Jane Davidson, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (the Act) gave the Welsh Ministers new powers to better protect and manage the marine environment of Wales. The Act provides for a much stronger joined-up approach to managing our seas in a sustainable way - by the introduction of statutory marine planning, strengthening and consolidating marine licensing and providing new conservation powers. The Act also introduced new fisheries management provisions.
This Statement provides an update on progress to date in delivering the 3 strands of the marine programme - marine planning, marine licensing and marine protected areas.
Marine planning is a key strand of the Act and will be the lynchpin that holds all our marine responsibilities and powers together.
In terms of developing marine plans the first stage is the adoption of a UK wide Marine Policy Statement by all four UK administrations. Following extensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation, the statement has been adopted by all four administrations today. The Marine Policy Statement sets out the overall policy framework for decision makers and is the basis for developing all UK marine plans.
On 16 February I launched the first public consultation on marine planning in Wales - Sustainable Development for Welsh Seas: Our approach to marine planning in Wales. Here we are seeking views on how we should frame our approach to marine planning in Wales - as well as the key issues that we need to take into account when we start drawing up the marine plans themselves.
The intention is to have a national plan for the inshore and a national plan for the offshore in Wales by 2012/2013. A national level of planning offers the best way of ensuring an integrated approach to translating the policies and strategies of the Welsh Assembly Government into the Welsh marine area. We are seeking views on the approach to planning on a sub-national level, taking into account the specific needs of areas and localities.
The deadline for consultation responses is 11 May 2011. The feedback will help inform the Welsh Ministers in taking forward the planning process.
On 6 April the new marine licensing regime will come into effect in Wales. This will result in a more streamlined licensing system predominantly through the merger of the existing Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) and the Coast Protection Act (CPA) regimes. I have agreed a suite of secondary legislative measures that bring the marine licensing provisions of the Act into force in Wales. These have been laid before the National Assembly for Wales and will come into force on 6 April 2011. Stakeholders have been consulted throughout the development of the legislative package and we welcome continued engagement and feedback on the new licensing regime.
Marine Protected Areas
Later this year, the Welsh Assembly Government will be in a position to finalise its strategy for marine protected areas in Wales. Confirmation will be needed of how marine protected areas will be used as one of the tools to help protect and improve marine ecosystems. How we intend to better manage our marine protected areas to ensure the full benefits of designation are realised will also need to be outlined. This was a key message from the consultation exercise for the draft strategy and will be informed by the Countryside Council for Wales’ Marine Protected Areas management review.
In Wales we have already made a significant contribution towards a UK network but consider that we should supplement our existing protected areas by designating some highly protected Marine Conservation Zones, using the new powers under the Act. The past 12 months has seen the Marine Conservation Project, Wales develop site selection guidance for the identification of these sites in Welsh waters. The intention is that the next stage of the project, scheduled for this summer, will be the identification of potential sites for public consultation, using the site selection guidance.