THE FIRST Welsh national marine plan that sets out a 20-year vision for clean, healthy and productive Welsh waters has been announced at the National Assembly.
The plan, which is seen as an opportunity to develop a distinctively Welsh approach to the management of its seas, was introduced by Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.
“This plan is published at a time when our seas and coastal communities are under immense pressure, and action is needed to preserve the value of our seas for future generations”, Ms Griffiths said.
“The plan puts into place more robust requirements on developers and public authorities, giving Welsh Government a stronger basis for determining and licensing activities in accordance with our values.”
One of the central themes of the plan is generation of renewable energy at the Welsh seas.
“We already have in Wales some of the most substantial marine energy infrastructure of any country in the world, including large-scale offshore wind developments, and marine energy demonstration zones, in which Welsh businesses and academics are creating the technologies for the future”, Ms Griffiths said.
“I hope we in this Assembly can all agree that the development of a vibrant marine energy sector has to be one of our most important long-term strategic goals for the Welsh economy.”
The plan also includes references to areas in policy where there is a contrast between the Welsh Government and UK Government, one of them being extraction of oil and gas.
“Welsh Government policy is designed to avoid further extraction and consumption of fossil fuels within all areas for which we have responsibility We completely oppose any extraction of fossil fuels in the seas surrounding Wales”, Ms Griffiths announced.
“In the plan, we have gone further than this to say that where offshore fossil fuel extraction has land-based elements—that is, any elements that would fall into the responsibility of Welsh Government—we will apply our policy to avoid continued extraction of fossil fuels, using all powers available to us.
“In our plan, we’ve also included details of the UK Government policy, insofar as it applies to the seas surrounding Wales. Their policy is to maximise fossil fuel extraction in the offshore areas surrounding Wales. The contrast between the policy of Welsh Government and UK Government could not be more stark.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, I would like to place on record the view of Welsh Government that any policy to encourage the continued extraction of fossil fuels is a policy we would emphatically reject.”
Now that the Welsh national marine plan has been published and adopted, the next step is its implementation.
A marine planning decision makers group has been formed and detailed supplementary guidance is being finalised in collaboration with stakeholders.
An updated version of Wales marine planning portal has been published, which provided freely accessible and interactive online evidence and maps.
As the evidence base develops the plan will be ‘continuously refined’ in terms of how it applies to specific activities and specific regions of Wales.
Ms Griffiths concluded: “This plan sets out our vision for a prosperous and resilient Wales in which our seas are abundant with wildlife, are sustaining a vibrant renewable energy sector, and are enriching the lives of the people of Wales in so many other ways.”