Lying where warm waters from the south meet cool nutrient rich waters from the north, the sea around Wales is home to a rich diversity of life. This has long been recognised and currently over 36% of Welsh territorial waters have been designated as Marine Protected Areas. Whilst this is a commendable start by decision makers, these sites are failing to adequately protect the wildlife found within their boundaries and better management is urgently needed to allow them to achieve their objectives.
Under legislation introduced in 2009, the Welsh Government now has the powers to introduce new Marine Conservation Zones in the Welsh inshore area (0-12 nautical miles). These sites are intended to play an important role in helping Welsh seas cope with increasing pressures. In contrast to processes underway elsewhere in the UK, Welsh Government have decided that these sites will be highly protected, restricting all activities which could potentially change, damage or disturb the site.
WTW and the six individual Wildlife Trusts in Wales welcome Welsh Governments plans to introduce greater protection for Welsh seas. However, rather than the exclusive use of highly protected sites, we favour the consideration of Marine Conservation Zone management on a site by site basis. We see this process as a key opportunity to improve our understanding of how the sea is used in Wales, and believe this information should be used to inform management decisions.
We recognise the value of having areas of the sea that are free from disturbance. However, we believe that the introduction of a greater number of larger Marine Conservation Zones, with smaller highly protected areas within their boundaries, would present greater benefits for the protection of Welsh seas. This zoned approach would enable the creation of small and carefully chosen highly protected Conservation Zones, whilst protecting areas within the wider Marine Conservation Zone from the most damaging activities and allowing more sustainable local activities to continue.
We continue to strongly support the exclusion of all highly damaging activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling from all Marine Protected Areas. To achieve Living Seas, we believe the management of all Marine Protected Areas in Welsh waters needs to be considerably improved.