Whilst England has been building up to a consultation on its 127 sites later this year, Wales has already consulted on a different approach to Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). The approach taken was to designate just 3 or 4 small sites, which would be highly protected (hpMCZs)
Broadly speaking we were disappointed with the approach put forwards by Welsh Government. Whilst we support the designation of hpMCZs, they need to be in the right place and for the right reasons. As a result we could not support the ‘blanket’ use of highly protected areas as proposed in the consultation. We felt that the one size fits all approach would not work in such a complex system, and the proposals do not address the most damaging activities occurring within Welsh seas.
We were also concerned that the proposals restricted activities, arguably the most sustainable, whilst having limited effect in restraining damaging activities. We strongly recommended, as did others, that Welsh Government works closely with marine stakeholders and the RSPB to establish effective proposals and management of MCZs and European Marine Sites to enhance protection in Welsh seas.
On the 5th of November the Welsh Environment Minister, John Griffiths, responded to the consultation responses and announced a period of additional work to fully explore how we move ahead with MCZs in Wales. He also set up a Stakeholder focus group to work alongside the government agencies and challenge the work of the team, testing ideas and advising on practical solutions.
The RSPB is looking forward to contributing at the first of the stakeholder group meetings later this month and will let you know how things develop on this blog.