The Welsh Ministers have a wide range of functions in relation to the inshore and offshore area. The inshore area is the area of sea adjacent to Wales to a limit of 12 nautical miles. The offshore area is the area of sea beyond the inshore area, the precise extent of which will vary depending on the regime.
In broad terms the Welsh Ministers marine functions can be categorised as follows:
- Environmental quality and protection
Examples of each of these categories are considered below.
The Welsh Ministers are the marine licensing authority for the inshore area. Marine Licensing functions have been delegated to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) who are responsible for administering the marine licensing regime in Wales. The Welsh Ministers retain responsibility for enforcing the marine licensing regime.
The Welsh Minsters are responsible for preparing marine plans for both the inshore and offshore areas. A marine plan, amongst other things, sets out policies for sustainable development in the area for which it has been prepared. The Secretary of State’s consent is required for offshore plans and for inshore plans that concern functions retained by the Secretary of State.
The Welsh Ministers have a number of marine conservation functions. Within the inshore area Welsh Ministers are responsible for designating Marine Conservation Zones, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.
The Welsh Ministers exercise a number of marine environmental protection functions. These functions include a duty to develop and make operational a programme of measures to achieve good ecological status in marine waters by 2020. In addition, the Welsh Ministers and NRW act as enforcement authorities for environmental damage in the inshore area.
Within the inshore area the National Assembly for Wales has legislative competence within each of the subjects listed in Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006. Some of the subjects are more relevant to the marine environment than others. For example, “historic wrecks '”and “protection of natural habitats, coast and marine environment (including seabed)”.