Plaid Cymru MS accuses Welsh Gov of ‘undermining’ fishing industry
Plaid Cymru MS has accused the Welsh Government of “undermining the Welsh fishing industry”.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd, has warned that illegal fishing is becoming an increasing issue in Wales whilst policing is “non-existent.”
He says the Welsh Government’s new multi-million pound patrol fleet “to protect Welsh waters from illegal fishing activity” have been anchored in Welsh Marinas since 2019 due to a lack of Marine Enforcement Officers.
The Welsh Government has rejected the claim, saying that operational activities have been taking place during the pandemic, though there was a “brief pause” at the beginning.
A spokesperson said that the activities of the Marine and Fisheries Control and Enforcement Team have been “restricted” during the period, but that vessels have not been anchored since 2019.
The government says it has recruited 12 new Marine Enforcement Officers, who are currently being trained.
According to the most recent data, there are 897 full-time and part-time fishermen working in Wales with a total seafood economic value of £44.1m.
After visiting working fishermen on the Llŷn Peninsula, Mr ap Gwynfor said: “I recently visited local fishermen at Porth Colmon in my constituency to discuss the challenges facing the Welsh fishing industry.
“Local fishermen are calling for a joint-management approach to fishing in Wales to allow for sustainability and conservation of the seas.
“Whilst we were out at sea, we came across a suspected illegal boat fishing for seabass. Illegal fishing of these waters destroys biodiversity and undermines local livelihoods.
“During the Covid pandemic, Welsh Marine Enforcement Officers were not permitted to board boats to carry out their checks and duties, unlike officers in England and Scotland.
“The Welsh Government needs to take this issue seriously. Having their patrol fleet moored all year round at the public’s expense, or stopping officers from carrying out their duties, is undermining the Welsh fishing industry.”
Sion Williams, who has fished the seas at Porth Colmon on the Llŷn for 34 years, wants to see a more collaborative approach to policing and sea management in Wales.
Mr Williams said: “I am very disappointed yet again with the lack of at-sea and on-land enforcement by Welsh Government fishery officers.
“Having spent millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money on these new vessels, you would have expected them to be at sea most of the time.
“I feel very disappointed with the lack of delivery on fisheries management over the last ten years from the Government.
“They say that they’re committed to delivering a sustainable and economically viable marine environment, but have failed to deliver what is required, in fact they have fallen way short of what is expected, on all aspects of fisheries management.
“The only way to have a marine environment that is ecologically and economically sustainable is to have adaptive co-management between Welsh Government and stakeholders. Fishermen of Wales deserve much better from our elected Ministers and civil servants.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Government Marine and Fisheries Control and Enforcement Team have been carrying out operational activity throughout the Covid-19 following a brief pause in activities at the beginning of the pandemic.
“While our activities have been restricted in line with Covid-19 legislation and guidance to ensure the safety of both the industry and our staff throughout this period, it is absolutely not the case that the vessels have been anchored since 2019.
“We have recruited 12 new Marine Enforcement Officers who are being trained to cover the full range of operational duties both ashore and at sea.
“Our Fisheries Patrol Vessels have also been operational since 2019 and have carried out a number patrols, targeting key risk areas. Whilst there has been restrictions on boardings at sea this has been in line with the operations of other administrations throughout the UK.
“We will now be looking to resuming boardings at sea on our vessels over the coming weeks and months where it is safe to do so, while boardings at ports have resumed some time ago.”