Are Marine Zones the Best Way to Protect Seas?

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NORTH Wales fishermen took an appeal directly to the National Assembly to halt plans for strict marine conservation zones which could end their livelihoods.

The proposed zones off the Llyn, around Bardsey Island and Puffin Island, would ensure the highest protection for the marine environment. The measures are to conform with the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which requires all member states to take measures to achieve Good Environmental Status in their seas by 2020.

But fishermen and leisure tourism operators say the regulations go too far and would wreck their businesses.

The aim of the directive is to protect the marine environment; prevent its deterioration; restore it where practical; and use marine resources sustainably.

Welsh Environment Minister John Griffiths has launched the first stage of consultation into the proposals which have so angered businesses in Gwynedd.

But he stressed that all views would be listened to carefully and taken into account.

"We are at an early stage in this process; no decisions have been made on the location of the sites, or their size and boundaries. I will consider carefully all the responses received from the first phase of the consultation process before deciding on the next steps. We want to understand the socioeconomic impacts, which very much include recreation and the tourism aspects, as well as fishing."

Critics argue that alternatives could strike the right balance between maintaining their livelihoods and the biodiversity of our seas.

FOR MORGAN PARRY Chairman, Countryside Council for Wales THE debate about Marine Conservation Zones shows passion for our coastal environment. Accusations in packed public meetings and apocalyptic headlines in the newspapers increase the tensions. Can we channel that passion to collectively protect Welsh seas and make them more productive? There has been growing concern among scientists and sea users about pollution, depleted fish stocks and disappearing wildlife.

Globally over 80% of fish stocks have collapsed or are in serious decline and biodiversity has fallen sharply. Wales isn't immune to these global trends.

The Welsh Government is right to act. But when general national strategies become specific local proposals, those affected demand the right to be heard. The encouraging interest in its consultation shows that communities are able and willing to propose ideas and be part of the solution. The Government has come under fire for the way it has consulted and the Countryside Council for Wales has been blamed for the advice it gave. The process could have been better but some of the accusations are wildly inaccurate: no-one has ever suggested that swimming, sailing and building sandcastles would be banned and we wouldn't support any proposal that would undermine the rural economy.

CCW has a record of working constructively with the fishing industry, particularly the coastal shellfish gatherers and acknowledge that their unique knowledge and perspectives are needed. We know far less about the marine environment than we do about the land and we need a much better understanding if we are to manage it effectively. That's why some small areas without human interventions would be a vital part of a wider approach to conservation but they have to be done with community support, which has been achieved successfully around the world.

New Zealand has over 30 well supported marine reserves and the oldest, Leigh Reserve, is a haven for tourists, boat trips and divers.

Better management of the wider marine environment is needed and the Welsh Fishermen's Association proposal in this regard is welcome. …