Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Welsh scallop fishing ban to protect habitat and stocks

Fisheries experts have been monitoring scallop stock levels for some time

Dredging for scallops is to be banned in several areas off the Welsh coast in a move aimed at protecting stocks, marine species and habitats.

The new regulations will come into force on 1 March, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has announced.

The closed season for scallop dredging was extended in October amid fears of dwindling stocks.

Meanwhile, the management of cockle and mussel beds in Burry Inlet and the Menai Strait will change in April.

A decision to introduce new regulations surrounding scallops was taken after the Welsh Assembly Government revealed there had been a 15-fold increase in fishing in Cardigan Bay, where most of the prime beds are located.

The dredging season was to have begun on 1 November last year, but that was delayed until 1 March.

From 2011, shortening the length of the open season by one month
Prohibiting dredging for scallops up to one nautical mile off the Welsh coast
A dredging ban for scallops in certain areas which have been identified as important to vulnerable marine species and habitats
A restriction on numbers of dredges allowed in Welsh waters
A limit on the maximum vessel engine power

The assembly government said dredging would be prohibited in "several clearly defined areas around the Welsh coast which have been identified as important to vulnerable marine species and habitats."

Ms Jones said: "My decision to introduce these regulations follows a significant increase in scallop dredging activity within Cardigan Bay over recent years.

"The new regulations will protect scallop stocks and safeguard important marine species and habitats through a range of technical and spatial restrictions.

"The technical measures introduced will enhance management of the scallop fishery in Welsh waters, while the spatial restrictions will control the activity in areas which have been identified as important to vulnerable marine species and habitats.

"With the exception of part of the Cardigan Bay special area of conservation (SAC), all other SACs within Welsh waters will currently remain closed to scallop dredging."

Ms Jones said following a 10-week consultation, survey work by Bangor University and advice from the Countryside Council for Wales, scallop dredging would be allowed in one part of the Cardigan Bay SAC.

She said areas currently under a dredging ban could be reassessed in the future.

Keith Davies of the Countryside Council for Wales said: "The Countryside Council for Wales welcomes the minister's decision, which provides the basis, for the first time in Wales, for a strategic framework to help ensure management of viable and sustainable scallop fisheries in Wales."

Meanwhile, Ms Jones has announced changes to the management of cockle and mussel fishing.

She said: "Following the consultation, I have agreed that the Environment Agency will take over the management of the Burry Inlet cockle fishery.

"I have also agreed to the establishment of a board to become grantee of the Menai Strait (East) Mussel Fishery. This change will help us maintain and develop a sustainable and viable fishery in the Menai Strait for years to come."

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Cardigan and TivySide Advertiser MP welcomes scallop dredging restrictions - 4 hrs ago
Meat Trade News Daily Wales - Welsh Assembly Government Press Release - 12 hrs ago

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