Introduction to Wales’ Marine Area Statement

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About this Area

The Marine Area Statement covers the inshore waters of Wales extending out 12 nautical miles and making up 43% of the Welsh territory.

Our seas and coasts offer a number of incredibly valuable natural resources to the people of Wales. They provide us with seafood, sand for construction and a means of global trade. Marine and coastal habitats can protect us from coastal erosion and flooding. With over 60% of the population of Wales living or working at the coast, marine industries including tourism are incredibly important to our economy. The wave, tide and wind resources of our marine environment can also provide us with clean energy which is critical in the current climate emergency.

an underwater kelp forestImage by Paul Kay

The marine area around Wales is home to a diverse array of species and habitats. These range from the UK’s largest resident population of bottlenose dolphin in Cardigan Bay, the sandy and muddy shores of the Severn and the Dyfi, not to mention the subtidal rocky reefs of the Llŷn Peninsula and the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. These precious resources are at risk from climate change and other pressures and need to be sensitively managed if they are to thrive.

A grey seal lounging on the beach with her pup at Skomer Marine Conservation Zone.Photo provided by Skomer Marine Conservation Zone team

Our coastline boasts iconic locations such as Worm’s Head and the Menai Strait. The coast is a place of recreation and enjoyment for local people as well as tourists. Wales was the first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath around its entire coastline – all 1,400km of it!  Spending time around the coast and in the sea has been shown to have multiple benefits for physical and mental well-being and people who live near the sea have been found to rate their health as being better.

A family playing on the beach at sunset in Tor Bay, GowerPhoto by David Morgan

Clearly, our seas are important to us for many reasons. The way we manage the marine environment is quite different to that on land. This is why an Area Statement has been developed that focuses specifically on our seas. The past decade has seen the development of new legislation and policy for the marine area – such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act and the Welsh National Marine Plan. All of this is aimed at improving the protection and management of waters around Wales, the UK and beyond.

A close up shot of Jewel anemone polyps in South West WalesImage by Paul Kay

Globally, we are facing a climate and nature emergency. What does this mean for the coasts and seas around Wales? Can our marine area help to address these challenges? We are increasingly looking to the marine environment for a source of clean, renewable energy. Due to the threat of increased storms and rising sea levels we need to adapt to a changing coastline. We need to understand how climate change could affect our wildlife as well as the businesses that rely on the marine area.

These are some of the issues we’ve been exploring with our partners in developing this first Marine Area Statement. We hope that the process will:

  • Enable a common understanding about what is important about the marine environment and what its current state is
  • Build on good working relationships and established trust in Natural Resources Wales and others with an interest in the marine area

  • Establish a more joined-up approach at the coast

  • Enable a feeling of joint ownership/responsibility for the marine area of Wales

  • Result in collaborative and long-term action to deliver multiple benefits that address agreed/recognised issues and opportunities

This Area Statement represents just the start of a longer term process for Natural Resources Wales. To date, we have worked closely with existing strategic partners, most of whom have an interest right around the coasts and seas of Wales. However, we realise that many other groups and individuals have an interest in our marine area too. Everyone has a part to play in ensuring we have healthy, productive and resilient seas. We therefore plan to build on our discussions so far to engage a wider audience including local communities.

We have identified the following actions across the Marine Area Statement, to:

  • Support work that can help to ‘reconnect’ people with Welsh seas

  • Engage at a local level to explore what people in Wales value about our coasts and seas

  • Work more closely through Public Service Boards to identify and address marine and coastal issues and opportunities

  • Raise the profile of marine and coastal areas and their role in supporting local well-being

Marine Area Statement themes

Maps of the area

Please note that our maps are not accessible for people using screen readers and other assistive technology. If you need this information in an accessible format, please contact us.

Protected areas Marine Area (PDF)

View the Wales Environmental Information Portal 

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