The waters around Skomer Island are to be classified as Wales' first Marine Conservation Zone, the Welsh Government has announced today (Friday).

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) are designed to further protect important marine sites, including restricting activities which could potentially change, damage or disturb the site.

Last year a move to introduce 10 zones were withdrawn following concerns but the decision has now been taken to make Skomer the first MCZ in Wales.

Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “Skomer has long been recognised as an important area in marine conservation having first being designated as a marine nature reserve in 1990.

"There are many challenges facing the marine environment so I am pleased that the marine area around Skomer will continue to be safeguarded.

“We are working with Natural Resources Wales and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to undertake an assessment of the existing 128 marine protected areas in Welsh waters.

"This assessment will give us a proper understanding of our current contribution to the wider network of marine protected areas across the UK and enable us to identify whether there are any gaps in the network that can be addressed in Wales. The outcome of this work will dictate how we will use the new MCZ power in the future.”

Graham Hillier, Executive Director of Operations South at Natural Resources Wales said: “The sea around Skomer is an important home and feeding ground for a wide variety of marine life that depend on it, from the rare manx shearwaters to the sea slugs and seals that all form part of an important ecosystem.

“Our Skomer marine team are at the forefront of marine research and their monitoring work helps us better understand and protect this fantastic marine environment. The beautiful landscapes, seascapes , islands and wildlife we have in Wales help to attract thousands of visitors here every year which is important for many businesses.”

Scott Fryer, Marine Campaign and Advocacy Officer at Wildlife Trusts Wales, said: “This is a positive step taken by the government to recognise the importance of the seas around Skomer Island and the waters surrounding it.”

Dr Lizzie Wilberforce, Conservation Manager at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said: “The Wildlife Trust has managed Skomer Island as a nature reserve for over fifty years, and we have been fortunate to benefit from the protection afforded to the marine environment around us.

"The island’s breeding seabirds are of international importance, and seabirds are a great indicator of the health of our seas.”