Read the policy
11:42am Wednesday 20th June 2012 in Letters
Dear Sir / Madam, The articles on the highly protected Marine Conservation Zone proposals on the front page and page 4 of the 23 May edition include several factually incorrect claims and statements and are therefore misleading for your readers. Whilst the Welsh Government’s consultation document is indeed unclear, confusing and hard work to read, most of the claimed proposals to ban activites described in your articles are simply untrue. Likewise the “concern for industries” headline is unfounded – the Welsh Government has already filtered out possible sites that might conflict with strategic economic development policies.
Firstly, this is a consultation on 10 possible sites across Wales, of which Welsh Government hope to eventually designate 3 or 4. In other words, two thirds of the possibilities listed will fall out of the process.
The consulation asks if the boundaries are sensible – they are not a done deal and some are indeed incompatible with the Welsh Government’s own selection criteria (available from their website alongside the consutation document).
Other than the general principle that the new conservation zones will prohibit extractive – including fishing – depositing and other demonstrably damaging activities, no other management measures have been proposed at this time. The consultation document and the accompanying Frequently Asked Questions do make it clear that should other damaging activities be identified that they will be managed rather than prohibited if at all possible. However, the critical word here is “damaging”. Many activites that are being suggested as at risk of prohibition are not damaging.
There are NO proposals and no intentions to stop boating or boat launching, other watersports, or kids building sandcastles or exploring in rockpools. Also, despite the rumours flying around, the Frequently Asked Questions also make it clear that there is no intention to prohibit recreational diving – so long as divers are not fishing. In fact the consultation document specifically says “benefits may occur from improved environmental conditions benefitting divers and wildlife watchers”.
It also goes on to recognise that a highly protected MCZ “may generate additional visitors, holiday makers and wildlife watchers to the area, increasing demand for accommodation, charter boats etc”. This is certainly the experience of highly protected marine areas elsewhere in the world. Thus any fear of knocking tourism on the head is unfounded.
Anchoring and mooring are listed as incompatible with the objectives of highly protected MCZs but since the Welsh Government’s selection criteria is to exclude areas with existing moorings and that are used as anchorages it is indeed difficult to understand how and why the Dale proposal includes the area of moorings alongside Dale Point and the anchorage used by coastal tankers. It seems inconceivable that these areas could go forward since they contradict the selection criteria.
It is important to remember the context for these proposals. The whole of the planet’s seas – including Britain’s – have been overexploited and polluted for decades and centuries. Most of us have forgotten or have never seen what we have lost. There is nowhere in Welsh seas that wildlife or the marine envirnment receives full protection. The Skomer Marine Nature Reserve is only partly protected and it accounts for less than 0.1% of Wales’ sea area.
Careful research from around the world tells us we need between a 20% and a third of our territorial seas to be fully protected to maximise benefits for people, including for fisheries. In the unlikely event that all four of the largest currently identified possible sites were to be designated, the total area would still amount to well under 0.5% of Wales seas. Wales, Britain and the planet needs to protect its seas and the resources they contain, for everyone’s sake. One little fact to end on – half the oxygen we breath is generated by tiny marine plants and we need a healthy ocean for them to keep doing their stuff. Do you like breathing? I do.
Yours sincerely, Blaise Bullimore