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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Part 2: Exclusive Economic Zone, Uk Marine Area and Welsh Zone

Section 41: Exclusive economic zone

132.This section allows for the declaration of an Exclusive Economic Zone, and for the United Kingdom to assert its rights and assume its obligations in accordance with Part V of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Such a declaration will remove inconsistencies in the current maritime zones claimed by the United Kingdom. It will replace the existing zones – namely the areas within British fishery limits, the Renewable Energy Zone, the Pollution Zone, and the Gas Importation and Storage Zone – with one Exclusive Economic Zone. This will simplify the management of the United Kingdom’s offshore maritime areas and bring the United Kingdom into line with accepted international good practice.

Section 42: UK marine area

133.This defines the geographical area referred to elsewhere in this Act for the purposes of managing the United Kingdom’s maritime space. It includes those areas of the sea and seabed over which the United Kingdom enjoys sovereignty in addition to those offshore areas over which the United Kingdom is able to assert its sovereign rights.

134.Subsection (3) describes the landward limit of the marine area.  Subsection (4) adds further detail to the meaning of subsection (3)(a) by providing that areas that would be open to the regular action of the tide, apart from the fact that they are generally isolated from it by an artificial barrier such as closed lock gates, but where seawater may flow or be caused to flow (as, for example, by pumping), are part of the UK marine area.  Such areas include harbour basins that are never or rarely open to the tide, such as at Bristol Harbour, but which contain seawater.

Section 43: Welsh zone

135.This section amends section 158(1) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 to insert a definition of the Welsh zone.  The first part of the definition establishes that the Welsh zone goes out as far as the British fishery limits – to the west of Wales, this is the median line between Wales and Ireland set by virtue of the Fishery Limits Act 1976.  An order will have to be made to set the boundaries of the zone by specifying its co-ordinates, in particular so as to define its southern boundary. That provision could be included in an order made under section 158(3) (as substituted) or in an Order in Council under section 58 of the 2006 Act.

136.This section also introduces Schedule 4. Paragraph 6(3) of that Schedule provides that functions of the Minister of the Crown that are exercisable in relation to the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward boundary of the territorial sea may be transferred to the Welsh Ministers if they are connected with fishing, fisheries or fish health. Such functions may be transferred by means of an Order in Council (commonly referred to as a “Transfer of Functions Order”) under section 58 of the 2006 Act.  Schedule 4 makes other amendments to other sections of the same Act relating to the establishment of the Welsh zone.

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