MCS says flawed process to select highly protected marine sites around Wales has left the public feeling cold about conservation
Widespread support for protection from visitors to MCS stand at Royal Welsh Show
MCS says the Welsh Government’s top down approach to marine protection has failed to win over fishermen and local businesses that would see long term benefit from ‘no take’ protection.
The charity says the final week of the public consultation on Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zones (HPMCZs) around the Welsh coast is likely to continue to whip up anger and confusion among the very people who love the sea but who feel they would be excluded and therefore have opposed better protection for Welsh seas.
MCS says it has come under fire from people opposed to HPMCZs who believe that the charity helped choose the proposed sites and that we support the concept of banning activities that local and tourists currently take for granted.
Gill Bell, MCS Wales Programme Manager, says confusion about the process and understanding of the benefits of this sort of protection comes from the government’s inappropriate ‘top down’ approach.
“MCS called for greater transparency about the sites that were being considered from the outset and had a radically different approach been taken we may now be in a much more constructive position as we approach the end of the first consultation. It was always Welsh Governments intention to take into account social, cultural, political or economic considerations as well as environmental data but MCS believes that stakeholders should have been involved at a much earlier time.
At a recent public meeting I attended the Welsh Government agreed that going forward stakeholders would be involved. MCS will be ensuring this happens as support and understanding is key to the success of HPMCZ designation.”
MCS says that despite hostility towards the charity due to its perceived involvement it will continue to work to keep the highly protected option on the table. Since the consultation on the 10 proposed sites in Wales was launched in April, there has been growing concern about exactly which activities will be prohibited in HPMCZs in Wales.
MCS believes almost all ongoing recreational sea use would be permitted without restriction – and in fact the charity would not support the prohibition of low impact recreational activities which were unlikely to have an impact on the sites’ natural communities.
“Highly protected sites have proved to be an effective way to protect habitats and diversity in the sea. Designation of all ten sites of this size, whether in the proposed specific locations or elsewhere, would amount to complete protection for less than 1% of Welsh seas,” says Gill Bell.
“Even at this late stage we want people to still take part in the consultation. The response has already shown how deeply angered people are in some areas and only by taking part can we tell the Government what we want to be allowed at each site and where those sites should be.”
Visitors to the MCS stand at the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells showed a real understanding of why better protection for Welsh seas is so vital with many pledging support.