The Biologically Sensitive Area (BSA) is situated off the west and south coasts of Ireland and is considered to encompass an area of high biological sensitivity. It contains important spawning and nursery grounds for exploited north east Atlantic fish species. It is particularly important for the northern hake stock and has been subject to high levels of fishing activity by vessels from Spain, France, Ireland and the UK. The Biologically Sensitive Area was established under Article 6 of Council Regulation 1954 of 2003 and replaced the ‘Irish Box’ set up under the Iberian Act of Accession of 1986. Its primary objective is to ensure that the level of fishing intensity in this vulnerable area does not increase.
A review clause (scheduled for 2008) was part of the initial regulation, however efforts to evaluate the utility, functioning and effectiveness of the BSA (STECF-11-12 2011) were inconclusive, and although science advice from ICES (ACOM; June 2009) has indicated that the fishing pressure in the area has stabilized, they also state that the effects of these measures cannot be precisely quantified.
Now almost 17 years after its adoption, a review of the utility, functioning and effectiveness of the BSA is overdue. The objectives of this study are as follows:
- To review the literature underpinning the information base of the biological and ecological sensitivity of the area. To establish the extent of vulnerable biological processes and ecological habitats in the area especially those specific to this area
- To review the information on pressures in the area over time, taking account of MSFD descriptors, especially the trends in the pressure on biological resources including vulnerable and commercially exploited species.
- To review information on the status of biological resources over time within and without the area.
- To review what changes if any have been affected by the designation, and provide recommendations for further research work or specific monitoring which would be required to provide an information base which is currently not available.
- To produce a report which details the biological basis for the BSA and the effectiveness of the designation as an instrument to afford protection to the area. To update information on changes (temporal spatial or other) if any, to the biological processes in the area. To identify gaps in the current knowledge and approach and propose mitigation to address such gaps.
This project is due to running during 2020 and part of 2021.
- Report detailing the biological basis for the BSA and the effectiveness of the designation as an instrument to afford protection to the area.
- Update information on changes (temporal spatial or other) if any, to the biological processes the state of biological resources and pressure on such resources in the area.
- Gaps in the current knowledge and approach and propose mitigation to address such gaps.
The report would form the basis of a review of the BSA, as called for in Article 6 of Council Regulation 1954 of 2003. This would then feed into a review of the Common Fisheries Policy which will be required by December 31st 2022 .