CONTROVERSIAL plans to further protect coastal areas in Pembrokeshire have been scrapped by the Welsh Government.

There had been a proposal to create ten marine conservation zones off the Welsh coast, including the waters around Strumble Head, Skomer and Dale.

The sites would have been given a high level of protection from activities that could potentially change, damage or disturb the marine environment.

The Welsh Government held a consultation into the plans and received 7,000 responses, with many containing ‘strongly held’ views.

They included Abercastle Boat Owners Association, which said: “If adopted, the zone could have a serious and long lasting effect on the fishing and general use of the area.”

Alun Davies, the minister for natural resources, has announced that he is withdrawing all the proposed sites to avoid any uncertainty over the options presented in the 2012 consultation.

The move has been welcomed by Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb.

He said: “Marine activity is crucial to the economy of our coastal communities and Pembrokeshire as a whole. I had strong concerns that the proposed zones would have had a damaging impact and I made this clear in my representations to the Welsh Government."

Mark Andrews, Corporate Affairs Director of the Port of Milford Haven, added: “Naturally we are pleased to learn that the proposed zones have been withdrawn. These were originally put forward on the basis that they would be ‘no take, no deposit zones’ which would preclude fishing and leisure activities. It would also severely restrict or even prohibit dredging operations within the Haven. The Port dredges from time to time to maintain the depth in the channel that’s required to handle large ships."

The Welsh Government will now concentrate its conservation efforts on the existing 125 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that cover 36% of Welsh seas to see if any changes need to be made.