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Crash, bang, Scallop

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screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-12-28-58RESTRICTIONS 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’.

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How museums can help to shape the future of Wales

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ON DECEMBER 6, Ceredigion Museum hosted the launch of a new report. The Happy Museum report, ‘Welsh museums and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’, shines a spotlight on the many ways that Welsh museums are responding to the goals of the Act.

Focusing on the work of six Welsh museums, the report shows the significant contribution museums can make through examples of current or recent practice. It also details the museums’ efforts to develop projects to respond to the Wellbeing goals.

Ceredigion Museum Curator, Carrie Canham said: “It’s an honour to have had such an important document for museums throughout Wales launched at Ceredigion Museum. Ceredigion Museum has been a Happy Museum partner for some years now. They’ve supported us to deliver projects that have had a positive impact on local people’s lives, so it’s great to put that in the context of the ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015. This report shows how we, and other museums in Wales, are ahead of the game in responding to the Act and how much we have to contribute to the wellbeing of our nation.”

The report was developed through a partnership between Happy Museum and Ceredigion Museum, Monmouthshire Museums, Cardiff Story Museum, Oriel Môn, Storiel and Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives. The project was supported by the Welsh Government through an accreditation support grant from the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales,

The Director of Happy Museum Project, Hilary Jennings said: “The Future Generations Act in Wales is an exemplary piece of legislation and museums in Wales are responding across the board to its seven goals.  We hope that the work of these Welsh museums will provide inspiration for the potential of museums worldwide to work in support of the wellbeing of people, place and planet.”

Happy Museum project supports museum practice that puts wellbeing within an environmental and future-facing frame. It rethinks the role that museums can play in creating more resilient people, places and planet.

The six Welsh museums worked with the Happy Museum over six months, to deepen their understanding of their Future Generations Act obligations. They also looked at the ways that they were already responding to the goals, planning new activities and embedding ways of working that would improve how they meet the goals of the Act.

The new report draws together all this learning as a resource and inspiration for museums across Wales – and to help them demonstrate their response to meeting the goals of the Act.

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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Are you a £1m Euromillions winner? Time is running out to redeem prize

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A LAST ditch attempt is being made to locate a mystery local winner of an unclaimed £1 million pound lottery ticket.

Time is running out to find the owner of the winning ticket from the Euromillions draw bought in Ceredigion on June 22, 2018 – with Millionaire code MDLG 86259.

The winner has until Wednesday, December 19 to claim their life-changing prize.

Andy Carter, senior winners’ advisor at The National Lottery, said: “Time really is running out for the winner of this prize, but we are still hopeful that someone will come forward to claim the money. We’re urging everyone to check their old tickets or look anywhere a missing EuroMillions ticket could be hiding. This life changing prize could really help to make dreams become a reality.”

If no-one comes forward with the winning ticket before the prize claim deadline, then the prize money, plus all the interest it has generated will go to help National Lottery-funded projects across the UK.

The National Lottery changes the lives of individuals as well as communities – players raise, on average around £30 million for National Lottery-funded projects every week.

Euromillions UK Millionaire Maker creates two UK millionaires in every draw. For every EuroMillions line played, UK players automatically receive a Millionaire Maker Code printed on their ticket.

Ceredigion alone has around 1,675 individual National Lottery grants that have been awarded to help projects across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors.

With all National Lottery draws, players only have 180 days from the day of the draw to claim their prize if they have the winning ticket. Anyone who has any queries or who believes they have the winning ticket for any of The National Lottery draws within the 180 day deadline should call the National Lottery line on 0333 234 5050 or email help@national-lottery.co.uk.

Anyone concerned about lost or unchecked tickets may like to consider either setting up a National Lottery Direct Debit or playing online at www.national-lottery.co.uk.

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