IN AN ANNOUNCEMENT that shocked many people across Wales and beyond, the Welsh Government approved a return to scallop fishing in Cardigan Bay. Five years ago, Cardigan Bay was designated a special area of conservation (SAC), and commercial scallop fishing was suspended. Acting on the results of two year study, however, the Welsh Government has decided to permit dredging in some areas of the SAC, claiming it will not have a negative effect. New guidelines are intended to ‘maximise the fishery’ while protecting the site, goals which critics say are incommensurable. Scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay will be self-regulated by the fishing industry via an advisory board that will report to government, reviewing the situation annually.
Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths stated that there was no new evidence to suggest this fishery would have an impact on the protected features within the bay. She said: “I have decided we should not stand in the way of economic activity. I want to reassure everyone this will be a carefully and proactively managed fishery, with the number of fishing boats being monitored. I am reassured the proposed new flexible approach is proportionate and will enable us to consider appropriate areas and management mechanisms for the future of this fishery.”
Commercial scallop ‘fishing’ is a misnomer as the process involves bottom dredging, which has a disastrous effect on the ecology of the seabed. Dredging involves towing a heavy scraper along the sea bottom, in this instance to collect scallops.
When ‘the dredge’ is winched up, the scallops are taken and the rest of the ‘catch’ rejected. Writing about Cardigan Bay, Hannah Lawson notes that: “Newhaven dredgers are commonly used around the UK and have a ‘rake’ that is dragged through the surface of the seabed, collecting the scallops in a chain-mail basket. The scallop dredging completely rakes clean the seabed, destroying the species and habitats that are in the way; such as soft corals, sponges, seaweed, sea anemones, and biogenic reefs. The dredging can destroy the physical structure of the seabed and community structure within the sediment.”
As previously reported in the Herald, Greenpeace skipper Mike Fincken has campaigned against dredging in the Artic. Using special hi-tech cameras and drone technology, the images recorded on his voyage reveal the seabed after dredging to be what Mike describes as ‘an underwater desert’. Following the announcement this week, Captain Mike Fincken told us: “I consider the dredging of Cardigan Bay a crime against future generations and any one implicit in the granting of licences must be held accountable.”
JEWELS IN THE CROWN
Ceredigion Green Party have responded to the Welsh Government’s decision, expressing deep disappointment. A spokesperson, Julie Makin, told The Herald: “We share the concerns of more than 30,000 people who signed Mick Green’s ‘Save Cardigan Bay’ petition. Whilst we are still members of the EU, the Special Areas of Conservation status needs to be upheld, and we believe dredging and trawling to be incompatible with that. Ceredigion Green Party will be fighting hard to keep the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status intact after Brexit so that the marine life of Cardigan Bay will be protected for future generations to come.”
Wales Green Party leader, Alice Hooker-Stroud, said: “The Bae Ceredigion and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Special Areas of Conservation should be jewels in Wales’ crown as the UK’s largest breeding ground for dolphins. But the Welsh Government have given the go ahead for allowing damaging scallop dredging in these areas. The Wales Green Party would ban beam trawling and dredging, and protect these areas properly.”
Kerry Lewis, a lecturer in the Law School of Aberystwyth University, gave The Herald her opinion on the legality of the government’s move: “Cardigan Bay is a Special Area of Conservation. Any proposed changes to the fishing regime within that protected area is a ‘plan or project’ and subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment. It is clear that dredging is a highly destructive activity and the onus will be on the Welsh Government to demonstrate that it is not likely to have a significant effect on the designated features of the site. If it is likely to have a significant effect, it should not be permitted unless it is clear that the project will not adversely affect the integrity of the site.”
DISBELIEF AND DISAPPOINTMENT
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) expressed disbelief and disappointment over the Welsh Government’s decision to open up further protected areas of Cardigan Bay to scallop dredging, which they deem ‘a highly destructive method of fishing’. WDC is ‘the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins’. The area of Cardigan Bay concerned is designated as a SAC due to its importance as a habitat for bottlenose dolphins. It is also proposed as an SAC for harbour porpoise.
A spokesperson for WDC, Mick Green, told The Herald: “The dredging destroys almost everything, smashing the seabed life forms to pieces and quickly reducing a rich ecosystem to a sandy or muddy desert. WDC believes that, whilst trials for new management measures to help develop a more sustainable scallop fishery are welcome, they should not be carried out in such a sensitive, protected area.” WDC is also very concerned that no account has been taken of the possible impact on harbour porpoise populations. The UK Government is currently being prosecuted in the European court of justice for its failure to designate sites for this species.
Mick Green added: “We are very disappointed that the Welsh Government have decided to ignore the robust scientific evidence we have provided, and to ignore the views of over 30,000 people who signed a petition against developing this fishery within a protected area. The SAC has been shown to be in an unfavourable state and we believe that work should focus on remedying this before any new fisheries are opened.”
In a blistering rebuke of the decision to resume dredging, naturalist and TV presenter Iolo Williams said: “I am appalled that the Welsh Government, who are supposed to have sustainability at the heart of all their work, can contemplate opening up a protected area to such a destructive fishing method.” On his Facebook page, Iolo Williams wrote: “I’m dismayed but not surprised that this bunch of worthless parasites has, once again, supported the destruction of an internationally important wildlife site. This does NOT support local, sustainable fisheries. It opens the door for ploughing the sea bed on an industrial scale.” As well as condemning those who made the decision, Iolo Williams criticised Natural Resources Wales (NRW): “This is a spineless body that continually refuses to fight for our wildlife. It’s a bleak time for nature conservation in Wales but we will keep on fighting!” The Welsh Government declined to respond to Iolo Williams’ criticisms.
