Grey Seals
© Jack Versiani Holt

The Wales National Marine Plan – a first for Wales!

Date posted: 12 November 2019

Today marks a significant milestone in the management of Welsh waters; the Welsh Government have finally published their National Marine Plan. The Plan will help to guide regulators, maritime industry and other marine users on how Welsh seas should be used over the course of the next 20 years. Unlike on land, the management and regulation of the Welsh marine environment has, to date, been conducted in an uncoordinated manner. This fragmented approach has led to uncertainty for developers and put Wales’ unique and internationally important marine wildlife, and the habitats on which they depend, under pressure.

By considering the full range of sectors and sea users in Welsh seas, the Marine Plan enables decision makers to think about how and where activities may take place and the interrelationships between activities and their combined impacts on marine habitats and wildlife.

The National Marine Plan in Wales has been five years in the making, and the Marine Conservation Society has been working hard with decision makers to ensure that the first Plan recognises the need to protect wildlife and our natural resources for future generations, avoiding growth of marine industry at any cost.

An early draft of the Marine Plan in 2018, for instance, highlighted that there were plans to push through support for a network of tidal lagoons in Severn Estuary, to which MCS objected. We have also worked hard with the Welsh Government to improve the language of the Plan so that it better reflects the need to be environmentally, as well as socially and economically, sustainable.

Having now looked at the final document, there have been some positive changes made, particularly on language used in regard to sustainability. There is greater reference to the need to safeguard Marine Protected Areas throughout the document. Spatial mapping of future maritime industry, for the meantime, has also been removed until further evidence is collected. This means that new maritime activities are not being encouraged into areas where they may cause significant damage to wildlife.

Overall, we welcome the first Plan and commend the amount of effort that has gone into producing it with stakeholders. This has been a great example of the effective partnership between the Welsh Government and marine users with a wide range of different interests.

The tough job now will be to ensure that the Plan is implemented and used by regulators, developers and other marine users, and not left on a shelf to gather dust! Resource from Welsh Government should therefore be provided to support understanding and use of the plan, as well as monitoring and updating. MCS will be following closely!

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