Fair Isle Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area (DR MPA)

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Fair Isle is a small island within the Shetland islands which is home to Scotland’s first and only Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area. The DR MPA site extends 5km out from the island’s coastline (157km2) and has been established to primarily research the relationship between healthy seas and the maintenance of a local island community.

The Fair Isle DR MPA seeks to demonstrate, through research and dissemination of learning, the effectiveness of a community led partnership approach in achieving a long-term programme of sustainable management of Fair Isle’s waters.Implementing sustainable marine management measures through the DR MPA, is vital for; preserving Fair Isle’s natural heritage; honouring and maintaining the historic connection a community feels towards their adjacent waters; and; securing the future of an Island community who feel continuously susceptible to population decline.

Fair Isle is renowned for its natural environment and seabird populations, which have historically attracted visitors from all over the world, thus significantly contributing to the island’s economy through eco-tourism. Concerns have been raised by the local community since the late 1980’s following marked declines in the island’s natural resources including visiting seabirds and inshore fish populations. The Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI), a small community-led body, developed a proposal for the Fair Isle DR MPA in 2011. Following five years of effort by FIMETI including producing multiple proposals, clarifications, meetings, and assessments, the Fair Isle DR MPA was designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 on the 9th November 2016.

The Fair Isle DR MPA aims to deliver on designation order objectives to facilitate a collaborative evidence-based approach to marine management, supporting meaningful research to expand on our understanding of Fair Isle’s marine environment and implement impactful conservation measures

The Fair Isle DR MPA Designation Order states that:

“Method or methods of marine management or exploitation to be demonstrated and researched

5.—(1) The methods of marine management and exploitation to be demonstrated and researched within The Fair Isle (Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area) are the use of an ecosystem approach(a), which includes the following —

(a) The environmental monitoring of seabirds and of other mobile marine species;

(b) The environmental monitoring of the factors which influence the populations of seabirds and of other mobile species;

(c) The development and implementation of a local sustainable shellfish fishery;

(d) The development of a research programme into local fisheries which includes research on species composition, size, distribution and temporal and spatial changes in fish stocks;

(e) Based upon the research undertaken under sub-paragraph (d), the development of a sustainable use management programme for local fisheries.

(2) The methods of marine management and exploitation to be demonstrated and researched into as referred to in paragraph (1) include demonstration of, and research into, the effects of such methods of marine management and exploitation on Fair Isle, including any socio-economic effects.

(3) In paragraph (1) (a) and (b) “mobile marine species” includes cetaceans and other marine mammals.”

Throughout 2017 and 2018 FIMETI dissolved and a new community organisation, the Fair Isle Marine Research Organisation (FIMRO) was formed in Fair Isle. FIMRO now oversee the community conservation activity and manage the Fair Isle DR MPA Project Officer. The DR MPA programme will contribute to the outcomes and priorities expressed by the Fair Isle community over many years. The ambition is; to ensure the marine resource is used sustainably; to support social and economic goals and to safeguard the livelihoods of Fair Isle’s small island population

To achieve sustainability for the community of Fair Isle and their surrounding waters. To raise the profile of Fair Isle as a study area, including showcasing the benefits of a community-led initiative; illustrating that small communities are influential in terms of policy development and translating this experience to encourage similar programmes in other coastal communities.

Vision for the Future: The Fair Isle Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area is an integral part of Fair Isle’s global reputation as a research hub. It is renowned for how its development and delivery is led by the local community, working in close collaboration with wider stakeholders.


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