The Welsh Government needs to take a stronger lead to safeguard our marine environments for future generations, a National Assembly Committee says.
Mike Hedges, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, launched the report at the National Eisteddfod. The report calls on the Welsh Government to show leadership on marine protection, by providing staff and resources to improve public awareness, research, monitoring and enforcement.
The report into the Welsh Government's management of Marine Protected Areas in Wales found:
More funding and staffing is needed to ensure Wales's marine environments are protected;
Funding for Marine Protected Areas should be area-based with a dedicated officer for each area;
Better use of available enforcement tools is required, including 'soft' enforcement such as education through the presence of site officer;
Management authorities, including the Welsh Government, should consider making these enforcement tools statutory through regulation;
The Welsh Government must work to ensure that Wales's fisheries resources and the interests of the Welsh fleet are fully protected in Brexit negotiations;
Before designating new sites, the Welsh Government must ensure that the current suite of Welsh MPAs are brought into effective management;
The Welsh Government must explain how it will address any future shortfall in funding for work on Marine Protected Areas that is currently met by EU funds following Britain's departure from the EU.
Mr. Hedges said: "Welsh waters are home to some of the most biologically diverse habitats and species in Europe, and 50% is protected, which means that certain activities such as fishing and wildlife trip operators are regulated to prevent environmental damage.
"Simply creating Marine Protected Areas is not enough; the Welsh Government must also ensure they have the resources necessary for the management, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement that is required."
RYA calls for consultation
Emma Barton, RYA Planning and Environmental Manager, added: "The RYA maintains that it is vital the proposed MPA Strategy is fully consulted upon to allow all stakeholders to input into the process and we fully support the view that management should be clear in the existing Marine Protected Areas before further sites are designated - this will allow stakeholders to better understand the impact that new designations may have.
"Where Codes of Conduct for recreational boating are thought not to be working, the relevant authorities should work in partnership with the RYA and The Green Blue to review, improve and promote them, along with further education and training, prior to proposing any statutory measures.
"There is good evidence of guidance and Codes of Conduct working well in Wales and best practice should be shared across all MPAs."
The RYA position on statutory management measures is that they should not be imposed unless it can be demonstrated that they are enforceable and will be enforced. Such measures must be effectively communicated to those likely to be affected, using methods appropriate to the activity. Where statutory management measures are introduced, they should include a general due diligence defence.
Emma added: "We welcome the suggestion that designation and management should be harmonised as the UK leaves the EU. The RYA has long said the lack of openness during the designation process on the management measures that may be needed has resulted in proposed sites becoming both locally and nationally contentious. Whereas, if proposals were made clearer, early on in the process, stakeholders would be able to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions and would therefore be more likely to be able to fully support designation.
"We remain committed to supporting the establishment of an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas and in most cases we believe this can be achieved without any adverse effect on either the public right or the safety of navigation for recreational boating. Full consultation with stakeholders is an essential part of this process to ensure we have a resilient and sustainably-managed marine environment."
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Image: Harbour porpoises in Ramsey Sound