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Eluned Jones (Chair) (Welsh Government), Adrian Judd & Rachel Mulholland (Cefas), Helen Bloomfield, Lee Murray & Lucie Skates (NRW), Mark Russell (BMAPA), Jetske Germing (PCF), Katie Havard-Smith (Severn Estuary Partnership), Emily Williams, Tessa Coledale & Claire Stephenson (RSPB), John Wrottesley (ESCA), Julian Whitewright (RCAHMW), Richard Hill & Mike Butterfield (RYA), Gareth Cunningham (MCS), Thomas Fey (JNCC), Jennifer Godwin (SUDG), David Jones (Blue Gem Wind), Mark Simmonds (British Ports), Joe Smithyman (Crown Estate), Lily Anna Stokes & Rachel Thirlwall (MMO), Chloe Wenman (MCS), Eunice Pinn (Seafish), Stephen Jay (Liverpool University)
1. Strategic Resource Area (SRA) development – update
Adrian provided an update on the SRA development work. SRAs provide a spatial activation of SAF_02 safeguarding policy within the Welsh National Marine Plan (WNMP).
Wood Group UK Ltd were commissioned to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening Exercise, which they presented to this group at the last meeting. We are aiming to circulate the outputs of these in March, and these will also be kept under review as the SRA mapping work progresses.
ABPMer have been commissioned to progress SRA mapping, including undertaking a sustainability appraisal. The first stakeholder event will be held on 15 March, which will talk through the methodology and development process. It will be followed by a series of sector-specific workshops.
2. NRW mapping of environmental considerations
Lee presented to members, providing an update on NRW’s ongoing project around mapping of environmental considerations. This work builds on the Sustainable Management of Marine Natural Resources (SMMNR) programme, looking to refine the approach as well as widening the consideration to include other sectors. The initial outputs will be packages of evidence to feed into SRA mapping.
Lee presented the additional datasets which were being added in for birds, coastal habitats, marine habitats, fish and marine mammals. He aims to produce a more detailed paper for consideration at the next MPSRG meeting.
A query was raised regarding the relationship of this work with the Fisheries Management Plans being developed as part of the new Fisheries Act. Emily highlighted work being taken forward by the RSPB and Cefas looking at spawning and nursery grounds for foraging fish species and asked about the importance scoring used for birds. Lee gave an overview of the importance scoring.
3. Discussion on monitoring and reporting on the WNMP
The first 3-year review and report on the effectiveness of the WNMP is due to be laid before the Senedd in November. Welsh Government is currently gathering evidence to feed into the review and is aiming to conduct a second WNMP user survey in April. For today’s meeting, the aim is to have an open discussion session to invite feedback from group members.
Stephen noted Defra has started work on a marine spatial prioritisation programme, and noted Wales is already moving in that direction with the SRA work. Eluned noted that Welsh Government is in discussion with Defra around this work.
Mike noted need to be careful that moving towards greater spatial prescription for some sectors does not negatively impact other those sectors.
Claire noted a need to look at a marine development plan. Gareth highlighted the need to think about carrying capacity of the sea.
Emily noted a holistic approach looking across all sectors would be an opportunity to make sure all sectors are part of the conversation. Eluned noted Welsh Government will be inviting stakeholders from all sectors to engage in the SRA mapping process. The SRA design criteria consider interactions with other sectors.
Jennifer noted that it was interesting to hear these discussions taking place. She noted that industry would welcome any level of increased certainty and streamlined process from government.
Stephen highlighted the difficulties of deciding what to prioritise, saying that engagement across the board is essential. He asked whether the current Marine Policy Statement (MPS) would continue to be fit for purpose. John agreed, and also noted the importance to industry of coherent approaches across borders.
Mark R noted a ‘first past the post’ method of consenting does not necessarily deliver the most sustainable outcome. He noted that any spatial prioritisation will need to consider both the direct and indirect consequences and impacts of decisions.
Emily noted the importance for future planning for using space in the most effective way and considering cumulative impacts and carrying capacity. She noted the potential to learn from terrestrial planning approaches to spatial prioritisation.
4. Presentation on the Biosecurity for Life project (RSPB)
Tessa Coledale (RSPB) presented to the group on Biosecurity for Life, a project being jointly delivered by the RSPB, the National Trust, and the National Trust Scotland. This project is running from 2018 to 2023 with an aim to reduce the risk of introducing and spreading Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) to new locations around the UK. The project is focussed primarily on the 42 island SPAs in the UK designated for breeding seabirds. Within Wales, this includes Puffin Island, The Skerries, Bardsey Island, Grassholm, Skomer, and Skokholm. It covers biosecurity measures which can be taken to lower the risk of introducing INNS, with the objective of keeping INNS mammalian predators off seabird islands where they are not already present.
Members raised queries about the Marine Conservation Zone Task & Finish Group and the oil leak in Liverpool Bay.
Next meeting – date to be confirmed, provisionally in the final week of April.
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