Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig - Y Bumed Senedd
Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee - Fifth Senedd22/05/2019
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Andrew R.T. Davies AM|
|Dai Lloyd AM|
|Jenny Rathbone AM|
|John Griffiths AM|
|Llyr Gruffydd AM|
|Mike Hedges AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Jonathan Monk||Rheolwr Amgylcheddol, Porthladd Aberdaugleddau|
|Environmental Manager, Port of Milford Haven|
|Professor Steve Fletcher||Athro Polisi Cefnforoedd a'r Economi, Prifysgol Portsmouth|
|Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy, University of Portsmouth|
|Sue Burton||Swyddog ACA, Ardal Cadwraeth Arbennig Forol Sir Benfro|
|SAC Officer, Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation|
|Tegryn Jones||Prif Weithredwr, Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro|
|Chief Executive, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:32.
The meeting began at 09:32.
Can I welcome Members to the meeting? I understand that some other Members will be joining us very shortly. Can I welcome Members to the meeting? Due to changes in the Assembly, Gareth Bennett is no longer a member of this committee, so we’re currently running on seven members. Any Members got any declarations of interest to declare? None.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome Professor Stephen Fletcher, professor of ocean policy and economy at the University of Portsmouth. Welcome.
If you’re happy, can we move straight to questions?
Of course, yes.
What are your views on the strategic direction and leadership given to Welsh MPA management, in particular? Does the Welsh Government’s framework and action plan sufficiently address recommendation 1 in the committee’s ‘Turning the tide?’ report? And are marine stakeholder engagement practices in Wales sufficient? And are there any examples of good stakeholder engagement?
Wow. Is there just one question? [Laughter.]
Basically, the question is about the strategic direction and about the marine stakeholder involvement.
Sure, yes. Okay. It might be helpful if I just explained a little bit about my own background, if that’s okay, just to indicate where I’m coming from, because my engagement in the Welsh MPA scene is fairly limited, so I’m coming at this as something of an outsider. So, if I just explain that a little bit. So, for the last five years I’ve been working as, first of all, the head of the marine programme, but then the chief strategy officer at the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. So, my remit was essentially global—so, looking at marine protected area management, marine protected area designation and looking at practices around the world to try and determine what might be effective processes and procedures to manage MPAs in specific contexts and specific locations.
So, I haven’t really had that much to do specifically with the UK. Having said that, I’ve, since 1 April, taken the position at the University of Portsmouth, as you said. So, my perspective is perhaps a little more global than specific to the Welsh situation. But what I have done is quite a lot of reading and work on trying to understand what’s been happening in Wales, and taken soundings and all the rest of it, so I bring something of global perspective to those observations, if that’s okay.
It's very helpful.
So, some of the specificities may be slightly too far for me, so forgive me when that arises.
So, your questions were around strategic direction and stakeholder engagement, I think. In terms of the strategic direction—. Forgive me—I’ve just got some notes here I just need to follow through on. I think the vision that was developed by the MPA management steering committee, which, as I understand it, is the vehicle through which the Welsh Government is leading the MPA management processes in Wales. It says all of the right things. It’s kind of what you would read anywhere in the world, really. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s a common sort of vision that would occur pretty much anywhere. The notion that we balance the protection of nature against its use is not particularly unusual. What I would say it—. If I was being critical, what it lacks is a particular Welsh vision, a Welshness to it—what is special about Wales, what it is that the Welsh Government, the Welsh people really want its marine environment to be like, what they really want it to deliver for Wales and for society. That doesn’t appear to be there for me. So, again, in a not overly critical kind of way, that definition or that vision could be pretty much applied to anywhere and it would work. My question is: what’s special about Wales and how do you draw that out into a sort of strategic approach that is really important to you and supporting the Welsh economy? We all know—
Sorry, could I just interject?
Yes, of course, yes.
What kinds of issues are we talking about, then, in terms of what’s special?
Yes. So, you could look at the particular, I don't know, social issues that are particularly pertinent in Wales. It could be climate change issues that are relevant to certain parts of the Welsh coastline. It could be particular, I don't know, rare species that are pretty much unique to Wales, if there are any of those.
Yes, okay. Yes, that just gives me an idea what the kinds of issues are.
Yes. And also things like the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Yes. That is our legislative framework.
That spells out, to my mind, a pretty progressive vision of what Wales can be and aspires to be, and that’s quite unusual, globally, that sort of legislation. When I first saw that about three or four years ago, I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ So, it’s that sort of visionary approach that’s not here, if I could put it like that.
Okay. That's great, thanks.
Okay. Oh, and in terms of stakeholder engagement, again, that’s a little bit difficult for me to answer specifically, but what I have noticed is that the membership of that steering committee is, again, somewhat the usual players. It’s the people, or the organisations, I should say, that have an official management role, largely around the sort of conventional conservation bodies—they need to be there, of course; don’t misunderstand that point—and some port authorities, or organisations representing port authorities, I should say. But what there isn’t is engagement with a wider group of organisations with an interest in the marine environment. Marine conservation is a sectoral activity, for sure, but actually it’s a sectoral activity that affects virtually everything else that goes on in the marine environment. So, to have such a limited group steering marine protected areas of conservation seems unusual, I would say, and perhaps missing on a broader pool of talents.
Just one broader point, if I may, just for a second: the world’s oceans are in trouble, there is a climate crisis, the world’s resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. All of these things fundamentally underpin the social and economic fabric of society. The intergovernmental panel on biodiversity and ecosystem services reported two or three weeks ago, which kind of reasserted all of those things, and I just don’t understand why, in a country like Wales, pulling together all of the talent you’ve got to try and address some of these globally relevant issues isn’t a priority. It just seems crazy.
Okay. Thank you. And any views on the Welsh Government’s framework and action plan?
Yes. [Laughter.] I’m glad to say ‘yes’ to that. Yes, okay. So, the framework itself is interesting. The objectives of the action plan, I would say, are almost textbook. If you asked any academic from around the world what are the five things that would deliver good MPA management—generic things—it is things like effective leadership, engaged communities, clear governance, leadership, adaptive management. The one that is not there that is always there usually is resources. You need an adequate resource base to deliver that—
Funny that. [Laughter.]
I know. In a way, it’s not surprising, but that is—. There’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that, without a decent resource base, none of the other stuff gets delivered, and so to not have that there is a serious thing, albeit I appreciate politically it’s perhaps a challenge to deliver that in practice. I would say the objectives are all fine in and of themselves, and, again, as I say, you see them everywhere. What I perhaps would say is that they are a little bit procedural, if I could put it like that. So, to me, these are more the principles through which the vision and the objectives would be delivered; they’re not, in a sense, objectives in and of themselves. So, the objectives, I would say, would be the things that deliver the vision. So, in this alternative future, if the vision is more of a sort of Wales-orientated vision, then the objectives might be that we have a particular set of marine protected areas that support poverty alleviation in Anglesey, or we have an objective that’s focused on supporting the dolphin population in Pembrokeshire—I’m making this up, clearly. But it’s that sort of thing I’d imagine as the objectives. They’re more the tasks that deliver the vision. These to me seem a little bit like more procedural principles by which you would deliver the vision and the objectives.
Okay, thank you. And, finally from me, what are your views on the progress and outcomes of the Welsh MPA management steering group?
Sorry, what was the—
The Welsh MPA management steering group.
No, what was the first part?
Sorry. Basically, your views on—any views or comments you have on it.
Oh, on the steering group itself?
Yes, and what they’re doing.
I think—. It’s difficult for me to answer that. I have no personal engagement in that. I’ve read some of the minutes of the meetings, but they’re very summarised, let’s say. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t be able to answer that in great detail.
Okay. That’s very helpful. It's on to you, Jenny; you arrived at exactly the right time.
Well, I don’t mind letting Llyr go first.
You touched on resources then. The question from me is we’d all wish to have more resources and I suppose there is an element of political priorities and, you know, whether you prioritise marine budgets sufficiently, but, given that we’re working within a specific envelope, really, how do you think the Government should prioritise existing resources, then? It’s about using what you have more effectively, so do you have any view on how, maybe, you know, they should prioritise?
Yes, that's a good question. I suppose the thing to recognise is that the MPA network in Wales is made up of a whole mix of different types of MPA and those areas are protecting individual—well, for the most part. They’re not protecting the whole ecosystem in those areas; they’re protecting particular features, so it might be a species or a habitat or something like that. So, the management measures that are in place are largely about the protection of those features; they’re not protecting the whole ecosystem. So, a lot of the features that are deemed to be sufficiently important to warrant protection are highlighted through various pieces of legislation, some of which are European, some of which are national, some of which, I guess, could be Welsh-specific priorities—I’m not entirely sure about that. So, in terms of how you prioritise resources, it then becomes quite difficult, because you’re kind of locked in to each of those different types of designations. Of course, Brexit might change this, but you’re certainly locked in to some of those designations, and so it’s difficult to deprioritise anything.
However, what I would say is that those designations that perhaps cover more species, that cover more of the critical ecosystem functions, would be ones that—if it was me, I would personally prioritise those. Because conserving one individual species or habitat may not really deliver that much benefit in reality.
So, is it a case of prioritising certain areas and doing those properly and thoroughly as opposed to expanding designated areas? Because there’ll be a pull—I mean, we’re hearing evidence that there’s a lack of data, a lack of an evidence base that needs investment in building up to create a coherent picture. We need more boots on the ground or flippers in the water, whatever they are, or paddles in the sea, maybe, in terms of officers as well. It would be great if we could do it all, but we can’t, so, really, in terms of getting the biggest bang for your buck, that’s what we’re looking for, really, isn’t it?
