Pembrokeshire's Skomer Marine Nature Reserve could soon become a fishing no-take zone, in order to restore the island's waters to full health and increase its appeal to visitors. Divers, in particular, stand to gain.
A byelaw has been drafted by the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee, at the request of the Countryside Council of Wales. It is under public consultation until 8 April, so now is the time for divers to make their thoughts known.
The byelaw would prohibit the taking of any creature in the MNR, though four local fishermen already in business with lobster pots would be allowed to continue, and sea-anglers would have a designated area.
'At the heart of the plan is the principle that no-one should take any living thing from the reserve without very good reasons,' said Phil Newman, CCW Skomer Marine Nature Reserve Officer. 'This already applies to most marine life in the MNR through existing byelaws, but species defined as 'sea fish' under fishery legislation, which include finfish and shellfish, are not covered except by voluntary codes of conduct. Scallops are the exception and are protected by specific SWSFC byelaws, which also prevent the use of dredges or beam trawls.'
If the byelaw goes through, Skomer will follow in the footsteps of Lundy Island, which became Britain's first legislated marine no-take area two years ago. Support for the Skomer measures has come from the Welsh Association of Sub-Aqua Clubs and the British Sub-Aqua Club's Welsh Coach.
Local politicians have been briefed on the value of a healthy marine reserve in terms of revenue from visitors â€“ namely divers - and, in the long term, commercial fisheries once increased stocks spread to adjacent waters. The local MP (Labour) and local MEP (Plaid Cymru) have stated their support for the legislation.
The byelaw proposal, Skomer Marine Nature Reserve - Proposed Zone of Restricted Fishing, is available at the SWSFC website, or contact South Wales SFC, Queens Buildings, Cambrian Place, Swansea SA1 1TW, tel 01792 654466.
Responses, quoting the byelaw proposal title, should be sent to Carwyn Jones, Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside. Post to him at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF99 1NA, or email to Carwyn.Jones@Wales.gsi.gov.uk Copies of responses should be posted to the SWSFC, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
State clearly why you take your view, for or against. The advice is that most consultation responses come from objectors, and that supporters tend to give less explanation of their views. As a result, their comments can carry less weight.
For general information, email Phil Newman at the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve Office, email@example.com or phone 01646 636736.
Related links Guardians of Skomer Top dive site at Lundy shows success of 'No Take Zone' Divers offered bounty for reporting tagged lobsters