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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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KeolisAmey awarded Wales and Borders Rail contract

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KEOLISAMEY is pleased that the Welsh Government has announced its intention to award the contract to operate the Wales and Borders rail service and the South Wales Metro to KeolisAmey.

Upon successful completion of a 10-day standstill period, the contract will run from June 4, 2018, to October 14, 2033, with rail services transferring on October 14, 2018.

This standstill period is normal procurement practice.

KeolisAmey is a joint venture partnership of international public transport operator Keolis, and infrastructure asset management specialist Amey.

KeolisAmey currently runs the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London, which has one of the best records in UK rail – consistently better than 99% reliability. Additionally, we operate and maintain Greater Manchester’s Metrolink – the largest tram network in the UK.

Alistair Gordon, Chief Executive of Keolis UK, said: “This will be a transformative new rail service for Wales and its borders which will see Keolis once more combine its worldwide expertise in passenger operations with Amey’s engineering excellence.

“We look forward to the successful completion of the procurement process – this exciting contract will deliver for all of Wales. The procurement process was rigorous, resulting in transformative solutions for the benefit of all in Wales, and indeed, future generations.

“While the proposed changes won’t happen overnight, the railway will be unrecognisable in five years thanks to the vision of the Welsh Government.”

Andy Milner, Amey’s Chief Executive, said: “Building on our successful partnership with Keolis, which already sees us deliver two high performing services – the Greater Manchester Metrolink and London’s DLR – we are honoured to be asked to operate the Wales and Borders service.

“This is a great opportunity for us to use our joint capabilities to deliver a first-rate service for Wales. We will be focused on working with Transport for Wales to transform the existing infrastructure and introduce new trains to significantly improve the passenger experience, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.”

KeolisAmey is unable to make any further comment until the procurement process has concluded and the contract has been awarded.

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Changes made to Sex and Relationships Education

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EDUCATION SECRETARY Kirsty Williams has announced changes to Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and its role in the curriculum.

Whilst the topic of sex and relationships is a statutory part of the curriculum of Wales, individual schools can currently choose their approach to the subject. But the changes, set to be introduced in 2022, aim to provide a greater grasp of sexuality, with greater emphasis on healthy relationships rather than a lesson on the biology of the topic.

Age appropriate material on diversity, domestic abuse and consent will be taught to children from five to 16 years old.

The announcement comes 30 years after Section 28 was introduced in Welsh, English and Scottish schools. Section 28 of the Local Government Act stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. It was repealed in 2000 in Scotland and in 2003 for the rest of the UK.

Kirsty Williams, Member of the Welsh Assembly for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: “The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it.

“Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality.

“Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.

“The fact is relationships and sexuality shape our lives as well as the world around us.

“They are a fundamental part of who we are and how we understand ourselves, each other and society.

“30 years on from the introduction of Section 28, we will also ensure that RSE is fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities and meets the needs of LGBTQI+ learners.

“Crucial to all of this will be ensuring that our teachers have the knowledge and confidence to provide the RSE our learners deserve.”

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Illegal gin traps leads to death of red kite

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AN RSPCA appeal for information has been launched following the death of a red kite caught by an illegal gin trap.

RSPCA Cymru was alerted after the poor bird of prey was found bleeding, and with broken legs, in the trap on Park Avenue in Aberystwyth on May 7.

The caller who found the bird transferred the animal to a local veterinary practice, where it was confirmed that the legs had been broken by the trap.

Sadly, the vet was left with no choice but to put the bird to sleep to prevent further suffering.

Gin traps, such as the device used in this incident, are spring-operated and illegal to set and use, although not illegal to own. It is also illegal to set any spring trap in the open or on top of a post.

The RSPCA say they are following a line of inquiry about the placing of the trap – but are calling on the local community in Aberystwyth to get in touch should they have any relevant information.

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “These gin traps were made illegal to set many years ago and yet shockingly are still being used to catch animals. They are indiscriminate and sadly this red kite is the latest victim.

“The potential consequences of these devices for animals and humans are so severe. I shudder to think what could have happened had a toddler, for example, crossed the path of this trap.

“We are following a line of inquiry on this incident but are eager for more information to come to light as to the circumstances behind this illegal trap being put down.

“The RSPCA’s inspectorate appeal line can be reached on 0300 123 8018, and all calls are treated in confidence.”

If you have concerns about the welfare of an animal, please call the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999 to report the incident.

For more information on what to do if you find a wild animal in need of help, please visit the RSPCA website.

If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru complete rescues such as this, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.

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