Writing in The Guardian in November 2015, in the wake of the Welsh Government launching the consultation on reopening sections of the SAC to scallop dredging, environmentalist George Monbiot pointed out that the dolphins in Cardigan Bay are Britain’s largest breeding population: “People come from all over the country to watch them and experience something unavailable almost anywhere else in Britain: encounters with megafauna.” George Monbiot criticised Elin Jones, then Minister for Rural Affairs, who took the original decision to allow scallop dredgers into the SAC.
Commenting on the announcement by Lesley Griffiths on Wednesday (Nov 2), George Monbiot told The Herald: “This decision makes a mockery of the Welsh Government’s claims to be green. It damages the country’s national heritage on behalf of a tiny lobby group, largely composed of fishermen not based in Wales. This is a classic example of what I see as corrupt politics: governments placing the interests of a tiny but influential economic sector above those of the wider public.”
A report from Bangor University supports controlled scallop fishery in the SAC, suggesting that the areas of the seabed recover relatively quickly. This claim has been rubbished by a leading authority on marine conservation, Professor Callum Roberts at the University of York: “This is a dreadful piece of science. Imagine that you stop cutting the lawn for five years. Would you have a highly biodiverse oak forest at the end? No, it would be a scrappy patch of weeds. Protect a heavily dredged piece of seabed for five years and you will have the underwater equivalent of weeds. We lost the oak forests long ago – i.e. the seabed encrusted with fabulously diverse communities of invertebrates and coralline seaweeds that built up over centuries. All that is left today is muddy bottom with scattered rocks and the odd horse mussel.” Objectors to the government decision, including the WDC, will review the Welsh Government’s full statement before deciding future actions.
The ‘Save Cardigan Bay!’ petition remains open for signatures – www. change.org/p/welsh-government-save-cardigan-bay.
Police advise ‘hang up on suspicious callers’
A NATIONAL telephone scam, aiming to steal money, has reached residents living within the Dyfed-Powys area.
Paul Callard, of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Financial Crime Team, said: “Action Fraud has today made us aware three people living in Dyfed-Powys have been contacted by fraudsters claiming to be from BT, in the past four days. While three people have reported, we suspect many more have been targeted.
“Victims receive a telephone call from someone pretending to be from BT who is calling due to a problem with the victim’s internet connection speed. During the call the victim is asked to open their online banking, eBay, Tesco and other accounts. The scammer then tries to gain remote access to the victim’s computer to empty the victim’s bank account.
“BT will never ask for remote access to your computer or access to your online bank account. We urge anyone who receives unsolicited/cold calls from any company hang up immediately. Do not enter into conversation with them, provide them with any personal details or send them any money. You should only phone the company back using a trusted phone number.”
If you have been the victim of fraud, attempted fraud, or cyber crime, or have received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven’t responded to it, report it to Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
For further advice and information on how to avoid being scammed visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’
FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).
19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.
The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.
Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.
They are in police custody.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.
DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.
“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.
“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.
“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”
£750,000 funding for highway improvements
CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has recently been awarded almost £750,000 of additional grant funding from the Welsh Government’s Local Transport Fund and Road Safety Capital Grant to carry out further highways improvement schemes in the County.
£596,000 has been allocated from the Local Transport Fund for various schemes across the county which will include removing the pinch point on the C1010 at Gogerddan, near Penrhyncoch. £249,000 of funding is allocated for active travel improvements in Aberystwyth to create an improved shared use path along Boulevard St Brieuc which will continue along the side of the Police Station and up Park Avenue towards Glyndwr Road. A pedestrian crossing on Boulevard St Brieuc will be upgraded to a new toucan crossing, which cyclists can also use alongside pedestrians. This will be the first of its kind in Ceredigion.
The funding will also purchase a new scooter shelter at Plascrug Primary School. Head Teacher Menna Sweeney said: “This is great news because the shelter purchased just 16 months ago following grant funded works on the Avenue cannot cope with current demand due to the amount of children scooting and cycling to the school every day. This is really helping to alleviate the traffic congestion problems previously experienced in the area”.
Two new public cycle repair stands with integrated cycle pumps will be installed in Aberystwyth. One will be placed outside Plascrug Leisure Centre and the other on Aberystwyth University Penglais Campus.
Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member for Transport said: “I’m delighted that we’ve managed to obtain funding to further improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The work will complement the new Parc Kronberg Skate Park and improve the look of this important gateway into Aberystwyth by increasing the number of trees and spreading them wider along Park Avenue as well as renewing the currently uneven section of pavement on the street.”
Additional funding has been allocated to the Cardigan Active Travel Area Year 2 Scheme, which earlier this year saw a new 20mph zone with traffic calming outside Cardigan Secondary School and a new footway link and pedestrian refuge crossing on Aberystwyth Road. The extra funding will fund footway widening on Pontycleifion Road and the provision of new dropped kerbs to assist mobility and pushchair users to improve the link between the Town Centre and Parc Teifi Industrial Estate.
Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Ray Quant MBE and Cabinet Member for Technical Services said: “I’m delighted that Ceredigion residents will benefit from a further three quarters of a million pounds funding from the Welsh Government for transport schemes throughout the County and I look forward to seeing the improvements which should be completed by the end of March 2018.”
A Road Safety Capital Grant of £149,963 will fund the replacement of 15 Vehicle Activated Signs. These signs alert drivers exceeding the speed limit to slow down at locations with a history of personal injury collisions.
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