Yes, fine. I suppose what you might do, then, is look at the flagship sites, so where are the sites in Wales that you’re really proud of and that really deliver for the people, for society and for the economy, and really prioritise those almost flagship sites, in a sense, that would really demonstrate Wales’s contribution to the global MPA agenda.
We’ve got a plethora of different categories of sites—
—sites of special scientific interest, marine conservation zones, special areas of conservation, special protection areas, et cetera, and then we’ve got a range of really vibrant third sector organisations who’ve got very good public engagement. Large numbers of the public are really passionate about this, including, obviously, children. So, it’s really, given that resources are limited in the current austerity climate and there are massive problems all over the place, how can we bring all this together and be a bit more focused? Because I think the public are all wanting action to protect our marine environment, to get rid of the plastic pollution—all these sorts of things have huge buy-in. So, how do we better harness that enthusiasm?
It’s a great question. With respect to marine protected areas specifically, there are a whole load of ideas and concepts that have been tested in other parts of the world that could deliver what you’re talking about. At the national level, then, you could look for synergies. So, where, let’s say in the school curriculum, could you introduce something on MPAs? And I don’t necessarily mean in geography or the obvious places, but in a maths example, or in religious studies, or something like that. You know, the—
Well, the new curriculum will allow all that, yes.
And so, just trying to look for those synergistic opportunities that allow marine-related topics to be integrated into something that otherwise wouldn’t be marine or marine protected area-focused in and of itself.
A couple of other things: there’s an idea that you may have come across called ocean literacy, which is a US idea, but it’s increasingly being driven by the European Union and also by UNESCO, the UN body. It’s really trying to make sure that citizens are engaged with the marine environment and understand not just their impacts upon it, but how their changed behaviour can improve the state of the marine environment. So, we all know about recycling and what we do with our waste, but all sorts of other lifestyle choices we make in terms of food, the clothing we buy, the packaging we choose to purchase, and all that sort of thing, that can have an impact. So, ocean literacy is kind of about enabling people to be more ocean citizens, if you like, more informed citizens around the ocean. And there are toolkits out there, there are ways of integrating that into curricula, integrating that into the work that a museum might do or an outreach organisation, that sort of thing.
I should also say that this year—is it this year? Yes. This year marks the beginning of the UN decade of ocean science, and so ocean literacy is a core element of the UN decade on ocean science. And ocean science isn’t just natural science, it’s not about collecting oceanographic information, it the social sciences—it's how people engage, it’s how people feel, the economics of the ocean, and all that sort of thing, including the sort of psychological connections that people have to the sea as well.
So, how can ocean literacy help us deal with the other problem, which is ocean litter, which is done by people?
Well, the connection is direct, almost. There’s a tendency to assume that, if you just tell people stuff, they change their behaviour. That isn’t the case. There’s something called a knowledge-action gap. So, just because you know, I don’t know, that smoking is bad, it doesn’t stop people smoking. So, the knowledge in itself doesn’t make the difference. So, what we need—. And through ocean literacy, it’s about changing people’s value set, it’s changing how they value their relationship with the ocean. So, if you have an ocean literacy component in the national curriculum, for instance, from primary school upwards, then people would just over time change their values towards the sea. And things like plastic pollution and the dumping of waste, and all those sorts of things, become less prevalent simply because it’s more socially unacceptable to do that. It’s not necessarily a quick fix, but it is a fix. And, in the meantime, the Government and local authorities and so on can change their waste collection and recycling processes, and all that sort of thing.
Without wishing to suggest there’s some reason to be less worried about plastic pollution, in the UK and in Europe, most of the plastic pollution comes from defective waste processes and from individuals littering. In our country, we’re not really massive producers of marine pollution, on the whole. There are other parts of the world where the problem is totally disastrous. That’s not to say we shouldn’t make efforts here, but also it’s important to keep it in perspective a little bit.
Well, we’ve got pollution run-off from agricultural pesticides, we’ve got abandoned lobster pots that aren’t properly identified—who put them in there in the first place. It seems to me that those are things that Government could do something about, without it being too huge a resource.
Yes, exactly. It’s a sort of multidimensional problem, isn’t it? So, there are lots of single source points of plastic pollution and other forms of pollution as well, and there may well be a role for the Government in addressing those and providing a framework that allows citizens to make better choices. And then there’s the sort of literacy side of things, which makes the citizen want to make those different choices. I think all the solutions are there; it’s just a case of bringing them together and having a coherent strategy to make it happen in practice.
Great, thank you.
Yes, I wanted to ask some questions about your understanding of the condition of MPAs in our seas in Wales, and in particular the results of the indicative future conditions assessment, which Natural Resources Wales recently published, and whether that has led to any changes in management of the sites.
Gosh, that’s possibly slightly too specific, I’m afraid.
I thought it might be, given what you said earlier.
Yes, indeed, a pre-warning there. What I have done is I’ve looked at those results, and, in a way, they’re surprisingly poor, given the time over which the MPAs have already been designated. So, some of them have been in place for 10-plus years, and some even longer than that, and to have so many of the site condition reports as ‘unfavourable’ or ‘no information’ is surprising, let's say. The condition report assessment, as far as I can see, doesn’t really say what the condition was previously. So, it’s difficult to see the change that’s happened. So, it’s difficult to make any judgment, at least as someone who’s not been involved, as to whether the management has made a difference. But, ultimately, the measure of management effectiveness of any MPA that has the explicit objective to improve the conservation status of the MPA—if it’s not improving the site condition, it’s failing.
Yes. So, from what you say, then, would you have concerns that the quality of evidence available on MPAs in Wales is poor?
Not sure, but a more general comment would be that there is always going to be a lack of evidence, a lack of information. And so, I would always say the precautionary principle is how we need to address that.
I generally think that—and this is a perception around the world, really—a lack of information is not enough to stop action. And so, if we know what the risks are, and we know that if an ecosystem, if it’s degraded, will inhibit the economy, inhibit people’s health, then there’s enough reason to act simply because of that. In a sense—I don’t wish to sound campaigning; I’m not really meaning it that way—it’s just a simple economic question. We know that a healthy marine environment supports food security, supports health and well-being and all those sorts of things. And where those things go wrong, there’s a cost to society. So, it’s a hidden cost primarily, and to do a study to figure out what that indirect or hidden cost would be to society of a poorly managed, or poor-quality MPA network, might be something that would help justify the release of resources, I would say. So, yes, sorry—difficult to answer that in any more specificity.
Sure. Is there anything else you’d like to add in terms of what we might do in Wales to improve the quality of the evidence that’s available to us?
You could embrace ideas like citizen science. Some people criticise citizen science as a bit amateurish. It can be a bit basic, but it depends what it is. And as long as you ask the right questions, and enable citizens to do the level of work that is appropriate to the question being asked, if you see what I mean, and that there’s alignment, then some really interesting and good results can come from that, and that would also then begin to engage people in what is often called their ‘neighbourhood ocean’—it’s their local marine environment. And that then builds the ocean literacy, and you have this positive virtuous circle around that. You could also look at prioritising data collection, so where there is simply no information around site condition—. That seems a surprise, so maybe there needs to be some research around that.
Okay, that’s fine. Thank you very much.
Yes, thank you. You touched on Brexit earlier—there was a fleeting reference—and I’m just wondering if you could talk to us a bit about what you perceive to be the opportunities and challenges coming as a result of Brexit in this context.
Yes. So, I think it’s pretty well recognised, really. Most of the marine ambition for conservation comes from Europe, really. There’s quite a lot of evidence over the last 20, 25 years that the UK Government and devolved administrations have not particularly driven forward a marine conservation agenda independently of the EU, if I could put it like that. That’s not to say the ambition wasn’t there, but it’s just to say that it hasn’t been very obvious, in an independent sense. So, one concern would be that that ambition just isn’t there, and therefore as soon as the pressure from the EU disappears, then there may well be a drop in ambition and a drop in delivery and therefore a drop in the overall standard of protection, resource allocation—all that stuff that goes with that. So, to my mind, that would be the primary concern.
The European Union, from my previous role, is entirely committed, certainly at the Commission level, to share good practices in MPA management, to share good practice around marine spatial planning, integrated coastal zone management, all those sorts of things. It’s looking increasingly at cross-border marine spatial planning, cross-border coastal management, looking at land-sea interface. So, all of the pressing questions that are relevant to Wales, I would say, given its position in the UK and in Europe—geographically I mean, rather than politically—are things that are so relevant to Wales. I have no clue the extent to which you’re picking those up and bringing them into your own practices.
The EU, from a marine governance perspective—it has its problems, don’t misunderstand the point—is very progressive and it’s certainly offering quite strong leadership. So, one concern of Brexit would be, in the absence of that leadership, where does that leadership come from within the Welsh context?
Yes, lots of opportunities, I would say. Part of the challenge I mentioned before is that a lot of the European designations around MPAs are feature specific, rather than whole ecosystem function specific. The obvious and massive opportunity is to convert some of those existing MPAs that are just feature specific into more sort of holistic ecosystem function MPAs. The way the marine environment works is that there are certain parts of the ecosystem that critically underpin the production of fish stocks or they underpin a particular feature of the productivity of the broader marine environment, like salt marsh and mud flats and areas like that, which are particularly important because the juvenile fish then go all over the place, and they do all sorts of other things. So, there are certain key parts of the ecosystem.
