Striking the balance – an alternative to HPMCZs in Wales

The 2012 consultation on Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zones in Wales outlined an implementation of HPMCZs that threatened the culture and economy of Welsh coastal communities by prohibiting traditional low impact fishing and recreational activities in areas that local people have been using for millenia.

A great deal of strong feelings were expressed by concerned Welsh fishermen and other local stakeholders at public meetings. These fears were outlined in a WFA-CPC document Uncharted Waters (link). In line with our stated aim of working with partners to achieve a healthy and well-managed marine environment in Wales the WFA-CPC, working with fisheries and conservation experts, proposed a model for MCZs in Wales based upon internationally recognised best practice in MPA management, which promoted ecosystem recovery and resilience, and would improve our understanding of the marine environment. Importantly for the Welsh fishing industry and local communities, this approach would preserve their cultural and economic life, and secure traditional low-impact fisheries and recreational activities along with the related businesses.

Described in Striking the Balance (link), the WFA-CPC’s approach was based on the following principles of an adaptive co-management ecosystem-based approach:

  1. Welsh Waters, including MPAs, should be managed to maximise environmental, economic and fishery gains: ecosystem-based principles can deliver the win-win-win of environmental, fisheries and socio-economic gains for Welsh seas and coastal communities.
  2. Strong environmental protection but proportionate to risk: WFA-CPC believes that sensitive habitats and species should be protected from damage and disturbance; it believes that the nature of this protection should be precautionary but proportionate to the risk.
  3. Local solutions to local issues: WFA-CPC proposes the establishment of regional adaptive co-management groups made up of relevant local sea users including fishermen, recreational anglers and conservation groups. The aim of these groups should be to develop locally applicable management in a bottom‑up partnership process rather than a top-down impositional dictat.
  4. Management should be flexible and adaptive: The natural world is highly variable, and our understanding of it is imperfect an is constantly improving; fishery management therefore needs to be adaptive and flexible to reflect this continuous change.
  5. Evidence and knowledge-based management: Fisheries and conservation management should be evidence-based rather than advocacy-led. Flexible and adaptive management will only be possible with a well-informed understanding of the marine environment and the ways in which we interact with it. The WFA-CPC stands ready to play a central role and accept its responsibilities in research and monitoring to provide the necessary data to management.
  6. Compliance and enforcement: WFA-CPC recognise that without widespread compliance management measures, the protection of the marine environment would be jeopardised. Welsh fishermen are keen to embrace a new role as environmental stewards to ensure compliance and use the best available tools at hand.

This approach has been implemented on the Llŷn Peninsula to better protect the coastal waters and help the Pen Llŷn ar Sarnau Special Area of Conservation achieve good conservation status. Known as the ‘Llŷn Partnership’, the initiative started in 2014 and has brought local fishermen, Natural Resource Wales and the public together to tackle marine litter along the Llŷn beaches, establish a code of conduct to minimise disturbance to marine mammals from recreational craft and explore an ecosystem-based approach to manage the sea around the Llŷn.