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Marine strategy will put Torbay 'ahead of national planning'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 04, 2012

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A coastal partnership is aiming to gain a deeper understanding of a Westcountry bay to build a consensus on how it is used.

Fishermen, environmentalists, authorities and other stakeholders are contributing to Sea Torbay's new Coastal Zone Management Plan, which is working to build up clearer data of what happens on and beneath the waves.

But some fishermen are sceptical, calling the project "just more nonsense" which would have little impact.

At the moment, the South Devon bay is only subject to a boating speed limit and designated areas for water skiing. But, with greater demands on the area and a "finite" resource, harbour authorities believe it is time to broach an agreement on use by various parties. The area is already a Special Area of Conservation, designed to protect delicate reefs and sea caves. It is also one of 127 nationwide to be earmarked as a possible Marine Conservation Zone, which would mean restrictions on some activities.

But Kevin Mowat, executive head of Tor Bay Harbour Authority, said the plan would have to work within such directives. He said some members would favour more restrictions on activities within the bay, but he expressed hopes that a voluntary agreement between stakeholders could feed into that consultation, and mean areas of mutual agreement could avoid top-down rules being imposed.

He said: "Some of us in Sea Torbay, and I happen to be one of them, believe we don't need a Marine Conservation Zone to manage our area. But there's a process of marine planning going on at a national level, and we want to be ahead of that game, so that when the marine plan comes forward we can present our own strategy."

The plan will be completed by March and is currently being drawn up by the various working groups of Sea Torbay.

Nigel Shillabeer, chairman of Sea Torbay said "This is a unique opportunity for anyone in the bay to contribute to the conservation and development of our fantastic marine environment."

The partnership is working on a limited budget, but funding for the plan has come from a wide range of local and national organisations including The Crown Estate, Torbay Council, Tor Bay Harbour Authority, the Environment Agency, South West Water, the Marine Management Organisation, Astra Zeneca and Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

But some fishermen believe the partnership is "just more nonsense". Rick Smith, chairman of Brixham Trawler Agents, said the project was mainly targeting smaller operators who fish predominantly in the area. But he said: "These things are springing up all the time, and making fishermen out to be the bad guys, but we're not. We're still here and we're still catching fish and contributing to the economy."

Anyone who wants to get involved in the formation of the plan can visit www.seatorbay.org.uk or email info@seatorbay.org.uk

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