Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
The Welsh Government is committed to fulfilling its national and international obligations which require us to contribute towards an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the UK. I recognise the value of and benefits to the marine environment and to society of creating a network of MPAs and ensuring the network is well-managed and ecologically coherent. I want a network which supports the conservation, improvement and resilience of our marine environment and supports the sustainable use of our seas now and for future generations.
The results of work carried out by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural Resources Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government to assess current MPAs in Wales determined Welsh MPAs are making a substantial contribution towards an ecologically coherent network.
I am encouraged by the conclusion of the assessment. The network as a whole is well connected, with the majority of broad habitats and species with limited or no mobility being represented and replicated by Welsh MPAs to provide resilience in the network. The assessment did identify a small number of gaps in our contribution towards ecological coherence and we need to take action to address these where possible.
I have asked my officials to work in partnership with our marine stakeholders to consider and recommend the necessary action to address the gaps identified. I have requested this work considers gaps identified in the Welsh offshore region also, which will become the responsibility of Welsh Ministers in April 2018.
This approach will mean much of the work to complete the network will begin and align to the transfer of nature conservation powers to the Welsh Ministers for the Welsh offshore area. However, I think this approach is necessary to ensure all waters around Wales (inshore and offshore) are considered when deciding how we complete Wales’ contribution to the network of MPAs.
I assure stakeholders I am committed to our network obligations and my officials will start preparatory work with stakeholders towards the end of this year when work can develop in parallel with work by the MPA Management Steering Group to establish a clear, consistent and streamlined approach for management across the whole Welsh network.