Menai Strait mussel farm could close without new protections, warn producers

MUSSEL farming on the Menai Strait is at risk of being shut down unless it is issued new protections by the Welsh Government. 

A new Fishery Order is required for the 700-hectare area off Anglesey, which produces up to 12,000 tons of mussels per year, so that stocks are considered private property under Welsh law. 

The current legislation, which has been in place since the early 1960s, is due to expire in spring 2022. 

Local producers say they have faced five years of delay by the Welsh Government in renewing the order due to a failure in “attitude and approach”. 

The Welsh Government said it is “working closely” with the Menai Strait Fishery Order Management Association to renew the legislation. 

Deep Dock director James Wilson said the Welsh Government has a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the aquaculture industry that has hindered the legislation being approved. 

“We’ve been open, transparent and reasonable about how to get the Fishery Order signed but we have had very little communication in return,” he said. 

“The Welsh Government understands agriculture and is willing to find new innovations for it but it does not have the same attitude and approach to aquaculture. 

“It will be a 12-month process to pass the Fishery Order from start to finish but the existing one expires in 16 months. They have known about it for five years and it has been in their tray for two years. 

“Brexit is likely to cause significant disruption and nobody knows what will happen with coronavirus so I’m worried that a confluence of all these things means the Fishery Order will not be done.” 

There are 15 full-time jobs at the Eastern Menai Strait and an additional two part-time jobs during fishing season. 

Mussel farming increased there after the Fishery Order was signed in 1962, going through peaks and troughs during the 1970s and 80s. 

The mussel farms have become a hive of activity since the 1990s, including a location for marine research by the University of Bangor.

Ynys Mon MS, Rhun Ap Iorwerth has been contacted for comment.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the history and success of the current fishery order in the Menai Strait for aquaculture in Wales. Despite the current challenges presented by Brexit and Covid-19, we are still progressing MSFOMA’s application, and are working closely with them on several points of detail.” 

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey