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Controversy over scallop dredgers

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dolph1A PETITION aiming to stop scallop dredging grounds from being extended in Cardigan Bay has received over 15,000 signatures, following criticism of a Welsh Government consultation. However, fishermen who have seen a lucrative ground closed for what will be at least seven years have claimed that extensive scientific studies carried out on the grounds since 2010 indicate that there is room for a sustainable fishery. The SAC (Special Area of Conservation) in Cardigan Bay is a traditional scallop fishery, which was closed in 2009 following concerns about the environmental impact of an influx of boats.

A small area of Cardigan Bay – The ‘Kaiser Box’ is opened for fishing during the scallop season (Nov – Apr). This has been overfished, to the extent where some local boats are fishing alternative locations or for different catches. It is also claimed, both anecdotally and by scientists involved with the ‘test fishing’ that scallop stocks outside of the Kaiser Box are thriving to the extent where they are potentially unable to reach full growth and are leading to a reduction in biodiversity. The Welsh Government proposes to introduce a ‘managed fishery’ where areas of Cardigan Bay between three and 12 miles out to sea would be fished, with limits imposed on the number of times per season that each patch is dredged, restrictions on equipment used, and flexible restrictions based on the results of regular monitoring. A consultation was launched in November, but relaunched following criticism of the clarity of an online version, and a technical error.

This area of Cardigan Bay was said by the Welsh Government to be mostly shallow water where the sand sea-bed was susceptible to ‘wave shaping’. Test fishing carried out by scientists from Bangor University among others showed that, in the words of the Welsh Government report: ‘This experiment concluded that, as scallop intensity increased, the negative effects on the animal community also increased such that the abundance (i.e. number) and biomass (i.e. weight) of organisms per unit area of the seabed declined. ‘However, these effects were relatively minor and short – lived and were reversed in the period between May and September in the same year (note this would also coincide with the closed season for some scallop fisheries).

‘Depending on the sediment type, the abundance and biomass of benthic species (particularly the prey for fish) had increased in areas with the highest scallop dredging intensity. This may have occurred due to the removal of scallops which constitute the dominant fauna (in biomass) within the areas studied – i.e. through the removal of the main competitor for food. ‘Thus the effects of scallop dredging on prey species for fish do not appear to be a cause for concern. For most areas of the seabed, the physical effects of scallop dredging were no longer present 12 months later. There were two exceptions to this – one more cobbly area of seabed close to the 3 nautical mile zone that had been fished with an intensity of between 3 and 4 times fished, and one area in the 6-12 nautical mile zone that had been fished slightly more than 6 times (these figures are derived from averaging the fishing intensity across the experimental fishing area).

Now that the location of these areas has been identified, the Welsh Government will be in a position to protect them by way of spatial restrictions’. However, environmental writer George Monbiot rubbished these claims. In an ‘emotive’ article, entitled The Dolphin Killers of Cardigan Bay, which appeared in the Guardian last month as an opinion piece, Mr Monbiot made the claim that because the sea beds in Cardigan Bay had been dredged and trawled for years, they were likely to take ‘decades if not centuries’ to recover their former biodiversity, and as such, the Bangor University Study was flawed. One scientist was quoted as suggesting that if you failed to mow your lawn for five years, you would not end up with a first-growth oak forest.

While this is true, it does seem to be a somewhat trite statement in this context. Mr Monbiot made some very valid points. The effects of beam trawling and dredging on certain sea beds, especially coral and reefs, is devastating, and these are widely regarded as two of the more destructive forms of fishing in terms of environmental impact. However, claims about the damage to cuter varieties of marine fauna were not sufficiently explained. However, ‘The people who may be interfering with the Dolphins’ food chain in Cardigan Bay’ lacks the same impact as a headline. This article was linked to the Change.org petition. This also begs the question of where these dolphins were when the grounds were being fished before.

Because this is an emotive subject, no fishermen were willing to be interviewed on the record, but no one The Herald talked to had noticed an increase or decrease in the number of dolphins and porpoises in Cardigan Bay over the last decade. Whether Mr Monbiot had data illustrating this or not is open to question, but one would think that data which proved the main hypothesis of the article would have been reproduced, or footnoted. A number of fishermen expressed their frustrations that following one of the most detailed assessments into the impact of scallop fishing, that a consultation based on this has been extended. The Herald was told that it was in the interests of fishermen to work within any Governmentimposed restrictions, both to continue fishing, and to make sure that the industry was sustainable.

Many of those commenting on the petition seemed to imply that eco tourism or alternative fishing methods could replace the dredging industry, or such of it as remains. To some extent the latter has occurred naturally in this area; notably fewer scallop boats have been seen in Milford Docks, for example, this winter, at least partly as a result of poor catches in the permitted area. The overlap between commercial fishing and eco-tourism probably looks a lot clearer from the perspective of a holidaymaker, though it is hard to see how many transferable skills there would be between the two, and while diving for scallops may be the preferred method, the yields using this method equate to a small percentage of the total scallop catch, thought to be worth between £5 and 6mfrom Cardigan Bay alone. To respond to the relaunched Welsh Government consultation, visit: http://gov.wales/consultations/ environmentandcountryside/proposed-new-management-measures-for-the-scallop-fishery-incardigan-bay/?lang=en To sign the change.org petition, visit their website and search for Cardigan Bay.

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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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Driving Wales to international skills success

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AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.

The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.

Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.

This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.

Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.

Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.

Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.

“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”

In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.

“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.

“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”

Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.

“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”

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