The National Assembly for Wales (NAW), WG and NRW have acknowledged our poor understanding of our MPAs, particularly their health and interaction with fisheries. In its State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) 2016, NRW stated ‘There are gaps in our understanding of the extent, condition and trends of subtidal habitats, particularly in terms of how the extent and distribution of habitats have changed over time and outside of protected sites, where we have least knowledge’. In their 2017 inquiry into WG’s approach to Marine Protected Area management (entitled ‘Turning the Tide’), NAW’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee recognised that ‘effective MPA management is supported by robust data and evidence’ and that ‘marine science - such as site monitoring, assessment and surveillance - is challenging and expensive, but vital’. The Committee believed that robust and up-to-date data and research is essential to underpin MPA management and decision-making and stated ‘we feel there is opportunity for greater collaboration across government, industry and marine stakeholders in Wales to make better use of existing available data and consider future research efforts to address prioritised knowledge gaps’.
In 2012, WFA-CPC collaborated with the Advanced Professional Training (Bioscience) team at Swansea University to develop a course to train fishermen on how to plan and undertake marine ecological surveys with organisations such as NRW to improve our knowledge and lessen the risk of unnecessary restrictions on fishing inside MPAs. Accredited by Swansea University and meeting the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) Level 4 (see course details below), fishermen were trained on how to conduct Marine Ecological Surveys using seabed surveillance equipment and went to work with NRW to validate low confidence data on seabed habitat features within Welsh marine SACs.