For far too long, our Marine Environment has been seen by Welsh Government as the poor relation to the Mainland in terms of investment and prioritisation. This …’and Marine’ mentality must end, if we are to harness the opportunities offered by the waters around our country.
The Coastal environment accounts for some £2.5 billion of Wales’ GDP and almost 100,000 Welsh jobs rely upon it.
The recent fiasco of the MCZs clearly shows the disconnect that has opened up between Welsh Government – and stakeholders who have to earn their living in the real world.
As Welsh Liberal Democrat Chair of the Petitions Committee, I have received major petitions from all over Mid and West Wales showing the immense strength of feeling on this issue.
The Devolution of Marine Powers to the Welsh Government through the Marine Act was a huge opportunity for our nation – and the Environment and Sustainable Development report published today is a clear indication that the opportunity has so far been squandered. It is imperative that Welsh Government now acts swiftly to correct this – and embraces our unanimous recommendations.
This report demonstrates that the Welsh Government have been caught napping on marine policy. Our marine environment offers us a substantial natural resource in terms of renewable energy, wildlife tourism and sustainable food production, and I am deeply disappointed to see the paralysis with which the Welsh Government has engaged with it over recent years.
Effective spatial planning is essential if we are ever going to harness the potential of our waters sustainably. As such I am calling on the Welsh Government to urgently develop a comprehensive marine spatial plan and place it at the very heart of its marine policies. In doing so it must also fully engage with local communities to ensure that the plan developed does not damage the economies of coastal towns and villages.