So, I would probably recommend, as an opportunity from Brexit, to really figure out where those key ecosystem functionality units are, if I can put it like that, or where parts of the ecosystem are, and really focus on ecosystem-wide protection of those areas. Then you’ve got real connectivity built into the network as well, and it really becomes a network rather than a collection of sites that are designated simply because they happen to have certain species or habitats that somebody somewhere deemed to be important one day.
In a way—this is maybe going too far, but one might argue that by simply protecting certain habitats and species that are rare or special in some scientific sense, you end up with a random collection of MPAs that don’t really collectively offer the network benefits, or even protect the function of the ecosystem. Actually, it’s the entirety of the function of the ecosystem that is critical to underpinning the economy and social well-being and health and all those sorts of things, not individual species here and there. So, that more holistic, protecting what’s important to Wales kind of MPA would be great.
One other thought, if I may: I suppose you’re very familiar with the whole sustainable blue economy emergence as a policy area. It’s really interesting because the sustainable blue economy is really underpinned by an effective MPA network. It’s underpinned by the effective conservation and protection of what’s called the critical natural capital. It’s the critical part of the ecosystem that underpins the ecological functioning, which in turn underpins the economy and health benefits. Unless you protect those parts of the critical natural capital, the whole thing falls over. So, if as a country you embrace the sustainable and inclusive blue economy, then there’s almost a fundamental requirement, unless the policy will fail, to protect those areas of critical ecosystem function as well, and there are examples from around the world where that’s starting to happen.
And usually quite small places as well, in a geographical sense, but with a large marine area, like the Seychelles, for instance. That’s a great example of how the blue economy’s been integrated into marine spatial planning, and they’ve put new marine protected areas in place to specifically detect the critical natural capital. So, in a way, it changes the criteria upon which protection is designated. So, no longer do we protect on the basis of—in the nicest possible way—random features; we designate on the basis of what are the critical parts of the ecosystem that we need that underpin our economy and underpin our well-being.
I was going to ask you earlier, actually, about whether there are examples out there that we should aspire to emulate. So, that’s clearly one that you referred to there. Are there others do you think we could look at as a template for us to try and aspire to emulate?
I might have to get back to you on that.
Yes, that’s fine.
Certainly the Seychelles is one. I know in the Caribbean and the British overseas territories, there’s quite a lot of work going on—
We’re not looking for a committee visit. [Laughter.]
I don’t know—
Sorry, just to finish that point. So, the Marine Management Organisation, which does have a remit in Wales, is also responsible for the protection and management of British overseas territories—so, Saint Helena, the South Sandwich Islands, all those sorts of places—and they’re working on a project called Blue Halo. You may know about this. It’s essentially creating a blue halo of MPAs around the British overseas territories. So, they’re doing a whole load of data collection with CEFAS and other marine data collection bodies there, bringing communities together on these small islands to figure out what their priorities are for their marine environment and then putting in place a marine spatial plan and MPAs—well, MPAs are part of a marine spatial plan—marine spatial plan with MPAs to really designate those areas. Some people are quite sceptical about that because they’re quick wins and really increase the UK’s marine protected area coverage. So, one might say it’s a bit of a sneaky thing. And those areas are not always at massive risk from pollution or overexploitation and things like that. But in a way, you could disregard that and say it’s precautionary protection of areas that are important for wildlife and biodiversity.
The Welsh Government recently published its consultation 'Brexit and our Seas'. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve had an opportunity to—
No, I haven’t.
Okay. Because I was going to ask whether you had any initial thoughts on it.
No, I apologise. I have seen it but I haven’t—
Sure. There we are. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Chair. Well, the question I wanted to ask has already been answered, really, by your comprehensive, excellent answers so far. So, I was thinking in terms of this whole agenda of MPAs, what would be the one thing you’d like to see happening? Because we’re going to produce this report as a committee, and obviously we’re open to some ideas for recommendations. You’ve outlined very comprehensively the overview—and we appreciate the overview, actually, because sometimes in these committees we tend to focus too narrowly on the situation here in Wales. So, being as we’ve got a world, global overview situation, what would you like to put in to things that will actually improve things for Wales?
Gosh. That’s a dream question, isn’t it?
Give us a dream answer.
I have to give an answer that lives up to the question. The ideal approach to the management of the marine environment, I would say, rather than just MPAs, is to have something of an integrated, joined-up, holistic approach, in which the marine environment is just seen as part of the national estate and the national capital account, as any other forest or mountain or river or whatever it happens to be, but recognising it has different features. So, my suggestion would really be, I guess, around adopting a much more holistic approach.
The marine spatial plan does that, as I understand it, to a certain extent. It pulls together multiple sectors, incorporates civil society, incorporates the NGOs, all that sort of thing, and different sectors, and draws together a strategic way forward, as I understand it. I mean, that’s what marine plans are supposed to do, anyway. But what there then needs to be is a resourced ongoing process to manage the way the plan is then implemented and delivered. So, that’s quite a boring answer, but it’s quite administrative, it’s quite procedural. It’s about having a genuine institutional arrangement in Wales that recognises the value of the sea, recognises the value of conservation as part of the wider agenda that supports the well-being and economic viability of Wales. So, that’s what I would say from a very practical perspective.
There is a bit more of an ambitious answer, which is that, in my international dealings, what I rarely see is countries offering leadership through leading by example. And in the bigger scheme of things—. And with all due respect, Wales has a relatively limited marine environment, which is a massive opportunity to really show what’s possible to do. Most of your population live in coastal locations. One might imagine, through an ocean literacy project or something like that, the connection is really built. Let’s really put in place a world-leading marine planning process and agenda with very significant ambitions that really places the natural environment at the centre of Wales’s health and well-being agenda.
You’ve got a lot of pieces of that puzzle in place already, particularly with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and all that sort of stuff, and you’ve got Natural Resources Wales, which is globally very rare where all those conservation and nature bodies are in one organisation. So, a lot of the institutional arrangements and legal arrangements are in place already. I’d say it’s the ambition to then drive that into something incredible and world-leading that is missing. You’ve got the opportunity, particularly in the context of what I said before—the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis. Again, I sound like I'm campaigning. But now is the time to act. We’ve got no choice, really. This is the time to do it, and offering leadership would be amazing.
Thank you. Andrew Davies.
You talked about leadership there and you touched on Natural Resources Wales for example, but to create an ecologically coherent network of MPAs—who should take the lead on that, and how should it be delivered around Wales?
There’s an assumption that you want an ecologically coherent MPA network, I suppose, in that. So, I guess the purpose of an ecologically coherent MPA network is, I suppose, to ensure the viable functioning of the Welsh marine ecosystem, isn’t it? What you want are the main components of the ecosystem protected, so that is a marine science question to a large extent. So, it would be the bodies that have the marine science expertise in and around Wales that would need to deliver the scientific underpinning of that. So, I guess that would be NRW engaging with the universities and other science-based institutions in and around Wales. There’s a huge concentration of marine science expertise in Wales, which is quite unusual for a comparatively small country.
You said there’s a huge pool there, but do you think it’s a coherent pool? NRW have had quite specific challenges in its first several years of establishment. So, to show leadership, you do need to have a coherent plan to do that, don’t you? So, in pulling that together, do you think there is the ability with the current structures to do it, as you understand them?
That’s a bit of a challenging question for me, actually. What I do know from other places is that where the institutional arrangements are highly fragmented, it’s really, really difficult to get any strategic leadership or any joined-up approach to MPA designation, management, coherent networks—all that sort of thing. In Wales, it seems to me that some of the main fragmentations have already been resolved by the creation of NRW. I know a little bit about the internal challenges that NRW have faced. One might say they’re teething problems of bringing together a disparate range of organisations that have, in some cases, slightly contradictory functions within the state machinery, if I can put it like that. But I would try to see it as a huge advantage that you’ve got an agency already that pulls together all of the main management and licensing and science functions that are important to a country to exercise its conservation duties.
Thank you very much. We’re very grateful to you for coming along here and giving us your time and answering our questions, especially the ability to bring an international view on it. We sometimes—and I include myself in this—tend to look at Wales as if it’s a unique place on its own in the world, and the ability to bring an international perspective, I found it, and I’m sure the rest of the committee have found it, very helpful. So, thank you very much.
It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.
Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome Sue Burton, SAC officer, Pembrokeshire marine special area of conservation; Jonathan Monk, environmental manager, port of Milford; and Tegryn Jones, chief executive, Pembrokeshire Coast national park? Welcome to you all. As you know, we’ve been looking into the marine environment for some time, and we’ve got a series of questions we’d like to ask you. Do you want to make any opening remarks, or can we move straight to questions?
Straight to questions?
Just really pleased that there is actually a follow up—it’s really encouraging to see that the committee is following up on the previous inquiry.
Thank you. The first question is: what are your views on the strategic direction and leadership given to Welsh MPA management in terms of the Government’s framework and action plan and involvement of stakeholders? I think you’re going first. [Laughter.]
I think there’s a very important distinction to make between strategic-level action and the strategy adopted by Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales. So, the establishment of the marine protected areas management steering group, on which Tegryn and I sit, was intended to oversee the strategy adopted by Welsh Government and NRW. That group has produced a network-level action plan, and a management framework, which is intended to address network-level issues, or strategic-level issues that need to be addressed at a national level. But there is a disconnect, I think, between that strategic-level action and local-level action—actual on-the-ground intervention. I think the action plan is a good thing to have—its work is important—but I think there needs to be more drive from NRW and Welsh Government in local delivery and in bringing local delivery agencies and actors along with that.
