RESTRICTIONS on scallop fishing in Cardigan Bay were originally placed in 2008-9, following an influx of boats from around the UK.
At present, one area of the bay, known as the Kaiser Box after scientist Michel Kaiser, is open to scallop dredging on a seasonal basis. However, as has been pointed out, beam trawling is still permitted in the bay outside the three mile limit.
A study commissioned by the Welsh Government to assess whether a sustainable scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay was feasible was completed in 2015. The report found that most of the area outside of the three mile fishing limit was relatively shallow and the seabed composed of a mixture of mixed sediment (gravels and sands) overlaid with highly mobile sand waves.
‘As a result of high levels of wave erosion, the seabed is dominated by opportunistic species such as small bivalves and worms and ephemeral surface dwellers like crabs and starfishes’, a summary of the report stated.
It was noted that the seabed in these areas was generally resilient to the effects of dredging, and that recovery was swift. In most cases, there were no marks left by dredging evident a year after the area was fished.
The findings were: “Seabed animal communities living in Cardigan Bay mostly recovered within four months of the fishing disturbance, particularly in areas fished less than four times. This recovery period coincided with summer recruitment and growth of seabed animals. The current management practice of a seasonal closure over the summer would appear to facilitate recovery of the biological components on the seabed.
“The seabed in deeper water offshore seems to be partly reconstructed by natural processes within four months of fishing disturbance and certainly 10 months later and would appear to be able to withstand fishing intensities up to 6.2 times complete coverage by scallop dredging. Some areas closer inshore would appear to take longer for the seabed to be reformed by natural processes and may require a full year for this to occur (with fishing intensities of 3.8 times swept per year).”
The presence of cobble reefs and bottlenose dolphins were the main factors behind the creation of the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation. Most of the cobble reefs in the bay are within the three mile limit, and there has been no suggestion that the entire bay will be permanently opened to scallop dredging.
In terms of potential harm to the dolphin population of the bay, the picture is far less clear-cut. In a snappily-titled opinion piece for The Guardian newspaper ‘The Dolphin Killers of Cardigan Bay’, environmental activist George Monbiot claimed that ‘when bottlenose dolphin calves are young, their mothers rely for much of their food on slow or sedentary animals on the seafloor, as they cannot travel fast or far at this time. Sustaining a healthy dolphin population, in other words, means sustaining a healthy seabed’.
It is also worth noting that the bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay declined between 2008-14. However, the Director of Sea Watch, Dr Peter Evans, said it was difficult to be sure that the two were related: “It could be due to natural changes in food availability or to the increasing evidence of disturbance related to the rise in recreational activities in the area. Or it could be a combination of all these. At present we don’t know,” he added.
Dr Evans went on to suggest that he believed dolphins and scallop dredging could co-exist, even within an SAC, and also recognised that restricting the scallop fishery to a limited area, as is currently the case, was unsustainable, ‘so either a larger area needs to be included, or the activity (which means its profits) should be limited’.
“A balance should therefore be struck. In this context, authorities should bear in mind that the overall annual income from dolphin-watching (direct through boat trips and indirect through purchase of food/meals, gifts and accommodation) is estimated to well exceed £3.5 million, and to involve 50,000+ visitors to West Wales,” he concluded.
The Welsh Government proposals which were put up for public consultation included restricting fishing activity through quotas (if necessary) temporal restrictions such as those which are currently in place, and rotational open areas, which would mean that the seabed would be given additional time to recover if needed.
However, Mid and West AM Simon Thomas is among a number of people who have accused the Welsh Government of turning their backs on ‘concerned constituents’, as well as putting the future of vulnerable wildlife at risk.
“I’ve met with Petition organisers and continually kept my constituents updated as I asked the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, to rethink the Welsh Government’s position and support the sustainability of the sensitive Ceredigion marine environment,” he added. A petition calling on the Welsh Government to change its plans currently has more than 30,000 signatures.
However, like his third Assembly predecessor in the role, Elin Jones AM, Mr Thomas wished to see a sustainable scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay: “First we have to ensure the current habitats have recovered enough to support such dredging. The decision to allow dredging when we don’t fully understand the impact on those areas that are supposed to be under conservation is concerning,” he remarked, before questioning how the WG would police the scallop fishery.
While it is unclear at present exactly what changes the Welsh Government would bring to policing the fishery, the current ‘suckfish’ dual tracker system used to enforce scallop dredging in the bay at present should still be effective if new areas were opened up.
The main deterrent to fishing outside permitted areas, or failing to comply with government imposed terms and conditions would be, as is the case today, heavy financial penalties. The skipper of a small scallop dredger was recently fined £13,000 for fishing outside the Kaiser Box, and was caught doing so as a result of tracker data. The skipper of a Cornish dredger was ordered to pay £50,000 in fines and costs in 2014, and it is worth noting that the Welsh Government pushed for a much stricter penalty at the time.
The question of allowing the habitat to recover is a far more complex issue, largely because confusion appears to exist over the point it is to be allowed to recover to. Cardigan Bay has been fished using a wide mixture of fishing techniques since time immemorial, and it is reasonable to assume that a large proportion of it has been bottom-trawled at some point over the last 50-100 years.
The view espoused by George Monbiot and Professor Callum Roberts, who contributed to The Guardian article above, was directly referred to by researchers from Bangor University who said: “Clearly we know that Robert’s statement is rather simplistic, as does any first year student of ecology who has studied succession in natural systems.”
While the findings of the Bangor University study have been openly queried, this remains the most comprehensive study of its kind ever carried out in the UK, and peer reviews described the work as ‘of high merit’ and sufficient to inform Welsh Government policy’.
