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Written Statement - An update on the management of Fisheries

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Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes

In my Statement on the Welsh Fisheries Strategy on 27 March 2012, I informed members of my aspirations in relation to the management of our fisheries during the lifetime of this Assembly.

My officials have been working on this Strategy, and are discussing ideas with the fishing industry and other stakeholders. This has taken place in the context of the ongoing negotiation on the reform of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).  In June and October I attended two EU Fisheries Council meetings, at which key decisions were reached on the new CFP Regulation and the funding instrument to support it.  We have made an input to ensure that the experiences of fisheries in Wales, particularly the sustainable nature of our small-scale coastal fisheries, can influence the process.  I plan to make a fuller statement in April 2013, setting out the new Strategy, including a vision for fisheries in Wales and the plan to deliver it.  

The ‘Cockle Management in Wales’ consultation came to a close in October of this year, and since then my officials have been engaged in collating and recording the responses received.  The respondents have reflected the broad representation from the cockle gathering Industry, wider groups, community interest groups as well as affected or concerned individuals. The responses have been assembled, carefully considered and analysed. A full summary of findings of the review will be published in the New Year.

In my statement I indicated my intentions to review how stakeholder engagement with the inland fisheries sector could be strengthened.  Whilst I indicated the intention to consult in the Autumn, my officials are liaising closely with Natural Resources Wales before those proposals are finalised.  I intend to make a further announcement on the review early in the New Year.

On the 29 May 2012 I informed members that I had signed a UK Fisheries Concordat on behalf of the Welsh Ministers. The Concordat sets out the framework for the future administration of fish quotas and fishing vessel licensing in the United Kingdom. One of the key issues for me has been securing adequate quota for the under 10 metre fleet based in Wales. Discussions on the Concordat have been arduous; however, I believe I have now negotiated an agreement which presents the best possible deal for Wales and I have written to the other UK Fisheries Ministers to indicate this.  In line with the Concordat, the Welsh Government will be responsible for Quota management from 1 January 2013.

I am pleased to announce that on the 1 of November I introduced a new Statutory Instrument to provide adequate protection to a newly discovered Horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus) reef located off the north Wales coast. This Order prohibits the use of all bottom towed fishing gear in the area of the reef and an associated surrounding buffer area. ‘Reefs’ are deemed highly sensitive to bottom towed fishing gear such as scallop dredges and beam trawls.  A similar horse mussel reef located nearby was already protected by the former North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (NWNWSFC) Byelaw 21. This Order protects both of these reefs and also revokes byelaw 21.

I announced in July my plans to introduce compulsory vessel tracking for all vessels engaged in the Scallop fishery.  The proposed Order was notified to the European Commission to comply with the Technical Standards Directive.   I am pleased to announce that the Order came into force on 1 November at the commencement of the current Scallop fishery.  This technology enables officials to have a real-time view of the location of all Scallop vessels in Welsh waters to aid the enforcement of this fishery.

On the issue of the removal of historic access rights, otherwise referred to as Grandfather Rights, I announced on 18 July 2012 my proposal to remove the existing access rights within the 0-6 mile zone over a staged approach.  The removal of these ‘historic access rights’ is generally welcomed by the industry. The removal of these anomalies is a priority and will create a long-term fisheries strategy based on fairness and equality of treatment. The proposed Instrument was notified to the European Commission for the required 3 months under the Technical Standards Directive.  Officials are working through the details and I expect to make a further announcement on implementation in early 2013.

This statement provides a short update on my aspirations for achieving sustainable and profitable fisheries for Wales in the inshore area.  I expect to make announcements on further proposals for fisheries management in the New Year.