I’d agree. I’ve often viewed the management steering group almost like a national-level relevant authority group, or a national-level RAG. So, obviously, I work on behalf of a sort of local RAG. And, actually, I must add that my views are my own today—they’re not necessarily those of all my relevant authority group. So, as a national-level RAG, it makes sense to be looking strategically at national issues. And, obviously, as Jonathan says, that provides a very important umbrella under which MPA management can operate within Wales. But we do have Alison Hargrave, who sits on the group, who represents relevant authority groups around Wales, so I tend to interact with Alison, and then she will input into the group. But, obviously, Tegryn and Jonathan also sit on my Pembrokeshire marine relevant authorities group. So, we do have opportunity to link in, which is really good, and we’ve been able to get some acknowledgement of some of the local actions needed within that sort of action plan, but it is very much a strategic sort of document.
I’d agree. I suppose that what I would say is, when you work at a strategic level, then it takes time to work itself through. So I think, undoubtedly, quite a bit of progress has been made as part of the MPA group since your initial review two years ago. I think that group had struggled with momentum in the previous few years, and certainly has made far better progress in the past two years. I think there are certainly local issues, and there are significant other issues impacting on the marine in the wider political sphere, which I'm sure you'll come to, that take a lot of energy, and impact on this. So, it's a work in progress, really, and it will take time for it to work through for delivery and impacting more on the local area.
Okay. Well, can I carry on with—? Oh, sorry, Jenny.
I just—. Sticking with the national issues, why has it not been possible for you to deliver on the licensing of lobster pots, a simple measure, which would help eliminate ghosts?
Because fisheries regulation is managed by Welsh Government entirely separately from marine protected areas and marine conservation.
Well, that doesn’t reassure me, in the sense that—aren't you there to prod Welsh Government into doing things that you think are, you know, quick wins as well as long-term problems?
I think that the—. What were you going to say there, Sue?
Well, I think—. So, addressing fisheries management issues is within the action plan, but it's very much a Welsh Government responsibility.
I understand it's a Welsh Government responsibility; only they can do the licensing—well, at a strategic level, but—
There is the—. There's the assessing Welsh fisheries project that NRW are, effectively, doing. So, they have prioritised doing assessments of all the different fishing activities, potting being one of those, but we've yet to see any management outcomes from that work. So, obviously potting is one of the lower-risk activities, but I think in terms of—. Yes, we need more proactiveness. So, potting might not be the most intensive form of fishing, but it is one of the most abundant around the coast. But I think it's a good example to use, because at a low level potting might not be an issue, but there's nothing to stop hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pots. So, unless you have a limit to management, you can't say that it's being effectively managed.
Okay. I'm not qualified to say what the top priority should be, I'm just trying to unravel how the national body you sit on is sufficiently poking the Government and NRW into delivering on things that are the most important.
One of the, I suppose, questions I have—in terms of even sitting on that group, we tend to deal a lot with a more project-based approach to it, so it does mean that there are certain projects that are included in the plan that deliver in that sense, but, obviously, you occasionally might miss out on one or two things, and some of those are driven by the availability of funding in an external sense—. Because there's been a project on unlicensed—
Unlicensed sports activities.
—activities there, which probably made more progress in that sense. So, it does raise the questions for us to deal with as part of the group of how we manage that and how we influence it going forward.
Okay. My question is really trying to probe what impact you have.
I think it's important to note that the terms of reference of this group are really about managing marine protected areas within the framework of the habitats directive, to some extent the birds directive, and the water framework directive, and that fisheries is governed by an entirely separate set of legislation. It's been clear to group members that fisheries is not really up for grabs as part of this group, and, in the interests of actually making progress and producing an action plan and getting somewhere, we've been dealing with what's on the table in front of us.
Okay. I could pursue this, but I appreciate others may have—.
Could I pursue it, then?
If you have those concerns, have you raised those concerns? Because it does seem, the little bit I'm picking up—because I think Tegryn was saying it lacked momentum and was difficult to get going in the first couple of years. We're hearing now of a bit of a split between some of the responsibilities that I think from the evidence indicates that you think is a problem to take the work forward. So, have you raised these concerns with the Government so that the terms of reference might be changed to accommodate your observations, to give more impetus to your work?
I don’t think we have, really, no. I think that’s something that the group can do in the future. There are a great many things that the group can do in the future and could become. It’s taken quite a long time for that group to coalesce as a non—I don’t want to say non-combative, because it's not really combative, but I think it’s taken quite a long time for all members of the group to start pulling in the same direction, and now that that is the case, I think it could be a lot more effective in actually addressing some of these underlying issues.
I agree that having fisheries policy and sustainable management of natural resources policy as separate branches of policy is probably not optimal, because the marine environment—if you’re going to consider things as resources, and it’s a slightly militised phrase that I don’t particularly like, but, if you’re going to consider things as resources, then fish and other things that live in the sea and, indeed, the seas themselves are surely a resource. It was part of my contribution to the natural resources policy working group that was convened and did its work and closed to try and make sure that marine was included within the natural resources policy, and it was. It is still a little bit of a bolt-on, but, for a long time, it was the aim of Welsh Government that marine issues would be dealt with through the marine spatial plan and not through the natural resources policy. So, my objective as part of the natural resources working group was to try and ensure that wasn’t just the case.
Okay. Thank you for that explanation.
If I could add to that, I think, to be fair to the group, they have made a lot of progress. It’s taken some time, but now they’re at a stage where there’s an agreed framework, there’s an agreed action plan, and I think all the focus of the group has been on those very strategic policy documents, and now that things are set out, I think it allows the group members to sit back and really actually understand and start to push forward on individual actions. So, I think if—. Am I right in saying that?
Yes. I think there is a bit of a process of review happening. We agreed the first action plan last year, but it was actually agreed during the year, if that makes sense. So, we’ve just agreed one now moving forward, and I think, as part of that, it is always wise in those types of groups to reflect on our progress. So, I think we’re in a better place to do it now than we have been previously when, to be honest, the focus was very much on having an action plan.
I think it’s also fair to say that, when I joined that group, which was more or less when I started in my present role, so I joined it fairly cold, the focus of the group was very much on Welsh Government reminding other management authorities that they had responsibilities and trying to get them to fulfil those responsibilities. When it became clear to Welsh Government that they already were, that's probably how the group’s focus began to shift. And what that group has never been, to date, is a scrutiny committee for Welsh Government. It’s been a steering group, it’s been there to prioritise actions, to discuss the virtues of different actions. Now, whether that group should be a kind of scrutiny group is open to question. That’s something that you may or may not wish to make recommendations to the Welsh Government about. But that’s not what it has been hitherto.
Thank you. If I can carry on, then, to something you’ve just raised, the implications of a framework and the action plan, the framework is 2018-2023, the action plan is 2018-19. Are they moving in the right direction and have you learnt anything from the 2018-19 action plan that will help the 2019-20 action plan?
I think they are moving in the right direction. I think the action plan—. The framework basically just sets—it's a rehearsal of what the law actually is and what people's roles and responsibilities are. That's of value in making it clear. I'm not sure, really, whether that has flushed out any contributions from other management authorities that they were not already making, but it does set out what those roles and responsibilities are.
The action plan has produced some action and has drawn some funding from Welsh Government for certain projects aimed at addressing strategic network-level issues, and, in that sense, it's making progress and doing good work. The following-on action plan has just been agreed in principle at the last MPA steering group last week, and that has got an additional round of actions in. What is becoming clear is that there is only so much that you can achieve at a strategic level. There are only so many jobs and pieces of work to do before that, then, becomes rolled out at a more local level. And I think the direction that that plan is indicating to me—I don't know whether that indicates so to the rest of the group, but it indicates to me that a lot of the outcomes and products of that group will need to be delivered more locally.
Well said. I think the only—I'd only add to that that, when you're focusing so much on strategic-level actions, you just have to be a bit careful not to be top heavy. So, yes, supplement that with local delivery and the local management actions can help to deliver strategic issues.
I've nothing particularly to add to what I was saying. It's a work in progress; it's a positive move. As a member of the group, we'd have to say that we could do better, really, but, hopefully, we will in future.
I think what it has done is it's helped to make certainly Welsh Government more comfortable with prioritising its resource, and more comfortable with the range of actions that have been identified.
Okay. Yes, Jenny.
It sounds to me a bit like a bit of a clunky way of the Welsh Government ensuring what other organisations who have responsibilities in this field are actually up to so that they can leave some areas to other people and then focus on things that—you know, the gaps. Why wasn't it possible for a Welsh Government civil servant to set out what the strategic responsibilities of managing authorities are?
I think a lot of that might be because, in the marine environment, it has to be very much a collaborative approach because, you know, there is no single authority, or, you know—. So, it has to be a multisectoral approach. So, working collaboratively is the only logical way forward.
Okay. You've talked about the management steering group, the MPA management steering group, several times during these discussions. What I would like to hear: what's your view on the progress and outcomes of it?
Of the group itself?
Yes. Is the group moving in the right direction? Is the scope right? And is the approach currently taken right? Basically, is this the right way of moving forward?
I think, possibly, as a member of the group, I'm not sure we’re in the best place to comment on it—well, two of us, anyway, and Sue certainly has some input. As I mentioned earlier, I think it is a work in progress. It's made more progress in the last two years. We have an action plan now where we spent a long time having the disagreement and arguments—going back to some of the comments that have been made relating to prior to your report in 2016—of how the whole network is managed at a local level. My earlier comment about—a lot of it is focused on projects, and some of it is driven by the degree of funding that's available there. Going back to that time, I would almost say that, if there was a sum of money available to support this work, then a discussion by that group about how you would best spend those resources could well come to a different conclusion. It’s not for me to say that it would come to a different conclusion, but I think any time you've got groups representing a wider range of stakeholders who have to engage and take account of decisions taken locally, as well as nationally and internationally in terms of some of these designations, it's highly unlikely that everybody is going to agree. So, what I think is really positive is there is a framework and the existence of a group that can facilitate those discussions. And whether we continue in the same vein moving forward, or whether that discussion happens and we look to change how we do it in the future, I suppose it'll be up to the group to come to those conclusions.
