Part V of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 makes provision for marine nature conservation. The Welsh Ministers have a power to designate Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). They also have a power to make orders to further the conservation objectives of a MCZ in Wales and contribute to the establishment of a network of marine protected areas. The Welsh Ministers are under a duty to designate MCZs so as to contribute to the establishment of a network of marine protected areas. The Welsh Ministers are the enforcement authority in respect of MCZs and will be under a duty to report to the National Assembly at 6 year intervals on the extent to which they have achieved the network objectives. The Welsh Ministers' functions in relation to MCZs are limited to the Inshore Region.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 partly transpose the European Habitats Directive and Wild Birds Directives and extend to the Inshore Region. The Welsh Ministers are under a duty to designate sites as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of certain habitats and species and Special Protection Areas for the protection of certain wild bird species. Once designated the primary functions under the Regulations rest with Natural Resources Wales.
The Welsh Ministers have a power to make special nature conservation orders that prohibit damaging operations that may damage habitats and species (see regulation 25 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010).
The Welsh Ministers together with other competent authorities, have a general duty, in the exercise of any of their functions, to have regard to the Habitats Directive.
The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) partly transpose into domestic law the Habitats Directive and Wild Birds Directive of 2009 and extend to the Offshore marine area. The offshore marine area is defined as any part of the seabed and subsoil situated in any area designated under section 1(7) of the Continental Shelf Act 1964; and any part of the waters beyond the territorial sea within British fishery limits. The Welsh Ministers have a number of functions as a competent authority under the Regulations including duties to exercise their relevant functions in such a way as to secure compliance with the requirements of the Directives and to secure that steps are taken to avoid the disturbance of species and deterioration of habitat relating to offshore marine sites.
The majority of functions under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) are exercised by Natural Resources Wales which is responsible for notifying and thereafter managing Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The Welsh Ministers are under a duty to take reasonable steps to further the conservation and enhancement of the features of SSSIs and the owner or operator of land within an SSSI is required to seek consent from Natural Resources Wales for operations likely to damage any of the features of the SSSI. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 also provides for the creation of marine nature reserves. However, following the coming into force of Part V of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, these provisions will have been repealed and marine nature reserves will automatically become Marine Conservation Zones.