Scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay SAC to recommence, amidst continued opposition

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced, 31st October 2016: The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, has announced new management measures for the Scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay following an extensive consultation.

The consultation followed a two-year programme of wide-ranging research by Bangor University, in collaboration with the fishing industry, within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation. 

This was the first study of its kind and found some fishing activity is possible, within specific areas, with no adverse impact on the Special Area of Conservation. This research offers a unique opportunity to implement an ecosystem based approach to management of the fishery.

Two further independent scientific peer reviews, of the evidence presented by Bangor University, were carried out and concluded this to be of robust and high scientific merit.

Based on this research and after considering all 5,500 responses to the consultation, the Cabinet Secretary has decided to proceed with a new flexible permit scheme within Cardigan Bay.

This includes careful management of the fishery, which will apply appropriate conditions to maximise the fishery and protect the site features at all times; a management advisory board including science, industry and environmental representatives to provide advice to the Welsh Government on permit conditions and an annual consultation to seek views on the conditions to be applied, keeping stakeholders involved in developments in the fishery.

The Cabinet Secretary said: “It is clear a lot of people care deeply about our marine environment and the species that live there. In making this decision I have taken this into account, as well as very carefully considering all 5,500 responses to the consultation alongside the further scientific evidence to help achieve a balance within Cardigan Bay.

“Based on this and the fact no new evidence was produced to suggest this fishery would have an impact on the protected features within the Bay, I have decided we should not stand in the way of economic activity and I will, therefore, continue with new legislation to introduce a flexible permit scheme within Cardigan Bay.

“I want to reassure everyone this will be a carefully and proactively managed fishery, with the number of fishing boats being monitored. I am reassured the proposed new flexible approach is proportionate and will enable us to consider appropriate areas and management mechanisms for the future of this fishery.

“This new management regime will place Wales at the forefront of international efforts to sustainably manage its natural resources through a joint and innovative approach.”

 

Source: Welsh Assembly Government, 31st October 2016. For further details, see http://gov.wales/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2016/161031-new-management-measures-for-scallop-fishing-in-cardigan-bay/?lang=en

 

The Marine Conservation Society has issued the following comment, 1st November 2016:

Welsh government has revealed plans which could result in new parts of a protected site in our seas being opened up to damaging practices.

Leading environmental charity, the Marine Conservation Society, is urging decision makers to recognise that over half of Wales’ protected sites are currently degraded and deserve better protection.

Campaigners say that that the prospect of opening up new areas to scallop dredging within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) will be disastrous for the continued recovery of the protected area, which has been heavily exploited in the past.

Cardigan Bay is home to one of the UK’s largest breeding groups of bottlenose dolphins, and important reefs and sandbanks. A large part of the Bay was made into a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2004, and in 2010 scallop dredging was banned there, meaning decades of dragging heavy dredges, with long steel teeth and mesh nets across the seabed was finally at an end. Part of the SAC was later reopened to this activity. As this fishing area has become depleted, plans to open other areas of the protected site are being proposed.

There is some good news in that the announcement on Monday gives new powers to the Cabinet Secretary to develop more sustainable fisheries and to set up a group, including conservationists, to look into any proposed plans.

However, this is overshadowed by the damage that allowing scallop dredging into new areas could have if it goes ahead.

The Marine Conservation Society argues that the basis of the Welsh Government’s decision is flawed.

Gill Bell, Head of Conservation Wales says “this protected site has been badly affected by damaging activities both before and after it was protected. The existing section which has been open to scallop dredging here has been mismanaged and now the plan is to open others, before they have recovered from previous use.

“Welsh government must also recognise that they have a duty to restore and enhance these sites.  By law, it is required to look at the impacts of activities on the wider marine system, which has not yet been done”.

The decision this week further adds to concerns about the protection of Wales’ unique seas. Wales’ waters are so special that over 35% of Welsh territorial seas are designated as marine protected areas (MPAs).

However, in many of these reserves marine wildlife is still declining as proper management is not taking place.

A 2008 assessment found that over half of Welsh MPAs were not in favourable conservation status which means they’re not protecting the thing they were set up to safeguard. 

Sadly, we are also losing those small teams of dedicated managers, funding and resources to really look after these special spaces. With the threat of further damaging activities looming, these unique places are far from safe.

 

Source: Marine Conservation Society, 1st November 2016. For further details, see
www.mcsuk.org/press/view/725

 


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