Thank you. Jenny.
So, just before I move on to my next question, does 'Brexit and our seas' reflect the right questions, challenges, as far as the strategy—?
I think it does in some respects. I think part of my concern with a lot of this area is we seem to have a lot of plans and—
Too many plans.
There are requirements to have—. There are requirements to have certain plans, and 'Brexit and our Seas', I think, is quite a key document. But, in some ways, it asks a very general question. It might be an interesting situation if we end up with responses reflecting something that’s different to what’s included in the plan. One of the positives in terms of that document—. A number of us were involved in a pre-consultation process, just to have a discussion with the Welsh Government on what was included in that document. And I sensed that, originally, the focus of that document was going to be very much fisheries dominated. And I have a great deal of sympathy, because there are significant complexities to do with the fishing industry that, irrespective of the size of the industry, you still have to deal with. And I think that is a major challenge for the fishing industry, and a major challenge for the Welsh Government and their officers dealing with some of those. But I think a number of us made the case that it is ‘Brexit and our Seas’—it’s not ‘Brexit and fishing’. So, we’re really pleased that, at the start of it, it does have that fairly open and much broader view of the marine. Obviously, we’ll have to see what the responses come to.
Good. Well, in light of the climate emergency, we obviously need to think outside the box. So, moving on to what your views are on what needs to be done to improve the management of MPAs and how we prioritise what are limited resources.
I think something that may come from the next year’s plan—and I will be lobbying for it to come—is that I think Welsh Government/NRW would be well advised to reconsider the issue of whether they can core fund ongoing management activity. At the moment, funding tends to be project based—it tends to be for new projects, new work, not for anything ongoing. Now, project delivery is important, but I think the RAGs as they exist in Wales—the relevant authority groups—have demonstrated that having a local officer, co-funded by the various management authorities to deliver their responsibilities collectively, has been a cheap and effective model for MPA delivery. Now, at the moment, NRW contributes a small amount of funding to a couple of RAGs. Welsh Government contributes no direct funding to RAGs, but other local management authorities do. I think a very good use of Welsh Government money—and an effective use—would be to contribute to each of the existing RAGs, and ideally to work personally, face to face, with other management authorities where RAGs don’t exist, to try and establish them, to get local delivery. So, for example, the port authority pays £4,000 a year into a RAG. Say that Welsh Government were to match that for five RAGs, that’s £20,000. That is a very much smaller amount of money than has been spent on some of the projects that are being delivered under the framework action plan, and yet local officers—where they’re not spending 40 per cent, 50 per cent of their time fighting for project funding, and constantly worrying about where next year’s money is coming from—if they’ve got that money guaranteed as core funding, then that time is freed up. And the level of delivery that those local officers can achieve is tremendous, for the comparatively limited amount of resource put into that.
That sounds like a very useful potential recommendation. So, are you saying that, in some, one or two, of the RAGs, the core funding is secured through a combination of collaboration from different organisations?
I can only really speak for the Pembrokeshire marine SAC. So, in that group, the funding authorities are the port authority, Natural Resources Wales—
No, not Natural Resources Wales—
No, they’re not.
Only through project funds.
Only through project funds. Of course. Okay. Sue is obviously better at the finances of the RAG than I am. So, the port authority, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Pembrokeshire County Council, Welsh Water—anybody else?
That’s it. And then project funding as and when from NRW. But NRW have a seat on the table because we’ve got local NRW officers with great expertise that we really benefit from.
Okay. So that sounds like a useful model. Because core funding will only come from the public sector. We all know that third sector organisations will never give—well, very rarely give—core funding, but projects, that’s what they like to fund. So, I suppose the question is: why isn’t that model, which seems sustainable, used elsewhere, given that we’re not talking huge sums of money?
In one sense, perhaps we have a too narrow view of this area of work. One of the significant activities of last year was the Year of the Sea, being promoted by Visit Wales. I did ask Visit Wales how much money they spent on promoting it, and they actually can’t give me a figure, because it was a core part of their work. So I can only assume that the amount of money spent on promoting Wales to the world via the sea last year was in millions. We seem to be having discussions about the core element of that—the management of marine protected areas—in the thousands or the tens of thousands. So, I entirely agree with your point about the lack of funding, and challenges on funding, but, arguably, we need to take a different view.
There was some research done by Pembrokeshire coastal forum a number of years ago, which suggested that the tourism industry linked to wildlife sightings in the St David’s peninsula in Pembrokeshire was worth about £8 million or £9 million a year. So, we’ve got an outcome—even if you don’t consider the environmental and the obvious benefits that this committee and all of us should consider, even if you just take it in a pounds, shillings and pence perspective, this work, potentially, is delivering multiple benefits from the investment. Therefore, when you see some of the condition assessments, which are not particularly good, we’re effectively undercutting our future across a whole range of issues. So, dare I say, it’s easy to say that, but, arguably, we need to take that bigger picture, and put those funding decisions in that context, rather than looking at it as a fairly narrow piece of work, or we’ve got to find a piece of money to fund this. Otherwise, it will be to all our cost, I think, in the future.
I would say that, undeniably, the RAG model is a model that works. I’ve been in post for 19 years now, purely based on contributions from members, and, in recent years, buoyed up by project work, to make up the total needed for the year. I think that the problem is the lack of ability to get core funding. So, it’s not just that we’re not getting core funding from NRW or Welsh Government, it’s the mechanism to get core funding. And there is no—. For example, the recent ENRaW grant, the Welsh Government enabling natural resources—I can’t remember the title now. That grant, for instance, it specifically excluded marine work, with the mistaken belief that the European marine fisheries fund could fund marine work. Well, actually, I looked into that, and whereas, yes, there were some obvious measures there that would have helped MPA management on a local scale, it just wasn’t feasible on a practical level, because to get 100 per cent intervention, you had to be a scientific or technical body, which is a university or NRW. So, it’s not just the fact that we’re not accessing core funds, it’s also the lack of ability to do so.
I’ve been lucky, because, as well as a local authority, I’ve also got a port authority, so that draws in money, plus I’m part time, so I can stretch it a bit more. But having a bit of core funding, just existing, and being able to match that to other funds—you have to be there in order to have time to look into funds for project work, and things like that. So I’m proud of the projects that I’ve been able to do, but they’re not necessarily always priority work streams—having the ability to sit back and actually really think, ‘Right, what are our priorities on a local level? What really needs doing? Who do I need to talk to?’ And, often, a lot of the work is bringing people together, or telling people, ‘Oh, actually, don’t do that, because so and so is already doing that’. There’s a lot of time taken up in liaison.
More work needs to be done on education and awareness, and, as Tegryn says, with the whole Year of the Sea, I really hope that that would raise the profile, and help us on a local level with marine conservation. Very much—conservation comes from appreciation, and appreciation comes from understanding. So, until you experience and understand something, you can’t begin to appreciate it, and then you don’t move on a level. So, that awareness and understanding is so important, especially in the marine environment where you’re dealing with something that’s, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. It’s a tough call. I mean, I know I’m biased in that I am a local officer, and, so, of course I’m going to be saying, ‘We need extra funds’. But, fundamentally, I believe that management happens on a local scale because people can engage in their own area of jurisdiction, they understand it on a local level, and whatever you do strategically, it needs to be delivered on a local level.
So, clearly, somebody needs to do some scrutiny work on the money spent on the Year of the Sea and what the outcome was, but, in the meantime, how could we ensure that your liaison work isn’t preventing duplication of effort? Because we’ve got all these different MCZs, SSSIs, SACs, SPAs. The public can’t understand this alphabet soup. How could we not lose the localness but have, sort of, more coherence to the effort, given that we have got limited resources?
You’re right in that it is very confusing. It’s confusing enough amongst marine managers, let alone the public. I think that’s where experience and consistency comes in. I mean, there are others like myself who work for relevant authority groups, and we do informally share information. And, so, hopefully, between us, we generally know what’s going on in our patch if we’re given the space and the time to do so, which, obviously, is limiting when you’re having to do projects, and that’s one of the problems with having to go down a project route—you lose that ability to stand back and have conversations with people about what’s going on. But we do talk to each other and share best practice and knowledge and experience and try, where possible, even if we can’t do strategic work, at least to do cross-border or cross-site work. So, that gives us some sort of efficiency in the scale of what we’re dealing with.
Your contribution is well recognised by this committee. I remember the work we did with you in the last Assembly. But I’m really concerned as to how we embed this approach in the system, that we don’t rely on individuals, that, organisationally, it needs to be a systematic embedding and webbing of the system so that we’re not duplicating effort, and I’m not clear that that’s really been achieved.
I agree, I think it is a piece of work that’s needed, looking at, certainly, cross-cutting things like education awareness of marine life, of conservation of management needs. It's something that has been done in a document sense over the years, but it’s something that I think needs readdressing and certainly making more digestible to a wider audience.
