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.
Mark Drakeford named next First Minister
THE NEXT First Minister of Wales will be Mark Drakeford, it has been announced this afternoon (Dec 6).
Mr Drakeford, a Cardiff West AM, was named as the winner of the Welsh Labour leadership contest at the Principality Stadium.
The contest was triggered when Carwyn Jones, the current First Minister, announced he was stepping down.
Mr Jones will officially step down on Tuesday (Dec 10).
Mr Drakeford will then be officially confirmed as the new First Minister of Wales by the National Assembly next week.
In the first round of voting, the results were:
Mark Drakeford – 46.9%
Vaughan Gething – 30.8%
Eluned Morgan – 22.3%
Eluned Morgan’s votes were then redistributed on voters’ second preferences, with the following results:
Mark Drakeford – 53.9%
Vaughan Gethin – 46.1%
Met Office issue yellow weather warning for Friday morning
THE MET OFFICE has warned of strong winds and heavy rain across South and West Wales as they have issued a yellow weather warning for rain on Friday (Dec 7).
Between 1am and 9am, spells of rain, heavy at times and accompanied by windy weather, are likely to produce 20-40mm of rain.
Coming after some recent wet weather, this rain is likely to lead to some temporary flooding impacts before the rain clears early Friday morning.
The Met Office are warning people that flooding of a few homes and business is likely, bus and train services, as well as roads, will probably be affected, with journey times taking longer.
Natural Resources Wales also has a flood alert in place in Pembrokeshire. Due to restrictions at the tidal outfall, river levels in the River Ritec in the Salterns area of Tenby are likely to remain high for a number of days.
River levels are rising slightly as each high tide arrives. The combination of ground conditions, existing river levels and forecast rainfall quantities gives a high risk of flooding of low-lying land during the next couple of days.
This comes a week after Yellow Weather Warnings were issued across Wales as Storm Diana brought extreme winds and heavy rain to the country.
PCSOs celebrated in police campaign
A campaign recognising Police Community Support Officers and the value they add to policing in Wales is being celebrated for its second year next week (Dec 10-14).
Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) work on the front line providing a visible and reassuring presence on streets throughout the country.
The campaign, called #ThoseInBlue, is being supported by Dyfed-Powys Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and British Transport Police. All week they will be showcasing the work of their PCSOs and recognising the vital role they play.
PCSOs are the eyes and ears of police in communities – building trust and gathering information that is crucial to tackling crime and antisocial behaviour.
Dyfed-Powys Police’s Temporary Deputy Chief Constable, Richard Lewis, leads the portfolio for PCSOs in Wales. He said: “PCSOs are an integral part of the police family. It is different to being a warranted Police Officer, and is a job in its own right.
“PCSOs are not only the eyes and ears in our communities, but also help tackle problems which cause the most concern for people living in Wales.
“PCSOs bring a wide range of skills and experience to the role and in the Dyfed-Powys area we have specialist PCSOs tackling rural crime, cyber crime and antisocial behaviour, and crime reduction experts.
“This Christmas, PCSOs will be a reassuring presence for some of the most vulnerable people living in towns, cities and villages across Wales.”
As part of the campaign, Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Officers will be heading ‘back to the floor’ – going on patrol with PCSOs working across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
All week PCSOs across Wales will be using #TweetMyWeek on Twitter to showcase the work they do every day that helps keep people safe. Follow the hashtag or keep up with the campaign on Dyfed-Powys Police’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you have concerns about crime or antisocial behaviour in your community speak to a PCSO or call 101.
MEET CEREDIGION’S PCSO
Name: PCSO Iona Jones-Kenny
Where you’re stationed: Lampeter
Length of service: Five months
Why did you join: I wanted a new challenge and feel I have a lot of previous experience to bring into the new role.
Best moments: No two days are the same and each day brings up a new challenge.
Interests outside of work: Spending time with the family, walking the dogs, and pool and sea swimming.
Aspirations: To build good links within the community and continue helping people.
Speciality: Working in schools and young people.
Previous experience: Working with children and young people and children in school.
Name: PCSO Matthew Kieboom
Where you’re stationed: Out of Cardigan Police Station, covering the rural villages and along the coast – probably one of the most beautiful parts of Cymru.
Length of service: 5 years, six months.
Why did you join: Several reasons: I live in the middle of the community that I support. When I first moved here it became very obvious that there were strong communities and my wife Debbie and I were quickly welcomed. I wanted to help support and improve/protect those communities. With a uniformed background, when I saw the job advertised, it just called out to me.
Best moment: Hearing the stories from members of my communities who had nominated me for the #WeCare awards – that was very emotional. We go out and do the best we can to support and protect people and often we don’t really know if we are getting it right.
Interests outside of work: Very limited due to having a smallholding! My dogs mean the world to me. I also love kayaking out at sea, swimming and hiking and generally being outdoors enjoying the beautiful area we live in. There is something very mindful about being outside in west Wales, no matter what the weather.
Aspirations: The work a PC does is immense and their opportunities to specialise in different roles and go up the ranks of promotion does appeal, but I have had a successful career in the British Army already and am getting a bit long in the tooth to be competing directly against people half my age or less! I am really content with the difference I am currently making as a PCSO and the support in my role that the communities give me.
Speciality: First Aid instructor with experience of dealing with trauma – there’s nothing I can’t do with a spoon! I’m a Blue Light Mind Champion, LGBT Liaison Officer and Major Incident trained, specialising in Major Medical Incidents.
Previous experience: Management Degree at Lancaster University followed by British Army Officer for 12 years. I’ve been on numerous Operational Tours specialising in major medical incidents, helped build refugee camps and provided Military Aid to a Civil Authority in York Floods in 2000 and Foot and Mouth Crisis in 2001. Many of the incidents I commanded at either both Bronze or Silver level, providing advice and planning to Gold where appropriate. Following medical discharge from the Army I had the pleasure of working at Help for Heroes as they first formed as volunteers and were a large part of my recovery process. It took me some 5 years before I was ready for full time employment.
Popular This Week
News5 days ago
Police concerned about missing Newcastle Emlyn woman
News2 weeks ago
Two men jailed over violent street robbery
News2 weeks ago
Man to appear in court for arson, burglary, theft and fraud
News6 days ago
Labour protests against Universal Credit
News2 weeks ago
£5,000 worth of power tools stolen
News2 weeks ago
Two-year-old was ‘singing’ moments prior to death, inquest hears
Sport2 weeks ago
Amlyn wins Community Coach of the Year
News2 weeks ago
Yellow weather warning issued around Wales