Wales

Marine conservation zones: First consultation process ends

Map showing 10 potential Marine Conservation Zone areas around Wales
Image caption Map of the potential sites for conservation zones

Creating up to 10 marine conservation zones around Wales would have "serious cultural and economic impacts," claims a fishing industry body.

The Welsh government is proposing the zones with the backing of the Countryside Council of Wales (CCW) and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

But the Welsh Fishermen's Association (WFA) said existing conservation networks for Welsh waters are adequate.

The first consultation phase about the zones' creation closes on Tuesday.

Creating the zones would mean a ban of fishing, on dredging and on anchoring in all or some of the areas.

The consultation, led by the Welsh government, is the first of three.

The government said work on the marine conservation zones was in the early stages, and it remained flexible on the location and size of them.

The zones were formed on the advice of the CCW and are supported by the MCS.

MCS said they would provide "massive benefits" for wildlife.

But in its response to the consultation, the WFA said it had highlighted "shortcomings" in the proposals, with the Welsh government taking an "unreasonable" approach that "appears to have been driven as much by advocacy of single issue groups and personalities as based upon scientific evidence".

Its report, Uncharted Waters, says Welsh "fishermen, their communities and other people who enjoy the sea fear that this blanket approach to marine management will impact commercial fisheries, recreational angling and related tourism activities".

One of the proposed zones is around Bardsey Island, off the Llyn Peninsula, where Colin Evans is a lobster fisherman.

He said: "My worries are really that the proposed legislation is a little bit disproportionate.

"I'm a sixth generation lobster fisherman around Bardsey. I would like to say that my family has been practicing marine conservation since the beginning of the 19th Century.

"This legislation will affect precisely those environmentally responsible fisheries whilst allowing damaging activities to carry on outside the proposed zones.

"If all 10 sites were designated it would affect directly or indirectly about 25% or 50% of the Welsh inshore responsible low impact fishing fleet, but it would affect 0% of the nomadic scallop vessels that work in these areas in the winter."

Gill Bell, of MCS, said she appreciated people had concerns about the zones.

"Where they've been set up from people around the world the evidence has shown that this type of protection is the most effective and it has massive benefits for the wildlife, so you get more fishes and shellfish and other types of wildlife, they weigh more, they tend to be bigger, and there are lots of different types."

'Flexible'

Ms Bell urged people to respond, with two further consultations to follow.

"With regard to the scallop fisheries, there are new laws being implemented for them and they are within Welsh government under department because this is a conservation measure rather than a fisheries measure," she added.

The Welsh government said: "We remain flexible on the location, size and boundaries of potential marine conservation zones and are not yet anywhere near the decision making stage.

"The current consultation is the first in a three staged consultation process and is focused on gathering information and views from people across Wales and especially those living in local coastal communities."

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