I think it’s worth pointing out there that a great many of these conservation designations and marine protected areas have no direct active management. They have management by decision making, management by policy, but SSSIs don’t have officers—they don’t have committees looking after them. Not all of the SACs have relevant authority groups and Skomer marine conservation zone is very much an anomaly—a glorious anomaly; it’s one of the jewels in the crown of the network—but it is the only MCZ in Wales, and, at the moment, there is some confusion about how it ought to be managed relating to features under the terms of the habitats directive, whereas I think it’s clear to practitioners that features-based conservation is not really an effective way and you would look at the ecosystem as a whole. So, in terms of duplicating effort and this sort of thing, really, at the moment, effort is concentrated on highlights and where bodies have actually become engaged, and—
Okay. But, I mean, if you have an SSSI, you don’t necessarily need an officer to enforce it. You need all the other statutory organisations to enforce it—you know, the local authority, NRW and all the other bodies that may be responsible for that area.
Well, I draw a distinction there between enforcement and management. So, where you’ve got an SSSI, you have statutory bodies that have got enforcement powers relating to it, but there’s nobody actually going out there looking at what the pressures and threats are, looking at what’s doing any damage to it and doing work to alleviate those pressures and threats and to improve its condition.
Okay, thank you for that.
Thank you. Llyr.
Yes, and that’s where we fall down, I think. Is that not the case? Because it’d be great if we had the resources to take this fleet of officers on, but the reality, for this sector and every other sector, is there ain’t no money around to do that. So, I’m just wondering: are we spreading ourselves out too thinly? We’ve had evidence here calling for investment in establishing a stronger evidence base for the work, we’re hearing that we could do with site officers, a public information campaign and raising that sort of understanding and profile, and we can’t do it all, so should we not be more meticulous and more precise in intensively targeting fewer sites to get those right, as opposed to spreading ourselves out too thinly?
I don’t think that’s quite what I’m saying here. I think what I’m suggesting is that having officers on the ground with some funding from Welsh Government is a means of drawing in funding from other contributing authorities, and that’s why the RAG model works. So, for a comparatively limited investment, funding part of a European marine site officer for each of the existing SACs in Wales and using that part funding to access funding from other management authorities, who would achieve the same benefit putting in a small amount of money and having access to the officer—I think that is a very cost-effective way, in limited resources, to achieve a good level of marine management.
Now, a good starter for 10 with that would be the SACs of Wales—for each of those to have a RAG, an officer, and for the MPA steering group to act as a kind of national-level RAG helping to co-ordinate what those RAGs are delivering locally, not necessarily holding them to account or anything like that, but just making sure that, where cross-linkages can be made and learnings can be made, those are done. For example, in the case of the Pembrokeshire marine special area of conservation, if the port authority recognises that we’ve got a responsibility towards management of the SAC, which we do, if we employ an SAC officer and then Pembrokeshire County Council employed an SAC officer and the national park did, and they’re all doing the same thing, that would be a colossal waste of resources. The fact that we collaborate in that manner is effective. I get a little bit passionate about this. I think Milford Port Authority actually does a tremendous amount for its marine protected area and I’m very proud of what we do. As I’ve said in my evidence—and you've read all of that—we can only respond for the Pembrokeshire marine SAC, but I think we’re very proud of what we do.
I think seeing some engagement from Government at that level—it makes it much more easy for me to justify contributing money to the SAC if Welsh Government or NRW is doing so as well, because then we know that we’re working alongside the statutory organisation and the statutory adviser and we know that we’re going in the right direction. And I can speak for some of the RAG members as well. I know that Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water feel much more comfortable if they can demonstrate that they’re pulling alongside the statutory authorities. Does that seem fair to you?
I think you’re very right to be concerned about the spreading thinly over a network, because, yes, we all recognise that the resources are limited, and it’s making the most effective use of those limited resources, but I think we need to be careful that we’re not—. I mean, we have got an impoverished network; the condition of sites is not good. The Pembrokeshire marine site—only a third of the features are in favourable condition and none of the habitat features are in favourable condition at all. So, we are managing an impoverished network. So, we can take the decision: do we put resource so thinly into making a tiny bit of difference to an impoverished network? Yes, you can focus effort—and I think that is what is being done with the action plan—you can focus and prioritise effort into things that are going to, hopefully, make the most difference on a wide scale, but you also need to be doing things that really count locally. So, do we put some effort into improving a site and actually to try and make a difference, or do we spread the effort and try and have a little tiny bit of difference across the whole network? It's difficult, and that's why I think you have to do a little bit of both. If you put the effort in on a local scale to really make improvements on a local site, you can do that on, if you like, a trial basis or a pilot basis, and really put effort into a bye-law or something, for instance, and if that works, or how it works, then you can duplicate that across the network.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. John Griffiths.
In terms of that impoverishment, Sue, I wanted to get on to the condition of our MPAs. In terms of NRW's recent assessment of the condition of indicative features, what's your view of what that tells us about our MPAs and is it likely to lead, or has it led to any changes in management actions?
No, not as such. I think we need to remember that that indicative assessment that came out in 2018 was actually summarising the results of an assessment from 2012/13, so it's not necessarily bang up to date. This year, actually, on the European reporting round—I think I'm right in saying that this year it's due for another assessment, and I know for a fact that at least one other feature is now in an unfavourable condition, from local knowledge of the site. So, those indicative site assessments, although useful for flagging up things, are not by any means up to date. There's an awful lot of information that can help us locally and across the network, but, certainly, we are dealing with a lot of issues, and I think the thing to bear in mind is that for a feature to be in an unfavourable condition, it might have multiple reasons why that's unfavourable, so it's not going to take five minutes to cure one thing and then that feature is in favourable condition—there are lots of multiple activities that need to be addressed. So, that obviously takes time.
But I think we're taking too much time—maybe I'm an impatient person, but I feel that we're taking too much time to actually get real with the management. You can spend years prioritising and producing policies—'Great, we feel more comfortable now that we know what we're dealing with'—and then reprioritising. I can honestly say that, on the Pembrokeshire marine site, we did a public consultation on what people locally felt were the issues addressing the site in 2002. Those issues that came out top in 2002 remain our top-priority issues, but have we actually managed to address them? No. That's not because of a failing of the relevant authority group; some of those issues were outside of members' responsibilities. It's frustrating when you are in that circle of just wanting to do something real and meaningful.
It might be useful if you shared that information with us, I think, Sue, in terms of what those priorities identified by local people are, if you haven't already.
Well, interestingly, I remember that the top priority, even back then—and I think this is because it's very obvious for the public—was marine litter, which, obviously, we now, since Blue Planet—wow, it's had a massive effect. But I think conservation locally might not say, 'That's the biggest issue facing the features of the SAC', but it's the obvious one that the public see. It's a useful flagship, because it illustrates our connection with the land and the sea, so things like urban and agricultural run-off from the land are a very big issue for the site. Back in 2002, that was the third-biggest issue. That is still—I haven't had time to rank them recently, but that is certainly one of the biggest issues facing us on our site.
I've been lucky enough to be doing a project that is helping to address awareness of that issue and gain more data on it, but it's still not addressing the management, because the management is, ultimately, the responsibility of Welsh Government, and that's the whole other question on nitrate vulnerable zones and additional legislation, which, hopefully, might be coming in next year.
Sure, thank you.
To come back to the condition reporting, as Sue said, it’s indicative, but this comes back to the issue of features-based conservation as opposed to ecosystem-based conservation. What condition reporting tells you about, because of the way the law is written, is the condition of particular features. It doesn’t give you much of a narrative about pressures and threats and it doesn’t give you much of a steer as to what to do about it. When I came into post four years ago, it was made clear to me that the biggest issues affecting my patch, the Milford Haven waterway, were climate change and sediment and nutrient run-off from the land. That is still the case. Those are systemic issues that need to be tackled systemically and are very difficult to manage locally, particularly in a marine context where the courses are not exclusively marine. So, I think condition assessments can be useful and they can target certain interventions, so you can go and see something that’s been damaged and try and fix it and restore things, but I don’t think they tell you an awful lot about what the underlying causes are. Now, the whole business of pressures and threats has been mapped and remapped and endlessly prioritised, so we know what those are, but I don’t think we’ve been terribly successful at coming to conclusions as to how to fix them.
No. So, is what you’re saying generally, then, that if we’re thinking about the quality of the information that we have in terms of the condition of the MPAs—are you not particularly concerned about improving the quality of that information, given that your view is that we know what the issues are, we know what we should be doing and, really, we need to concentrate on getting on and doing it? Is that a fair summary of what you’re telling us?
I think it’s a fair summary, with the exception that people are always slightly reluctant to certainly put resource into active management where they can’t follow up and see that it’s made a difference. So, I think, from that point of view, you need to carry on doing some amount of monitoring work. So, I think with that in mind—. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a withdrawing from finding out more, because there’s still a lot about the marine environment that we don’t fully understand, and I think the big drawback with marine conservation is having that understanding of what the 'natural', in inverted commas, system is. Just leaving things alone would help to teach us a lot, and having an area that you can use as a proper control to research, to proper understanding—. At the moment, there is nowhere that we can say, ‘Right, we can say that we can properly understand the effect of human activity on the marine ecosystem', because we are, in effect, doing it all over. If you had an area that was a no-take or a highly protected area that didn’t have anything being removed from it, you can then, with some confidence, see from your monitoring if there are changes happening. You could say, ‘Well, I can say that that’s obviously not due to fishing, because there’s no fishing in the area, and there’s no extraction of any sort, so it must be a natural change of some sort.’ We can’t really say that with any confidence at the moment, because there aren’t any areas where that is happening.
