Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
The Welsh Government undertook an extensive consultation which closed on 17 February 2016, on proposals for the future management of the Scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay. We received over 5,500 responses and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit their views. All responses to the consultation have now been carefully considered.
Prior to the consultation, a two-year programme of extensive research within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was undertaken by Bangor University in collaboration with the fishing industry. This was the first study of its kind and focussed on understanding the amount of fishing which could be considered sustainable and which would not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC. The research offers a unique opportunity to implement an ecosystem based approach to management of this fishery. The purpose of the consultation was to consider the new legislative framework necessary to manage the fishery for the future.
There was a large response to the consultation. It is clear a lot of people have some very strongly held views and care deeply about our marine environment and the species that live there. However, many of the responses simply objected to the principle of dredging for scallops but offered no supporting evidence. There were also a significant number of responders who supported the proposals, with a number of detailed responses to the consultation and the scientific evidence set out in the consultation. It is for this reason we sought to arrange independent, scientific peer review of the Bangor University research which involved scientific analysis of the evidence presented. The peer review has determined the evidence and conclusions drawn by Bangor University are robust and of high scientific merit, with the data quality of sufficient standard to satisfy statutory Habitats Regulation Assessments. I have asked for the relevant scientific and research documents to be published following my decision.
It is vital we do all we can to ensure we adequately protect the designated features and species within our SAC - indeed the Welsh Ministers are obliged by the Habitats Directive to fulfil that role, in addition to helping us to fulfil our statutory commitments set by new Welsh legislation, namely the Environment Act and Well-being of Future Generations Act. At the same time, when the evidence indicates some fishing activity is possible with no significant impact on those features and no adverse impact on the integrity of the SAC, we should not stand in the way of economic activity.
I have considered, very carefully, the range of responses made to the consultation to help us achieve this balance within Cardigan Bay.
The consultation responses did not generate any new evidence to suggest this fishery would have an impact on those protected features within the Cardigan Bay SAC or on the integrity of the SAC itself. 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 has led me to conclude it is appropriate to proceed with the preparation of new legislation to introduce a flexible permit scheme within Cardigan Bay.
At present, these proposals include:
- A flexible management scheme with the ability to apply appropriate and timely conditions to maximise the fishery whilst protecting site features at all times;
- The establishment of a management advisory board comprising science, industry, and relevant environmental groups with the purpose of making recommendations to Welsh Government on the setting of appropriate permit conditions; and
- The running of an annual consultation (prior to opening of the fishery) to seek views on conditions to be applied and keeping stakeholders involved in developments in the fishery.
I want to reassure everyone this will be a carefully and proactively managed fishery, with the number of fishing boats being monitored. This new management regime will mean that Wales is at the forefront of international efforts to sustainably manage its natural resources through a truly integrated and innovative approach. I asked my officials to liaise with stakeholders to inform them of my decision and reasoning and to begin to work collaboratively to proceed with the next stages of implementation.