In the following year, 1987, a consultation document describing the proposals for a statutory Marine Nature Reserve around Skomer and the Marloes Peninsula was circulated by the NCC to all relevant organisations and individuals. The proposal had evolved from the existing voluntary reserve provisions and code of conduct. They were considered to be an improvement on the voluntary arrangements, because of the legal re-enforcement that the code of conduct would receive, and the resources that would become available to run the reserve. However, the proposals did not tackle the difficult issues of management of commercial fishing other than scallop dredging as agreed with the SWSFC, or angling, as it was believed that doing so would compromise any prospect for successful designation as a statutory MNR.
The NCC appointed a Liaison Officer in 1987 to support the consultation process and to liaise with the Reserve’s users and all the other consultees.
With an already established liaison with all interested parties, and having addressed all foreseen problems, the response to the consultation came as rather a surprise to the NCC, as there were a number of objections to some aspects of the proposals. Some recreational users were unwilling to accept byelaws in place of the previous voluntary constraints and there were concern from several organisations about the legitimacy of proposed byelaws intended to safeguard breeding seabirds and seals.
During subsequent negotiations to overcome these objections the known weaknesses of the legislation were highlighted. The continued support from the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve Committee members, especially the local government representatives, the National Park, and also the SWSFC, was vital to the resolution of the difficulties and eventual designation.
The SWSFC’s proposed byelaws also attracted objections during the consultation. Proposed byelaws to prohibit spearfishing and to convert the existing voluntary ban on collecting shellfish by diving were rejected by recreational diving community as discriminatory since most commercial fishing and recreational angling would not be prohibited. During the attempt to find an acceptable way forward, the SWSFC proposed a byelaw that would have banned all fishing except potting and angling, but this too was rejected by the British Sub-aqua Club as still discriminatory.
The negotiations for the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve were protracted. It was only after four years of discussions, and having dropped a number of the originally proposed byelaws in order to gain agreement from all parties, that the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve was designated in July 1990.
Skomer MNR – early years
Despite the delays the designation came to the great relief of all concerned locally, although there were less controls than some considered necessary. The Marine Nature Reserve was a certainly significant step forward; some of the early code of conduct became re-enforced by Countryside Council for Wales byelaw, and bottom dredging, beam trawling and collection of scallops by any means were prohibited by SWSFC byelaws. The submission document to which all consultees had eventually agreed became the initial Agreed Management Policy for the MNR.
The designation also provided opportunities for research, monitoring and education. Most importantly, it secured the promised resources – and the MNR benefited from the comparative wealth of CCW during the organisation’s start up year. Staff, boats and a relatively comprehensive complement of diving, photographic, electronic and scientific equipment, and a purpose-built office and interpretation centre followed quickly.
The experience and acquired wisdom of the former Management Committee was not lost as it evolved into the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve Advisory Committee. The membership grew, particularly to increase the scientific expertise, and specific subcommittees were been formed. The Committee was initially chaired by CCW, but Dr Robin Crump was appointed Chairman on his retirement from the Field Studies Council in 2002.
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