Okay, thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr. Fe wnaf i ofyn fy nghwestiwn yn Gymraeg. Mae Brexit, wrth gwrs, yn mynd i gael cryn impact ar y sector, os ydyw e’n digwydd, a byddwn i’n licio clywed, efallai, oddi wrthoch chi beth rŷch chi’n meddwl yw rhai o’r heriau mwyaf a fydd yn dod yn sgil Brexit, ond hefyd unrhyw gyfleon rŷch chi’n eu hadnabod o fod yn gadael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd.
Thank you very much. I’ll ask my question in Welsh. Brexit, of course, will have quite an impact on the sector, should it happen, so I would like to hear from you what you think are some of the greatest challenges that will result from Brexit, but also any opportunities you would identify from leaving the EU.
Gwnaf i ddechrau. Wel, dwi’n credu, yn gyntaf, fod yna gymaint o ansicrwydd ynglŷn â beth sy'n digwydd, felly mae hynny’n rhywbeth anodd, er byddwn i’n dweud ychydig o bethau cadarnhaol yng nghyd-destun y ffordd mae hyn yn gweithio. Mae’r sector morol yn cael ei gynrychioli’n eithaf da ar grwpiau’r Llywodraeth yn y maes yma. Dwi’n eistedd ar fwrdd crwn y Gweinidog amgylcheddol, a hefyd mae nifer o leisiau eraill, o’r diwydiant pysgota a hefyd y cyrff cadwraethol. Felly, dŷn ni’n teimlo’n eithaf hyderus bod y llais yna. Hefyd, mae yna is-grŵp seas and coast, y môr a’r arfordir, yn fanna, lle mae yna gydbwysedd rhwng y diwydiant pysgota a hefyd yr ochr cadwraethol. Felly, dwi’n eithaf hyderus bod y llais yna yn gryf.
Efallai yn y blynyddoedd cynt, fyddai fe ddim wedi bod. Dwi’n credu bod yna fyd o wahaniaeth. Mae yna bwyslais sylweddol wedi bod, yn hollol ddealladwy, ar beth maen nhw’n galw yn 'day 1 readiness'. Ac felly, yng nghyd-destun yr ochr forol, dwi ddim yn credu bod hwnna yn rhywbeth mor bwysig ar hyn o bryd. Dwi’n credu ei fod e’n fater mwy i'r tymor canolig a'r tymor hir. Felly, yn iawn, mae materion fel masnach a’r effaith ar amaeth ac yn y blaen, a physgota, wedi cymryd y flaenoriaeth ar hyn o bryd.
Ynglŷn â’r cyfleon, mewn ffordd, o bosib mae yna gyfle inni ailedrych ar y gwahanol ddynodiadau ac edrych ar beth dŷn ni am lwyddo—. Fel nodwyd yn gynt, mae yna lu o wahanol ddynodiadau i’w cael. Mae e’n hynod o gymhleth. Prin iawn yw'r bobl sy’n deall y gwahaniaeth rhwng nifer o’r rhain. Yn ôl yr hyn rwyf yn deall, ar y diwrnod gadael bydd popeth yn symud i gyfraith Brydeinig, i bob pwrpas, felly ddylai hwnna ddim cael unrhyw effaith. Ond, wrth gwrs, unwaith rŷch chi’n dechrau newid pethau, yna bydd angen sicrhau efallai bod yna ddim gwanhau. Mae yna ychydig o ofid yn yr elfen o lywodraethu, yn arbennig bod y dull o gwyno yn erbyn y directives yn mynd i ddiflannu. Ond, wrth gwrs, mae yna ymgynghoriad gan y Llywodraeth ar hyn o bryd ar hwnna, felly rwy’n gobeithio bod hwnna yn mynd i gael ei ddatrys.
Ond, o bosib, beth sy’n hanfodol bwysig yw ein bod ni yn cael dealltwriaeth glir o’r hyn dŷn ni am gael allan o’n dynodiadau morol. Mae yna risg wrth i chi symud o rwydwaith ryngwladol i rywbeth mwy unigol i wlad—ydy hynny'n newid y sefyllfa? Efallai bod hwnna’n gyfle, neu efallai ei fod e’n risg, byddwn i’n dweud. So, efallai taw dyna yw un o’r cwestiynau allweddol byddwn ni’n eu cael dros y blynyddoedd nesaf wrth drafod hyn.
I'll start. Well, I think, first of all, there is so much uncertainty with regard to what's happening, so that is a difficult issue, but I would say a few things in positive terms in the context of the way that this is working. The marine sector is represented quite well on Government groups in this area. I sit on the ministerial round-table on the environment, and there are a number of other voices as well, the fisheries industry and also conservation bodies. So, we do feel quite confident that that voice is being heard. There's also a sub-group, the seas and coast sub-group, there as well, where there is a balance between the fisheries industry and the conservation side of it. So, I'm confident that that voice is strongly heard.
In past years, perhaps it wouldn't have been so strongly heard. I think there's a world of difference. There's been an emphasis, understandably, on what they call 'day 1 readiness'. And therefore, in the context of the marine side of things, I don't think that is as important at the moment. I think it's more of a medium-term and long-term issue. So, rightly, issues such as trade, the impact on agriculture and fisheries and so on have taken a priority for the time being.
With regard to the opportunities, possibly there is an opportunity for us to look again at the different designations and look at what we want to achieve—. As mentioned earlier, there are several different designations. It's extremely complex. Very few people understand the difference between the different designations. As I understand it, on the day of exit everything will shift to UK law, to all intents and purposes, so that shouldn't have any impact. But, of course, once you start changing things, then we will need to ensure perhaps that there is no weakening in this area. There is some concern with regard to governance, particularly that the complaints procedure against the directives is going to disappear. But, of course, there is a consultation from the Government on this at the moment, so we hope that that is going to be solved.
But, potentially, what is vital is that we have a clear understanding of what we want out of our marine designations. There is a risk when you move from an international network to something more nation based—does that change the situation? Perhaps that's an opportunity, or perhaps it's a risk, I would say. So, that's one of the vital questions that we will be asking over the next years as we discuss this.
Thank you very much, Tegryn; I think that covers an awful lot of it. Yes, certainly, having the Welsh network of MPAs extracted from the broader European Natura 2000 network potentially could change what our priorities are. Now, whether that should be the case is a whole different can of worms. I think what’s very important is that Wales retains access to European research, European involvement, and understanding of how the European network is operating, because it would be very foolish to imagine that there are borders in the sea. That’s very clear.
From a practitioner’s point of view, a potential opportunity around Brexit, and it’s not without its concerns, but a potential opportunity is that a lot of European case law and interpretation around the habitats directive is extremely prescriptive and not always particularly functional or effective in the marine environment. So, the marine may be bound by case law concerning ancient forests, or something like that. So, there is potentially an opportunity to revisit some issues of interpretation of the habitats directives, like compensation provision, net environmental gain, best environmental outcome—things like that that, which, at the moment, are not really available to UK and Welsh decision makers. A focus of policy more on deploy and monitoring, for example, is something that, with an industry hat on, we’d be very interested in, particularly in terms of marine renewables.
So, these are potentially opportunities. The big risk is, as Tegryn said, the lack of an independent complaints procedure with the clout to hold Government to account. Another potential opportunity that I think we haven't really talked about is—and I'm not an expert on this—as I understand it, the way that fisheries are managed within most of the member nations of the EU is extraordinarily complex. It's not particularly beneficial for sustainable management of fisheries. It's not particularly beneficial for those who are attempting to make a living sustainably from the sea. There is potentially an opportunity to revisit that and rebuild it completely in a much more effective way that delivers both for marine conservation and for the economy of those trying to make a living from the sea.
Yr unig sylw arall roeddwn i eisiau ei wneud—rŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd ag ymgynghoriad y Llywodraeth, 'Brexit a’n Moroedd', yn gynharach, ond oes gennych chi unrhyw syniadau mwy cyffredinol ynglŷn â’ch ymateb cychwynnol chi, efallai, i’r ymgynghoriad hwnnw a’r hyn sydd ynddo fe?
The only other comment I wanted to make is that we have touched on the Government's consultation, 'Brexit and our Seas', earlier, but do you have more general comments to make as to your initial response, perhaps, to that consultation and what it contains?
Dwi’n credu ei fod e jest yn eithaf—. Yn sicr, mewn cyd-destun morol, mae e’n agored, ac felly, i bob pwrpas, efallai ei fod e’n cymryd cam o edrych ar beth ddylai’r strategaeth fod. Dwi’n credu, mewn cyd-destun pysgota, ei fod e'n llawer mwy penodol, ac mae hwnna’n rhannol achos bod yn rhaid iddo fe fod, ontefe. Fel nododd Jonathan, mae yna gymhlethdod sydd yn sail i ac yn cefnogi’r diwydiant pysgota. Mae jest angen gweithio trwy hwnna. Felly, mae’n gyfle, efallai. Y cwestiwn yw: beth fydd yn digwydd iddo fe, a pha berthynas fydd gydag e â'r hyn sydd wedi digwydd o’i flaen e?
I think that it’s just quite—. Certainly, in the context of marine issues, it’s very open, and so, to all intents and purposes, perhaps it takes a step in terms of looking at what the strategy should be. I think, with regard to fisheries, it’s far more specific, and that’s partly because it has to be, doesn’t it? As Jonathan noted, there is complexity associated with the fisheries industry and we need to work through that complexity. So, it is an opportunity, perhaps. And the question is: what will happen to it and how will it relate to what's happened beforehand?
