Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on Welsh Government efforts to promote marine conservation and biodiversity in Wales?
Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs:
Thank you. The Welsh Government is promoting marine biodiversity through delivery of its international and national obligations. This includes completing our contribution towards an ecologically coherent and well-managed network of marine protected areas, in line with the UK marine strategy and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.
Thank you. I wanted, really, Cabinet Secretary, to bring your attention to the fact that we could be on the cusp of a new industry for Wales, and the workings of Seaweed Forum Wales, knowing that seaweed aquaculture is good for the economy and, indeed, good for the ocean. The concept: although Wales has a long and proud tradition of harvesting seaweed from the wild and using it primarily as a food and fertiliser, it has never been commercialised as the basis of developing a viable industry across various supply and value chains, and there's a theory that we could be losing out. Some of the benefits of taking this project forward are: climate change targets—seaweed aquaculture has the potential to reduce carbon, reduce agricultural emission, and protect shores from erosion; employment diversification and the opportunity for fishermen to diversify into a growing market; inward investment, promoting, indeed, supply value chain opportunities—it's a game changer for Welsh industry, as supply-side stimulus for a new set of subsectors; competitiveness; Welsh processors of food, drink, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, green proteins; it's got massive potential for export earnings; and partnership—the triple helix of industry, academia and Government. So, what steps will you take forward, as our Cabinet Secretary, to ensure that aquaculture in Wales is looked upon as perhaps a new potential and a growing industry? Will you work with those agencies working in this field?
Well, I think aquaculture already has a very exciting place within our sector, and certainly I'd be very happy—. What you just read out ticks all the boxes, if you like, so I'd be very happy to work with people to take that forward.