Welsh Government disappoints on the protection of sealife, again

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths fails to commit resources for marine protected areas despite recommendations from the Assembly.

© Wynand van Poortvliet

Today the Cabinet Secretary for Food and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, responded to the National Assembly for Wales Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee’s report: ‘Turning the Tide? Report of the inquiry into the Welsh Government’s approach to Marine Projected Area (MPA) Management’. This report followed the Committee’s inquiry into MPA management, to which the Marine Conservation Society’s own Gill Bell, Head of Conservation in Wales, gave written and oral evidence earlier this year.

The report, published in the summer, found systematic failings in the way that Welsh Government have been managing their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which cover a whopping 69% of the Wales’ inshore coastal area. These failings have led to over 50% of MPAs in Wales being considered to be in ‘unfavourable condition’ for the habitats and species they have been designed to protect.

To avoid further loss of biodiversity in Welsh seas, the report recommends that the Welsh Government give greater leadership and financial help to those tasked with carrying out MPA management, which includes government and other bodies such as Natural Resources Wales and coastal Local Authorities. The report also draws attention to the need for greater transparency in Welsh Government decision making, and highlights a need for an integrated Wales marine science partnership and enforcement strategy.

Within her response to the report, the Cabinet Secretary accepts all but one of the Committee’s recommendations, although several of these are ‘in Principle’ only. Gill Bell, Head of Conservation Wales, explains:

“Although we welcome that the Cabinet Secretary has accepted, at least ‘in Principle’, 11 of the 12 recommendations made within the Committee’s report, we are very disappointed that there is no commitment to new resources to overcome the issues identified in MPA management in Wales. The response only highlights existing work streams, but these are currently failing to provide adequate management for marine biodiversity. The response also fails to address the issue of resourcing for much-needed independent dedicated regional staff to deliver MPA management plans and ensure well managed sites.

The Committee’s first recommendation highlights the need for the Welsh Government to take greater leadership and responsibility for MPA management and we are disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary’s response does not address this. The Welsh Government does plan to introduce a new MPA management Priority Action Plan, but it is unclear at this stage whether this will provide the level of leadership that management bodies need.”

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Did you know?…

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

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