Conservation targets in marine protected area management suffer from shifting baseline syndrome: A case study on the Dogger Bank

Callum Michael Roberts, Annabel Plumeridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Dogger Bank is a subtidal hill in the North Sea that is a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive in UK waters. Historical records indicate that the Bank has been subject to human exploitation from before the 16th century but conservation objectives have been developed using recent survey data. This has the potential to significantly underestimate the alteration this ecosystem has experienced, making the Dogger Bank an example of shifting baseline syndrome in protected area management. We compile quantitative and qualitative descriptions from historical records of change in catch rates, fishing effort, price and fish size to show that there have been prolonged declines in abundance of fish on the Bank since the early 19th century. Use of present day data to inform conservation has led to unambitious recovery targets. Historical data, we
argue, are an essential input to conservation decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-404
JournalMarine pollution bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • MPA
  • Bottom trawling
  • Environmental history
  • Fishery exploitation

Cite this