Marine Conservation Zones: Protest meeting in Pwllheli

Sion Williams and his fishing boat Sion Williams is the third generation of his family to fish from a rocky cove on the Llyn Peninsula that would fall in a proposed marine conservation zone

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A protest meeting is taking place in Pwllheli later about plans for new conservation zones off the Welsh coast.

The Welsh government will create three or four marine conservation zones (MCZs) by 2014 from a list of 10 potential sites identified by experts.

The Environment Minister says the zones are necessary to protect wildlife, and the plans are only at an early stage.

But campaigners say the zones will destroy fishing and tourist industries in the Llyn Peninsula and Anglesey.

Fishing grounds

Sion Williams, the third generation of his family to fish for lobsters and crabs, is worried he could soon be the last.

He fishes from a small rocky cove called Porth Colmon which is on the northern side of the Llyn Peninsula, but it is inside one of 10 possible sites around Wales which could become MCZs.

They would be "no take zones" which means no fishing but Mr Williams says it would completely destroy his livelihood.

Map showing 10 potential Marine Conservation Zone areas around Wales Map of the potential sites for conservation zones

He said: "I can't go anywhere else if they designate this area as a marine conservation zone.

"I, personally, would be out of business because it's 50% of my ground.

"All the fishermen around here are furious about it and can't believe that our own government have put this silly consultation forward."

Claire Russell Griffiths also has family connections to the sea around the Llyn Peninsula and, as a community councillor, she has organised a protest meeting in Pwllheli on Thursday evening.

Of the 10 possible sites for MCZs around Wales, four of them are off the Llyn Peninsula, while two are off Anglesey where there have been similar concerns.

Start Quote

This is not about putting any fishermen out of business”

End Quote John Griffiths AM Environment Minister

Ms Russell Griffiths says the zones will affect more than the fishing industry.

She said caravan parks in the area were "extremely worried" that tourists would not be able to use the beaches, while the sailing clubs in Abersoch and Pwllheli were concerned for events they held.

She said: "It's going to have a dramatic effect.

"In fact, you could almost say you could put a "closed for business" [sign] on north Wales."

The Welsh government says that up to four zones with special protection will give sea plants, fish and shellfish chance to thrive undisturbed by human beings.

It says the zones will be spread around the coast of Wales, and there is only likely to be one near the Llyn Peninsula.

'Right balance'

Environment Minister John Griffiths says jobs and livelihoods should not suffer.

"This is not about putting any fishermen out of business," he said.

"It's about recognising the environmental imperatives that we face and balancing those up with the socio-economic interests.

"If we can have effective engagement with those most likely to be effective by these changes, then hopefully we will get the eventual balance right."

The Welsh government stresses that this is only the first stage in listening to people's views.

But the fishermen say Thursday's protest meeting is only the start and it will be followed by a demonstration, and by a legal challenge if the plan goes ahead.

A similar meeting is due to be held at Canolfan Beaumaris, Anglesey, at 18:00 BST on Monday 18 June.

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