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Skomer Byelaw Decision - Press Release

PRESS RELEASE 02/05 DATE: 30TH JUNE 2005



COMMITTEE DECISION ON SKOMER MARINE NATURE RESERVE (MNR) NO TAKE ZONE

At an extraordinary meeting of the full Committee on the 28th June 2005, a decision was taken not to pro-ceed with the second and most contentious Statutory No Take Zone in the UK. Industry representatives have since pledged to discuss voluntary no fish initiatives with the MNR Advisory Committee and CCW in the hope that other user groups such as sea anglers and divers will join in.
The SWSFC has received numerous documents over recent years on the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and No Take Zones (NTZ) as conservation and fishery management tools. Also evolving Government policy following recommendations of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, OSPAR Convention and 'Net Benefits' Cabinet Strategy Report to Government - all of which suggested that NTZ/MPAs ought to be designated (following or in conjunction with research) over large areas of seabed.

On the 4th February 2005 and following informal consultation with a wide range of interests, the Commit-tee agreed to advertise a joint Countryside Council for Wales - CCW/SWSFC proposal for a SWSFC bye-law to establish a partial NTZ at Skomer MNR. This proposed that all fishing (including commercial, an-glers and diver take) be stopped subject to conditions which allowed sea angling in the most popular north-east quarter and lobster potting throughout for three designated 'historical users' who would be al-lowed to continue for a minimum of 10 years. This would be in addition to the current no dredge/trawl and no scallop fishing byelaws made in 1990. These concessions aimed to address difficult social and en-forcement conditions without compromising further study areas.

A range of comments in support (from divers and conservation interests) and objections (from sea anglers and fishermen) were considered at the last meeting of the full Committee on the 27th May. However, a full decision was deferred to the Extraordinary meeting on the 28th June where the Fishermen's Association (S&WWFC Ltd) presented further information in support of their views. CCW were present to answer questions on pre-circulated information papers and generally advise..

After two hours of debate the matter was put to the vote and the meeting decided by 7 votes to 5 not to progress the byelaws. The minutes reflect the nature of the debate that took place and broad range of diffi-cult issues raised, and will help to explain the Committee's decision.

Members balanced such issues as the current inability to quantify possible long term fishery and conserva-tion benefits, or assess and interpret disturbances by lobster potting gear to benthic communities against the inevitable socio-economic cost of (eventually) preventing fishermen from continuing fishing (particu-larly in the absence of compensation payments) in line with DEFRA guidelines on SFC decisions.
CCW said that they were not at that stage able to commit finances to undertake specific (new) research projects, but that corporate bids would be made to NAW in due course.

Furthermore, questions arose regarding how such a zone would fit within the extensive network of Euro-pean Marine Sites (eg Special Areas of Conservation, SACs) , the management plans for which are still under consideration. It was argued that if fishing was stopped then any future assessment that would need to accompany a decision to restart would not meet strict environmental burdens that apply in SACs, mak-ing a restart difficult, if not impossible.

Taken together, the decision reflects the range of particularly difficult issues that government themselves are likely to have to resolve before they meet their aspirations of having an extensive network of No Fish Zones in coastal waters.

Speaking for the Committee, the Director Phil Coates said : "There is undoubtedly an urgent need to estab-lish areas in the UK to research the costs and benefits of NTZs and Skomer MNR might have been an ideal site in this respect. However, this decision is perhaps a warning to Government of the range of com-plex socio-economic and environmental issues that must be first addressed before NTZs (by consent) can become a reality".

Following the meeting S&WWFC Ltd members offered to discuss with CCW and user groups the pros-pect of establishing a voluntary no access zone for fishing, diving, angling etc., having agreed in principle of the need to undertake research and evaluate the results before establishing a no fish area.

NOTES:

Skomer MNR was designated in 1990 and is the only Marine Nature Reserve in Wales and one of only two in Great Britain.
England's first official NTZ is at Lundy Island MNR and was designated under a Devon SFC byelaw in 2003. This is an entirely offshore site and the No Take Zone represents c 3.3 km2 of the 14 km2 Re-serve (ca. 24%).
The NTZ byelaw proposal under consideration at Skomer covered an area of over 11 km2 of the 13.2 km2 Reserve (ca. 85%), but was intended to be subject to conditions. Unlike Lundy, Skomer lies close to and includes part of the mainland and is an easily accessible and regularly fished region by both an-glers and commercial fishermen.
The South & West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd. Association (S&WWFC Ltd ) represents the in-terests of licensed commercial inshore fishermen and charter angling boat skippers across South Wales, with over 100 members from Newport in the East to Cardigan in the west. Contact Mr D Gardner, Regional Office Corner House, Milford docks, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire SA73 3AA Tel : 01646 - 699127.
CCW Regional Offices Llanion Park, Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire SA72 6DY . Contact A. McConnell or B Bullimore on 01646-624000
 
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