This was originally posted on the WalesOnLine forum:
MH, 16 Oct 2008, 2:29 am wrote:In the news yesterday was a story about a shakeup of the system of inspection and enforcement of fisheries.
Currently the system around England and Wales is that there are twelve Sea Fisheries Committees. But the Westminster government has chosen to revamp and strengthen the English ones as Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs). This has implications for Wales, as one of the twelve SFCs covers south Wales, but another covers north Wales and NW England. The latter will have to be split, and it seems to me to make sense for there now to be one Welsh agency which should, of course, ultimately be answerable to the Welsh Government. It also makes sense to extend the remit to cover all Welsh waters up to our maritime borders with Ireland and England. Wales does not have a vast area of sea to protect, at maximum it extends some 75 miles to the south west.
As to the detail, the Welsh Government's response to the consultation is outlined here:
Not everything is finalized, as a lot will depend on the new Marine Bill. But it seems clear that Elin Jones has got her plans in order. Although I did not fully grasp it at the time, the recent €17m negotiated from the EU, match funded by £13m of Welsh Government funding, should form a solid base for comprehensive fishing industry that can be properly regulated. I think this is a huge step forward.
But even so we need to ensure that we get our proper share of the inheritance from the old NWNWSFC. And the key question here is the fate of the very aptly named Aegis, whose home port is Conwy.
Without this, fisheries protection will be left to rubber dinghies. And even if we were to inherit it, it is nothing compared to the standard of fisheries protection in Scotland.
Now of course Scotland has a much larger sea area to protect, so their needs are much greater than ours. We don't need the same, but it does show that we need to seriously up our game if we are to do the job properly. At present Wales is in the strange situation of actually paying the Royal Navy to patrol Welsh waters. The words "sledgehammer" and "nut" spring to mind. This doesn't happen in Scotland where the SPFA does the job, freeing our already stretched armed forces to get on with other things ... and saving money.
Wales would do well to take on the job for ourselves. We would probably need just a couple of larger vessels to do the job. One based in the north and the other in the south. Plus, of course, the smaller inshore patrol boats.
All this is good for its own sake, right now. 3,500 jobs and an income of £200m a year is an industry worth protecting and developing. But it is also one more step towards making Wales a country that takes responsibility for its own affairs, with a separate structure from England and Scotland. It should come into effect from April 2010.
But, looking at the bigger picture, these are also the things that need to be sorted in order for Wales to become an independent country.
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Its a shame really, there's a few maps of Scotland's territorial waters and they have quite a lot of responsibility over theirs, but England and Wales waters are still treated as "Westminster's waters".
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