Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 11:47 UK
The public's role in protecting Welsh marine wildlife
Dolphin
The Marine and Coastal Access Act became law in 2009.

A leading environmentalist has called for local communities to have more say in how creatures that live in the sea around Wales should be protected.

New Quay-based Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre hosted a talk on the issue on Tuesday, 13 April.

The event was to raise public awareness of The Marine and Coastal Access Act, which became law late last year.

The act includes the Welsh Assembly Government's obligation to provide for new marine protected areas.

We want more protection for our seas, including zones in which activities are not allowed unless there's proof that they do no harm
Gill Bell

The centre's project officer, Laura Mears, invited Gill Bell, Welsh officer for the Marine Conservation Society, along to the centre to inform local people about Marine Protected Areas and the Marine Act.

"We believe it is important that local people are aware of plans afoot and ways that they can be involved in the process," said Ms Mears.

Part of Gill Bell's work, funded by the Countryside Council for Wales, is to present this information to the general public, interested organisations and groups.

Ms Bell said: "It is essential for local people to be involved in decisions about the selection criteria and the sighting of the new areas to ensure the regulations are enforced.

Grey seals
Atlantic grey seals are often seen off the Ceredigion coast

"We want more protection for our seas, including zones in which activities are not allowed unless there's proof that they do no harm."

"At present it's the other way around - they're allowed unless it can be proven that they're harmful.

"At present 80% of nationally important species are not protected, even in the EU-designated areas such as the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation.

"Even dolphins, once they move out of the area, are not protected, so these rules don't work for mobile species."

She gave the example of Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire which currently has a high level of protection, but where fishing is still allowed.

Lobsters

"If you dive there you'll see a huge number of sea urchins," she said.

"This is interesting because grazing sea urchins are preyed on by lobsters, and the number of lobster pots around Skomer has been increasing fast.

"The reason there are so many sea urchins is that the number of lobsters has declined because of over-fishing, and this impacts on other parts of the ecosystem."

The Welsh Assembly Government has said it's planning to identify sites for the new zones by 2012, and may take into account social and economic issues as well as scientific ones.




SEE ALSO
Meeting about marine law impact
13 Apr 10 |  Mid Wales
Marine and Coastal Access Bill
26 Oct 09 |  House of Commons
Marine protection meeting staged
19 Oct 09 |  Devon

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