bay were closed in 2009. Additionally, Niarbyl Bay and Laxey Bay were seeded with juvenile scallops, in a new ‘ranching’ project. This will monitor their survival and growth over time in order to establish the most sustainable way to harvest them.
In late 2009, Ramsey Bay was also closed as an emergency measure to protect the scallop stock as the fishermen could see it was being damaged.
Ramsey Bay was also seeded with juvenile scallops, in 2010, which were tagged so that their survival and movement can be monitored.
Marine Nature Reserves
In late 2011, Ramsey Bay and the Ballacash Channel was designated as the Isle of Man’s first Marine Nature Reserve. The move, which followed extensive consultation with the public, had the support of the Manx fishing industry.
The area was selected as it has three habitats considered as priorities for conservation under international conventions. These are: horse mussel reefs, maerl beds and eelgrass meadows.
They are all areas that are very important for juvenile species of fish and support hundreds of other animal species. However, they take many years to build up and are very sensitive to being damaged by human activities. By protecting these areas as a Marine Nature Reserve, the habitats and species will be allowed to recover from any damage that has been done and to thrive into the future.
The latest addition to the Manx marine protected area network was Bay ny Carrickey, in the south of the island, which was closed to the extraction of scallops by any means in late 2012. This was following a plea from various community sectors for protection from dredging, including anglers, pot fishermen and conservationists.
It is hoped that more fisheries management areas as well as nature reserves purely for conservation will be designated in the future.