Thank you. Dai Lloyd.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. Gaf i ddiolch ichi, yn y lle cyntaf, am eich presenoldeb heddiw, ac am ateb y cwestiynau mor raenus, a hefyd am y dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig a gyflwynwyd ymlaen llaw? Ac fel y gwnaethoch chi gyfeirio ar y dechrau, dilyniant ydy’r ymchwiliad yma i ymchwiliadau blaenorol gan y pwyllgor yma. Felly, o gofio hynny, a hefyd, wrth gwrs, o gofio beth sydd yn eich tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig, a allwch chi jest olrhain y prif bwyntiau—pethau sydd wedi gwella ers ein hymchwiliad diweddaraf ni, ac eto bethau sydd angen eu gwneud?
Thank you very much, Chair. May I thank you, to begin with, for your attendance today, and for answering the questions so very well, and also for the written evidence that was submitted beforehand? And as you referred at the outset, this inquiry is a follow-up to previous inquiries by this committee. So, bearing that in mind, and also, of course, given what’s in your written evidence, could you just talk to us about the main points in terms of what’s improved since our last inquiry, and things that remain yet to be done?
Y pethau sydd wedi gwella—fel y nodwyd yn gryno, mae yna well fframwaith i'w gael. Dwi’n credu efallai bod eich adroddiad cychwynnol chi wedi rhoi’r hwb i sicrhau bod proses a oedd efallai ddim yn symud yn gyflym iawn wedi cyflymu, a’n bod ni wedi cyrraedd y sefyllfa lle mae yna gynllun i'w gael, a chynllun gweithredu hefyd. Dwi’n credu, o fewn y fframwaith yna, mae angen inni edrych ar hwnna a sicrhau taw dyna’r modd mwyaf penodol. So, dŷn ni’n mynd yn ôl at y pwyntiau gwnaethon ni eu gwneud yn flaenorol am y gwahaniaeth rhwng cyllid craidd, cyllid project ac yn y blaen.
Ond efallai byddwn i'n mynd yn ôl i’r pwynt yr oeddwn i’n trio ei wneud cyn hynny, ac i ryw raddau i gymryd y darlun ehangach ar hyn. Mae hwn yn bwysig. Mae’n rhan hanfodol o amgylchedd Cymru. Mae’n rhan o amgylchedd diwylliannol Cymru. Hefyd, mae yna bentrefi a threfi morol gyda ni sydd yn ddibynnol ar ba mor iach yw’r moroedd o’n cwmpas ni, am nifer o resymau. Dwi’n credu bod yna gyfle gyda ni, efallai, i newid safbwyntiau’r cyhoedd, fel y nodwyd am Blue Planet II. Mae hwnna, i bob pwrpas, yn gyfle unigryw. Mae yna ddiddordeb mawr—mae yna gymunedau di-blastig ac yn y blaen. Felly, dwi’n credu bod gyda ni gyfle, efallai, i godi ymwybyddiaeth o’r môr, y cyfraniad mae e’n ei wneud i Gymru, ac wedyn efallai gwnaiff hwnna hepgor ar gefnogaeth gyffredinol a fydd yn dylanwadu. Dwi’n credu bod e’n un o’r rhai lle bydd y cyhoedd yn gwthio’r broses wleidyddol, yn hytrach na fel arall rownd, a dweud y gwir. Ac efallai bod angen inni jest gymryd y cyfle a sicrhau ein bod ni’n rhoi dyledus sylw i’r darn yma o waith i sicrhau bod y moroedd yn ffynnu yn y dyfodol.
The things that have improved—in brief, as noted, there is a better framework available. I think that your initial report had given that a boost to ensure that a process that wasn’t happening swiftly enough had accelerated, and we have reached a point now where there is an action plan available. I think, within that framework, we need to look at that and ensure that that’s the most specific way of acting. So, we’ll go back to the points that we made earlier with regard to core funding, project funding and so on.
But perhaps I would go back to the point that I wanted to make, and to some extent to look at the wider picture on this. This is important. It’s a vital part of the environment of Wales. It’s part of the cultural environment of Wales as well. Also, there are villages and towns on the coasts that are dependent on how healthy the marine environment around us is, for a number of reasons, of course. I think there’s an opportunity here for us to change the public’s view, as noted about Blue Planet II. That’s an unique opportunity. There’s a great deal of interest—there are plastic-free communities and so on now. So, I do think that we have an opportunity to raise awareness of the marine environment and the contribution that the seas make to Wales, and perhaps that will lead to general support that will influence. I think it’s one of these issues where the public is driving the political process, rather than it being the other way around, truth be told. And perhaps we need to take this opportunity and ensure that we do give due attention to this piece of work to ensure that the seas flourish in future.
Diolch, Dai. Andrew.
Obviously, you’ve got the MPA working group, and you’ve talked about what you’ve done on that over the last couple of years, but, going forward, to create an ecologically coherent network of MPAs—and I think you introduced some evidence that said that, ‘Well, with limited resources, is it sensible to have lots of these, or should we just concentrate on a few select ones?’—but who should take the lead on this, going forward, to create that ecological network of MPAs?
I’d say, initially, your question is a political one, isn’t it? To be honest—
It’s a Members’ research question, this is. [Laughter.]
Okay. That system’s working very well, then. [Laughter.] But it’s essentially a political one. You can, following this discussion, make a clear case that we would be better off investing in certain areas in order to improve it, and I could support that. If you suddenly told me that the designations in Pembrokeshire were not going to be supported anymore, I might take a slightly different view on it. And therefore, I think, ultimately, you have a Welsh Government that is there possibly to make those political decisions. All we can do is function within the framework that exists, ensuring that our contribution at a local level, through the RAG, and at national level, through this group, is that we do whatever we can in order to work with partners, or to push partners, in order to achieve what we can at whatever level we’re working at.
My personal viewpoint is that—I think the only logical and really productive addition to the network would be some highly protected areas where we can properly understand marine ecological functioning. So, concentrate on what we’ve got, try and improve what we’ve got, add some highly protected areas and focus on research in those areas to help the network as a whole, and don’t spread yourself any thinner than that.
I think, to quote from the evidence given by the University of Aberystwyth, the best way to conserve the marine environment is to leave it alone—certain bits.
So, really, you’d be of the opinion that Welsh Government is best placed to take the lead on all these actions, based on the advice and support that organisations like your good selves could give them. You couldn’t see another leadership role for someone else. Because the previous witness pointed to the creation of NRW, which was a political creation, yes, bringing all those functions together under one roof, and saw a key role for Natural Resources Wales to obviously take a lead on this. But you see it within the Government itself rather than maybe an arm’s-length organisation.
I think, in answering the question, we’d assume that NRW has a remit letter, and takes its lead from the policy and political decisions that the Government makes. So, ultimately, I think it’s the Welsh Government who’s the decision-making body. They may work or instruct or make it part of NRW’s work, in the same way as, as a local organisation, we have a remit letter, and, as relevant authorities, we might have a role in that sense. So, I’d assume it’s in that hierarchy, as opposed to just the Welsh Government.
As I understand it, NRW provide scientific advice to Welsh Government on which it can base its policy. If NRW is able to exercise a significant degree of independence in the advice that it offers, then that is probably the best way that it can show leadership. And Welsh Government will demonstrate its leadership by acting on that advice, as is deemed appropriate.
Would it be your view that they can exercise significant independence?
I don’t work for NRW; I don’t really feel qualified—[Laughter.]
I’m asking about your experience, or anyone else’s experience. I think it’s an important point, isn’t it? Certainly from the initial conversations in this evidence session, there did seem to be a bit of trepidation about biting the hand that feeds, i.e. the Welsh Government. And so, I think from our point of view, as a scrutiny committee, it’s important that we can have confidence that there is that level of independence there to challenge.
All I would say—I’ll probably take Jonathan’s line on that one, but all I can say is that as part of our discussions, as part of the MPA group, there are times when I don’t think I pick up that Welsh Government have a view and NRW sits quietly there and agrees with it. There are views expressed by NRW that I see as an element of independence, certainly expressed as part of that group. I wouldn’t say there are significant differences of opinion, because I don’t think you’re going to get it, but I certainly don’t—
Sometimes they do challenge.
Okay. That’s helpful.
What I would add to that, though, it that, if Welsh Government is going to take a lead on this, it is only sensible to do that with some degree of collaboration between the other home nations. Because if we are no longer within a European Natura 2000 network, should we be looking at a UK-wide network, as opposed to a Welsh network? I think probably we should; the larger and more coherent the network, the better.
I would just add that there is a big difference, that I see, between NRW and the Countryside Council for Wales. So, previously, the Countryside Council for Wales was very much a conservation organisation, but giving advice to Government. I see NRW being much more on the advice and slightly less conservation; I know, certainly, conservation has been dropped from some job titles recently in the reorganisation. And education has also been downplayed as well, so NRW staff can’t do so much education work as previously CCW did, and I think the same may be true for the hierarchy of importance of conservation work too. But that's just my personal opinion from what I've seen over very many years of working with the two organisations.
Okay. Well, that was helpful, thank you.
Very helpful. Can I thank you very much for coming along? It's been very informative and I'm sure you'll see a lot of what you said in our final report. So, thank you all very much for coming.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Can I move us on now to papers to note? There's correspondence from the Chair to the Auditor General for Wales, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in relation to environmental governance and principles; correspondence from the Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in relation to forestry policy; and correspondence from the Chair to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs in relation to the supplementary legislative consent memorandum for the Agriculture Bill.
An excellent letter.
Thank you very much. Can we have that in the minutes? [Laughter.]
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitemau 6, 7 ac 8 o’r cyfarfod heddiw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 6, 7 and 8 of today's meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move now a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from items 6, 7 and 8 of today's meeting? Yes. Thank you. Diolch.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:16.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:16.