North West Wales

Crab and lobster fishermen fear for their livelihoods

Sion Williams
Image caption Sion Williams believes fishermen can be used to help monitor stock levels

Crab and lobster fishermen in Gwynedd are concerned that plans to close parts of the sea bed off Lleyn to them could affect their livelihoods.

They argue the traditional 'pot' method of fishing is sustainable and that restrictions are not needed.

The Welsh Government said consultation has not yet started, but highly protected areas are essential.

Despite the concerns, fishermen and local companies say there is plenty of fish available and a ready market.

Sion Williams, the secretary of the Lleyn Pot Fisherman's Association, says closing off areas of the sea will not work.

Wider impact

"We have territory which we fish, and although we do cross over we mostly stay in those areas," he said.

"If that area is closed then there will be displacement of not just the fishermen but also of their gear (boat and pots etc) so the impact on other grounds will be more."

Mr Williams says there are around 36 of the smaller (up to 10m long) boats currently registered on the Lleyn, with less than half of those providing full-time employment.

The 38-year-old began fishing in 1987 while he was still at school and said there were six boats fishing from Porth Colmon at that time, but it was now down to three, with only himself working full-time.

As there is no harbour, the boats are launched off the beach, allowing Mr Williams about four hours at sea depending on the tide.

He would not be drawn on figures, claiming he wanted to stay competitive, but said he has "hardly drawn a wage" over the past six weeks because of the weather.

The produce is sold to an Anglesey company to sell on to markets in the UK, France and Spain, but Selective Seafood in Tudweiliog on the Lleyn also processes his catch.

And Mr Williams said fishermen want to be involved in the future of the industry by becoming involved in collecting data for future conservation work.

'Appreciated sensitivities'

The Welsh government looks after the marine environment and said it is aiming to have a small number of highly protected marine conservation zones in Welsh waters.

Image caption A Pen Lleyn lobster could be sold locally or over the internet

It said there was strong scientific opinion, both internationally and domestically, that highly protected sites are an important part of any marine protected area.

It said it "appreciated the sensitivities" involved, and "the need to achieve the correct balance between conservation, economic and social interests".

A spokesman said: "The Welsh government is committed to identifying sites that maximise ecological, economic and social benefits while, as far as possible, minimising any conflicts with the different uses of the sea."

He added that the marine conservation zone project was currently identifying potential sites for the first of three consultation stages which is due to start in the spring.

"The views of fishermen will be crucial to this process," he said. "We expect to be in a position to designate the zones in 2013."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites