Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
In my Oral Statement on the Welsh Fisheries Strategy on 27 March 2012, I set out the Welsh Government’s ambition in relation to the management of our fisheries during this Assembly, with the intention to review the management of shellfish in the intertidal areas of Wales. This review has to date concentrated on the management of the cockle fisheries which are worth many millions of pounds to the Welsh economy.
The mechanisms for managing these fisheries were historically hampered by the absence of statutory provision allowing for the restriction of numbers of people that could take part within a given fishery. This in turn has encouraged a large number of gatherers which has not been in the best interest of the sustainability of the fisheries or the needs of the nearby communities.
The enforcement of the cockle beds in intertidal areas is costly and can be dangerous. Experience has shown that if the traceability of cockle gathering is improved and the powers to enforce against producers who procure illegal cockle is strengthened, it may be possible to cut off the opportunity for those gatherers to sell their catch and lead to a more compliant industry.
It is our fundamental policy position that our fisheries must be sustainable and I intend to introduce policies to further that aim. It is our belief that to achieve the long-term viability that will both protect fish stocks and the communities and individuals that rely on fishing for their livelihoods, that sustainable fisheries management must be introduced, in particular to contentious and divisive fisheries such as inshore cockle gathering. It is imperative that the management of Welsh cockle fisheries maximises all the benefits that are to be sustainably obtained, but also just as importantly minimizes the potential difficulties for local communities and environments.
My officials have now looked at the options for fisheries management of cockles that include; restrictive permitting, improved traceability of product and mechanisms to enforce against producers who take cockles illegally. I have also ensured that my officials take note that the proposals are fit for purpose, take account of local communities and environments, lead to sustainability and are easy to understand and access.
I have today launched a public consultation on the proposals for 12 weeks, and I intend that the recommendations will be implemented in readiness for future seasons.