Party Political Views on the Environment – elections 2016
Question 1: What do you think are the main threats to the marine environment caused by human activities? How would you address these, and would marine conservation zones be a priority?
Trawling, and in particular industrial trawling, poses the greatest threat to our marine environment. Industrial fishing techniques are unsustainable, both because of their devastating impact on fish stocks and because of the damage they inflict on the benthos and seabed.
It was clear in 2009 that the Cardigan Bay scallop fishery was not being managed in a sustainable manner. The then Plaid Cymru Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, took the decision to close the fishery over negative impact that an influx of industrial scallop dredgers from other parts of the UK was having on the marine environment.
Commercial fishing has made a valuable contribution to the economies of Welsh coastal communities for generations, and there is no reason why our local fishing industry cannot continue to benefit from the sea’s bounty – but it must be achieved in a sustainable manner.
This is essential. Our marine fisheries have to be managed sustainably, in a way that not only safeguards the survival of our valued fish species, but also our unique marine habitat. We have already witnessed in recent years the harmful excesses of industrial over-fishing, be it the ravaging of Cardigan Bay’s seabed by large industrial scallop dredgers from other countries, or the rapid decline in the numbers of our sea-bass as a result of over-fishing.
We cannot allow such unsustainable fishing in our waters. We should ensure that our fisheries operate under a robust regime, based on scientific advice by ICES, regulating the catch, size of vessel and fishing method as necessary to preserve both fish species and the marine environment.
A consultation was launched recently on proposals to create six new marine protected areas to compliment the current network of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). If agreed, these areas will safeguard the habitats of internationally important populations of harbour porpoise and a number of seabirds. A Plaid Cymru government would support the recommendations of the consultation, and work with counterparts in the UK Government and the EU to ensure that our network of marine protection areas are effectively enforced – our marine environment deserves nothing less.
The main threats to our marine environment are overfishing, climate change, plastic pollution and diffuse pollution from agriculture. Marine conservation zones are one of the best ways of ensuring that our fish stocks and marine ecosystems remain healthy into the future, but we need to enforce them. By reducing fishing pressure, protected marine areas are also more resilient to other stresses, such as ocean warming and pollution.
The Bae Ceredigion and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) should be the jewels in Wales’ crown: the UK’s largest breeding ground for dolphins. And yet the Welsh government are now considering allowing damaging scallop dredging in these areas. We’d ban the beam trawling that is currently allowed, halt the ongoing consultation on more dredging, and protect these areas properly.
Scientists recommend that 30% of our waters should be fully protected against all extractive activities. We’d fully protect our existing SACs and consult with fishermen and conservation groups about the implementation of further areas to ensure that we’re protecting enough of out ocean to ensure healthy seas and a robust fishing industry for future generations.
Relevant policy areas:
MAR103 Therefore, the principle that all marine activities need to function sustainably, within environmental limits, is the overriding objective of all Green Party policies within marine and coastal sectors.
MAR305 We will fully implement a large-scale, ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas within the UK’s seas. Around one third of our exclusive economic zone should be selected, using best scientific practice, and established as no-take reserves closed to commercial fishing and other extractive activities.
MAR202 Wales Green Party will seek to establish jurisdictional marine authority at five levels: International; European Union; National (UK); Sub-national; and Local. Governance at each will function within Marine Spatial Plans. Written in consultation with all users of the sea, these plans will embody a requirement for sustainability; adopt an ecosystems approach (marine environment considered as a whole); and recognise the precautionary principle (burden of proof lying with those wishing to utilise the marine environment to show their actions will not be harmful). Different-scale Marine Spatial Plans will be integrated and conform to the subsidiarity principle.
MAR300 We overfish our oceans, increasingly via high-impact industrial fleets little connected to local fishing communities. Most commercial fish stocks worldwide are fully- or over-exploited, with almost all top ocean predators very severely depleted. It is vital this unacceptable situation is urgently addressed. Human impacts on the piscatorial environment should be managed in a fully precautionary manner, involving Marine Protected Areas, sometimes extending to ‘no-take reserves’ in which all extractive activities are banned.
MAR801 We will push for implementation and stronger enforcement of existing marine pollution directives. We will demand higher penalties for those who pollute the marine environment, commensurate with damage inflicted. We will formulate Marine Pollution Action Plans through a body appointed to oversee this work and the impartial enforcement of current and future marine pollution laws, such as the EU’s Waste Framework Directives.
UKIP did not reply to our letter.
Welsh Conservatives consider marine conservation zones to be a priority. Over the last five years the UK government has committed billions of pounds to cleaning up our rivers and seas and protecting biodiversity, trying to reverse the decline of important species and habitats. We intend to continue this work and put in place stronger protections for our natural landscapes. We plan to expand the network of UK Marine Conservation Zones to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protected sites around the UK to safeguard precious marine habitats. This offers a strategy for sustaining commercial fishing interests and controlling popular maritime leisure pursuits to ensure long term sustainability in our marine environment. In addition we would encourage local authorities to encourage those participating in marine pursuits to bring discarded rubbish ashore where the local authority would meet the costs of disposal as is currently taking place in Scotland.
We recognise the value of Wales marine and coastal environment. Wales is the first country in the world to have a formal trail the whole way around its coast. We are currently consulting on further action in the marine environment to help build on the integrated approach to our marine environment.
Over 170 Welsh beaches are ranked among the best in the UK and across the world.
One issue of immediate concern for the Welsh Liberal Democrats are the proposals which the Welsh Government is currently consulting on regarding the opening of a scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay. Scallop dredging can be one of the most damaging forms of fishing in the UK, and our party shares the concerns of many environmental groups that dredging of this kind would change the physical nature of the seabed, whilst also causing harm to the many different species that live in and on the seabed itself. Cardigan Bay is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because of the rich and varied marine life that it’s home to, not least the widely celebrated population of bottlenose dolphins. The SAC was previously open to dredging in 2008-2009, and it is not clear why the Welsh Government wants to reopen the area to potentially harmful activity, before the site has been able to fully recover. We will be responding to the consultation and expressing these concerns.