Welsh Government’s marine policy commitments and statutory duties at risk if urgent action not taken

Published 22/01/2013   |   Last Updated 14/07/2014

Welsh Government’s marine policy commitments and statutory duties at risk if urgent action not taken

22 January 2013

A Committee of the National Assembly for Wales has found that four years on from the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the Welsh Government has not delivered on the responsibilities that this Act devolved to Wales – responsibilities that were devolved from Westminster at the Welsh Government’s request.

The consequences of this, it reports, is that the fulfilment of the Welsh Government’s policy commitments and statutory duties are at risk, and the Welsh Government’s relationship with coastal and maritime stakeholders has been damaged.

The Environment and Sustainability Committee concluded that the marine environment in Wales has not been sufficiently prioritised by the Welsh Government and that a shift in priority and resource from the terrestrial to the marine will need to be considered if the Welsh Government’s policy ambitions are to be met. The Committee found this particularly worrying as the marine and coastal environment contributes £2.5 billion in GDP to the Welsh economy.

Welsh marine businesses and key stakeholders described this to the Committee as the ‘and marine’ mentality, where marine policy is seen by policy makers as a second or third tier consideration.

For example, two of the most significant Welsh Government consultations on natural environment policy made no reference to the marine environment.

The Committee reports that the absence of marine spatial plans is creating uncertainty for stakeholders and delivery partners, and that whilst a high proportion of Welsh seas are designated for protection, their environmental status is unclear.

“The Welsh Government is working towards an ecosystems approach, something we as a Committee are very supportive of, but on current evidence the Welsh Government has not taken account of the marine environment in developing key policies to deliver this,” said Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee.

“We hope that the Welsh Government takes this report as a wake-up call. It has been far too slow in implementing the Marine and Coastal Access Act and the management of marine policy has not been good enough, as highlighted by the significant public concern that was evident across Wales during the recent Marine Conservation Zones consultation.”

On the Welsh Government’s devolved responsibilities, Lord Elis-Thomas said:

“When the Welsh Government requests devolved responsibilities it must take these responsibilities seriously. Regrettably, we have found that the Welsh Government has failed to afford these responsibilities sufficient priority.”

“The position is not irretrievable, but the Welsh Government must act swiftly if it is to deliver its challenging policy objectives and meet the European obligations it has taken responsibility for.”

More information on the inquiry into marine policy in Wales can be found here.

More information on the Environment and Sustainability Committee can be found here.