New Quay RNLI in top ten for fundraising in the UK & Ireland
Last week, as the RNLI’s Mayday Mile campaign came to an end, the New Quay RNLI team had earned the honour of being in the top ten for fundraising throughout the UK & Ireland. The team raised over £3,000 during the month of May, with local schools, individuals and the RNLI crew taking part.
Both Ysgol Ceinewydd and Ysgol T Llew Jones pupils took on the challenge, taking to the school field to complete their Mayday Mile and then learning about water safety back in the classroom.
Mr Lee Burrows, Deputy Headteacher of Ysgol T Llew Jones, said, “We wanted to take part in the RNLI Mayday Mile campaign as we wanted to raise awareness of the dangers in and around the water before the summer months. It’s really important for our pupils to remember water safety messages as we live by the sea.
“We were able to use the RNLI water safety resources which are online and the children had great fun making water safety posters.”
A local boy, Steffan Williams, aged 12, was another participant who raised over £2,200 by paddle boarding 10 miles in one day and is fourth on the individuals’ leaderboard for the whole of the UK and Ireland.
New Quay lifeboat crew also took part, with crew members running and walking across Traeth Gwyn in full RNLI kit. It was tough going but they covered a total of 20 miles. Crew member Peter Yates took the challenge one step further, walking a total of 68 miles during the month of May.
Pete said, “Having been on the crew for 14 years and having been taught so much and been given such great opportunities, I wanted to do my bit and give something back. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and the rest of the team.”
Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to thank everyone for their kind donations and also those who have taken part in the fundraising activities. The Mayday Mile campaign has been a great success and it’s great to see the community pulling together to raise much needed funds for the RNLI. With more people expected to be holidaying close to home this year, the RNLI predicts a summer like no other.”
New Quay RNLI rescues three persons blown out to sea
ON THURSDAY afternoon (Jun 10) at 3pm New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat launched on service to rescue three persons being blown out to sea on inflatable rings off Traeth Gwyn beach.
In a strong offshore wind, the crew at New Quay Lifeboat Station had spotted three persons on inflatable rings in difficulty.
Pete Yates, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “We spotted the group about a quarter mile out from the beach so we observed them for a while. Initially they abandoned one of the rings and were making good speed back to the beach. All seemed okay, but then the group of three, each in a rubber ring started to slow, with one adult beginning to attempt a swim tow with the other two.
“At that point I could tell they were in real danger so I went to prepare the inshore lifeboat. Once kitted up we launched and quickly arrived on scene. One person had made it ashore but the adult was still towing a young person who was quite shivery and cold. We got them both aboard and took them back to the beach to their family. I’d say they were a little shaken up and it was a very good decision to observe them and then launch, so a good outcome!”
Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager added, “Many of the emergencies the RNLI responds to involve inflatables and that is a key reason why the RNLI strongly advises against taking them to the beach. Inflatables are not designed for open water and it takes very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the beach.
“Remember if you get into danger in the water, relax and float to give yourself time to recover before swimming to safety or calling for help. If you see someone else in danger, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
Surprise interview with football superstar on Euros’ eve
ON Thursday morning 10 June, pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Penrhyn-coch and Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig received an unexpected Zoom call all the way from Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan. The call was made from Ben Davies, Welsh professional footballer, who is currently located at a camp with the rest of the Welsh national football team in Baku, ahead of their Euro 2020 opener game against Switzerland on Saturday.
After the initial shock of seeing the live image of Ben appear on the screen in front of them, Pupils from Year 3 to Year 6 of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch and Year 7 puplis of Ysgol Penweddig were given the opportunity to interview Ben. The interview, which was organised as part of the Ceredigion Welsh Language Charter, was conducted through the medium of Welsh.
It was clear from the big grins that all the pupils enjoyed this special experience considerably and one that will be well remembered. The passion from the children was an indicator of the strong support there is for Ben and the rest of the Welsh team in Ceredigion.
None of the pupils knew about the interview beforehand. The only clue given by the schools that something was happening was that pupils were all told to wear red to school on Thursday.
Liwsi Curley, a pupil of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch said: “I’m in shock to see one of my heroes live on zoom! It’s been a special experience and one of the happiest experiences of my life. Thank you very much Ben Davies. Go for it Wales!”
Ben answered many of the puplis questions. Twm Aron Williams and Caio Brychan, puplis of Ysgol Penrhyncoch, who are big fans of Ben were two of those lucky pupils. Caio asked Ben: “If you could choose a five-a-side football fantasy team who would be in it?” After answering, Ben asked the same question back to Caio, who answered immediately with: “You and then Bale, Ramsey, Moore and Henesey!”
Dr Rhodri Thomas, Headteacher of Ysgol Penweddig said: It was pleasing to see the response of year 7 pupils to the session with Ben Davies today. The pupils appreciated the opportunity to find out more about the experience of representing your country and the importance of practising, hard work and following advice from others in order to succeed. Year 7 pupils are excited now and look forward to supporting Wales in the competition over the next few weeks. Good luck to the team in Rome and Baku!”
Finley Saycell, a Year 7 pupil of Ysgol Penweddig said: “Today’s experience was a special one. I thank everyone who had given us the opportunity. It was excellent. I spoke to Ben Davies – one of Wales’s best players!”
Ben Davies has won over 50 caps for Wales and previously played in the Euros in 2016. Welsh-born Ben attended Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot.
Following the interview, Ben Davies said: “It was lovely to speak to the children and see the support that there is for us – WOW!”
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