The Welsh Government (WG) has recently consulted on its proposals for Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zones (HPMCZ) in Welsh waters. The first in an iterative process of three consultations, this consultation paper seeks views and information on the 10 proposed sites as options for further consideration.
Being 'highly protected' these sites will be similar to the reference areas proposed for English waters with all activities considered to be extractive, depositional, damaging or disturbing being banned from these areas.
For recreational boaters these proposals include restrictions on anchoring, mooring, the installation of navigation aids and lower level management options such as speed restrictions.
The RYA has been working with RYA Cymru-Wales to pull together a robust response to WG's proposals.
Caroline Price, RYA Planning and Environmental Advisor, explains: 'We have some pretty serious concerns about the proposals put forward by Welsh Government. We have raised strong objections to the proposal to ban navigation aids in HPMCZs; essential for the safety of all mariners navigation aids are only deployed when necessary. To ban them on ecological grounds has worrying implications for navigational safety.
"We have also maintained our position that restrictions on anchoring should only be introduced if sound scientific evidence demonstrates a need, if introducing a restriction will be effective, enforced and enforceable and appropriate alternative facilities are made available.
"We had a fantastic response to our call for information on Welsh HPMCZs and received really valuable input from our members and affiliated clubs across Wales, and indeed throughout the UK. This local expertise has enabled us to submit detailed comments on each of the ten proposed sites and has given us an insight into how local communities are reacting to the proposals.
"North west Wales, where six of the proposed HPMCZs are located, is particularly important for recreational boating especially with the new Welsh National Sailing Academy planned for completion in 2013/14. Furthermore, recreational boating forms an integral part of the tourism market in north west Wales and the coast and marine economy in this region is predominantly, though not exclusively, tourism based. Any restrictions on activities that bring tourism to the area have the potential therefore to seriously affect the local economy".
The RYA met with the Marine Branch of the WG to discuss concerns over the existing proposals and also to highlight the feelings of clubs and members in Wales about the consultation process.
"There is strong criticism across Wales of the way in which the consultation has been carried out so far. Stakeholder engagement has been very limited with local communities, including sailing clubs, being asked for their input very late in the day' said Caroline.
"It is clear from our discussions with WG that they are aware of the issues relating to the consultation process and plan to review this carefully before the second stage.'
The consultation for Welsh HPMCZs has now closed and a statement is expected from WG indicating the direction of travel in the autumn. The second stage of consultation is currently planned for January 2013 however this timescale may be subject to change.
Read more on MCZs Wales.