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Written Statement - Management of Horse Mussel Beds in North Wales

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Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and European Programmes.

I have today launched an 8 week consultation on proposals to protect an area of horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus) off the Llyn Peninsula. Horse mussel reef is listed as a habitat of principle importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity in Wales pursuant to section 42 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Consequently, the Welsh Ministers have a duty to take such steps as appear reasonably practicable to further the conservation of the horse mussel reef, or to promote the taking of such steps by others. 

Advice received from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) explains that Horse mussel reefs are very sensitive to damage from direct physical impact. The main threat to horse mussel reef habitat is from towed gear bottom fishing, with scallop dredging likely to cause the most damage to these types of reef.  Therefore, having considered the evidence and supporting information available the consultation sets our three proposed management options.

  1. A prohibition on scallop dredging gear – legislation could be introduced to prohibit the use of scallop dredging gear within the area of the Horse mussel reef and within an appropriate surrounding buffer area.
  2. A prohibition on all bottom towed fishing gear – legislation could be introduced to prohibit the use of all bottom towed gear within the area of the Horse mussel reef and within an appropriate surrounding buffer area.
  3. A prohibition on all fishing gear - legislation could be introduced to prohibit the use of all fishing gear within the area of the Horse mussel reef and within an appropriate surrounding buffer area.

In addition, it covers the possibility of i) revoking byelaw 21 of the former North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee and providing protection for both the newly discovered reef and existing protected reef covered by former byelaw 21 in a new single order and ii) an alteration to the area specified in former byelaw 21 (i.e. a change to the buffer area). 

Due to the local scale of this proposal, economic information about the potential impact of these measures is lacking. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to respond to the consultation and let me know what you think. This is especially true of any fishermen who believe that they would be adversely affected if these proposals were introduced. 

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.