She has decided, presumably with some help from her hardly unbiased fisheries staff, that “some fishing activity is possible, within specific areas, with no adverse impact on the Special Area of Conservation” and that “we should not stand in the way of economic activity”. There you have the key, the perceived economic value of scallop fishing to Wales. But try asking WG exactly what that value actually is and you’re unlikely to get an realistic answer.
Official UK fisheries statistics don’t break down exactly what was caught where by who, but careful examination of landing figures shows the value of scallops landed by Welsh vessels into Welsh ports in 2015 was a little under £2.5m. And that’s not to say all those scallops were caught in Welsh waters. It’s certainly a lot of money, but it’s a minute amount compared to the value of the Welsh marine environment to tourism and recreation.
The consultation on increasing scallop fishing in Cardigan Bay was flawed, misleading disingenuous and loaded. WG’s response to the consultation responses is equally bad. The summary of and comments on the consultation responses makes for interesting reading.
Different standards for the relevance of responses depending on whether responses supported or opposed the proposals were clearly applied. Objections “on the basis of damage to the environment” were split into those that did or did not offer “additional valid scientific reasons or evidence”, though the consultation did not identify this as a criterion by which responses would be judged, But it handily sidelined 83% of responses at a stroke. On the other hand, those responses supporting the proposals were not split in the same way.
So, if you were an objector, your objection wasn’t worth much if you didn’t provide “valid scientific reasons or evidence”; but if you were a supporter, it didn’t matter why, or whether or not you could provide any reasonable justification. What a splendid way to cope with the inconvenient fact that 84% of responses were outright objections, not counting the views of those of you that objected by signing a petition.
A petition opposing the proposals organised by WDCS, and supported by MCS and Client Earth, gathered a reported 30,486 signatures. It is unclear how or whether it was taken into account.
There is just so much wrong with this decision, but it’s clear that someone, somewhere has done a lot of work to make the decision look like it is scientifically justifiable and legally compliant. It’s going to take time to wade through the additional documents produced by WG to justify this decision. Anyone with the time and relevant knowledge to help dissect them will be welcomed please get in touch.
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