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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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Tra Bo Dau concert a sell-out success

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RHYS MEIRION and Aled Wyn Davies, two tenors with a shared sense of humour and mischief, matched only by their lifelong love of music performed to a sell out audience at Theatr Felinfach on Saturday (Jan 13).

Both tenors have solo careers in their own rights as well as being members of the Three Welsh Tenors and are well-known throughout Wales and the world. Their concert comprised of famous duets from the world of opera and musicals, famous Welsh songs and hymns, and contemporary compositions.

The audience enjoyed some of the classics by Ryan and Ronnie, Jac and Wil, Robat Arwyn, and many more, with the whole evening in the capable hands of Dilwyn Morgan and accompanist Menna Griffiths.

Part of the concert included items by pupils from Ysgolion Cynradd Aberaeron and Felinfach.

Take a look at Theatr Felinfach’s website to see the upcoming events for the Spring https://theatrfelinfach.cymru/.

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Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’

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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.”

Ifan’s family said in a statement:  “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.

“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”

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‘Once in a lifetime’ reorganisation planned by Health Board

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THE LOCAL Health Board is embarking on a ‘once in a lifetime’ reorganisational plan which is looking at all potential options to ‘change the status quo and focus on improving health’ of locals.

This will involve, a press release has revealed, transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate.

This is part of a strategy that the Health Board is looking into, to help solve an acute recruitment problem which is putting a great deal of pressure on the way that the Heath Board operates – and is leading to an untenable level of use of costly temporary staff to plug gaps and services.

In the summer of 2017, the Health Board embarked in an engagement with the public called ‘The Big Conversation’ which involved public workshops and drop-ins being held across the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The Health Board now says the it has independently analysed opinions of the general public and has been using that data to explore, challenge and test different scenarios.

It is yet to be seen what these changes will mean for end service users.

The Herald understands it is likely to mean hospital services being reduced or cut, and replaced with community alternatives.

The Health Board has said it will not make any changes, unless it can guarantee the safety of the people which it serves.

The Health Board has insisted that no preferred option for change has yet been determined, and nothing has been signed off or agreed at this stage.

Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our health service and community to work together to design an NHS which is fit for our generation and beyond. It has been acknowledged for some time across the UK that healthcare services are challenged like never before and we need significant change. Indeed this has been recognised in the recently published ‘Parliamentary Review of Health & Social Care’ here in Wales.

“We need to develop more proactive, resilient and better resourced local community services to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing, and avoid deterioration where possible. This will involve closer working with our partners, particularly colleagues in social care. We are also looking at ways of providing the most modern clinical practice, using the latest digital, technological, and new scientific developments, in fit for purpose facilities to provide better patient outcomes and experience.

“A number of our services are fragile and dependent on significant numbers of temporary staff, which can lead to poorer quality care. For us specifically in Hywel Dda, the geography we cover is large, with many scattered communities that are getting older, needing more holistic health and social care treatment and support. Because of this, we need to better resource our community based care, which is where most of our patient contact is, and help people manage their health conditions. We also need to evolve traditional ways of working and provide a more proactive approach. This should give patients – young, older and frail and everyone in between – the services they need when the need it, so people do not have to wait too long.

“This will mean changing hospital-based care, as well as community care, and we appreciate the attachment local people and our own staff have for their local hospitals. They have been cared for in them, or work in them, and they also play an important role in our wider communities. The options may propose change to a local hospital; however this is about more than the buildings. This is about investing in our communities, attracting doctors, nurses and therapists by operating a modern healthcare system and keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care.

“We will not put in place any change that isn’t safe for our patients and population. And we will look at all the impacts from ensuring services are safer with better patient outcomes, to considering the wider impact on people, including the most vulnerable.”

Dr Kloer added: “The potential options are evolving, with changes to them on almost a daily basis. Many will never even reach public consultation, for a variety of reasons including safety, accessibility and affordability, or will change significantly as they are tested against population needs and healthcare standards.

“We will be coming back to the public in the spring with fewer options that have been more rigorously tested and we will open and honest about what we think our preferred option is and why. We would not, and cannot, propose something that would not be safe for our population.

“We live in this community, use our NHS and work for our NHS and we want to work with our patients, staff, partners and public to ensure it is the best it can be.”

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