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Unusual whale species spotted

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screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-14-31-24A SERIES of unusual whale sightings caught the attention of scientists at marine mammal research facility, Sea Watch Foundation, this past week. 

Members of the public are encouraged by the organisation to report any sightings of dolphins, porpoises and whales across the UK. This usually leads to patterns of species being found in areas where they are expected, but there are occasionally exceptions to the rule, thanks to the nature of water-bound species. The recent sightings around Wales serve as an example of that.

The long-finned pilot whale is the species in question, well known due to the exploitation of the mammals during organised drives in the Faroe Islands. These ‘subsidence’ hunts take place annually, and many activists would like to see an end to them. Pilot whales observed in the Faroes may travel along the shelf edge to waters west of the British Isles and beyond, radio-tracking studies have shown.

Despite the fact that there are past records of pilot whales spotted around Wales, it remains an rather unusual occurrence, especially with sightings taking place at four different locations on four separate occasions.

The first sighting was made in the Central Irish Sea, 47 miles out from Aberdyfi in Gwynedd. On August 17, five pilot whales were spotted at this location by Charlie Bartlett, who has been venturing out to sea for 45 years. On Sunday, August 21, the second sighting was made off Eynon Point, Swansea, where a lone pilot whale was reported. On that very same day, a third sighting was reported. Two days later, near between Southerndown and Ogmore-by-Sea in Glamorgan, the final sighting was made. This time, eight animals were spotted by Sea Watch volunteer Keith Burgess. Keith couldn’t be certain of what he was watching at the time of the sighting (11am, Tuesday, August 23). The Sea Watch Foundation team discussed the matter, becoming confident that the animals were indeed long-finned pilot whales.

With so many similar reports from the same time – two of which have been verified – it is certainly plausible that a pod of these whales is moving around the Welsh coast at the moment.

Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation, Kathy James, said: “We’d love people to get out there to look for these enigmatic whales and report any sightings to us. We encourage these ‘casual sightings’ through our website and also welcome people to take part in dedicated watches for whales, dolphins and porpoises around our coast.”

Dr Peter Evans, Director of Sea Watch Foundation, said: “Long-finned pilot whales typically live in large groups in deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf. Here they feed largely upon oceanic squid. However, occasionally they come into shelf waters around the British Isles from the Atlantic, either in pursuit of squid or shoaling fish. It is likely that an abundance of a particular prey species brought them into Welsh coastal waters on this occasion.”

How to monitor whales around Wales: 

  • Report your sightings at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform.
  • Stage a dedicated watch at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/recording-and-submitting-sightings.
  • Get in touch! Email kathy.james@seawatchfoundation. org.uk.

Long-finned pilot whale facts: 

  • Length: Adult females are 4-5.5m. Males grow to 5.5- 6m in length.
  • Head: Bulbous head, short, almost imperceptible, beak.
  • Fins and coloration: A dark back, a low-swept back fin and long flippers.
  • Lifespan: Around 50 years
  • Diet: Pilot whales seem to feed exclusively on Todarodes (a genera of cephalopods) whereever possible, but if it is unavailable, the diet is supplemented with a range of other prey items including fish and shrimps. In winter, prey species diversity increases whereas fish become more important in summer, especially in the diet of males, although squid still continue to make up the bulk of the food.
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Pubs, restaurants and cafes in Wales will be banned from serving alcohol from Friday

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PUBS, restaurants and cafes in Wales will be banned from serving alcohol from Friday and will be unable to open to customers beyond 18:00 HTS.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the new rules to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.

Cinemas, bowling alleys, bingo halls, museums and galleries will also need to shut from Friday.

Mr Drakeford said without changes there could be between 1,000 and

1,700 preventable deaths over the winter.

Businesses will be allowed to provide a takeaway service after 18:00 of food or non-alcoholic drinks.

First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement during the Welsh Government briefing at 12.15pm on Monday, November 30.

The new restrictions are modelled on Scotland’s Tier 3 restrictions – you can see more details of the announcement here and follow below for live updates from Mr Drakeford’s press conference.

Mr Drakeford said said the measures were based on advice from the UK’s Sage group of scientific advisors and would be reviewed on December 17.

“From 6pm on Friday, our national measures will be amended to introduce new restrictions for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions,” he said.

“Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.

“From the same date, indoor entertainment venues, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres, casinos, skating rinks and amusement arcades, must close.

“Indoor visitor attractions, such as museums, galleries and heritage sites will also have to close. Outdoor visitor attractions will remain open.”

At Friday’s Welsh Government press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said that further restrictions on hospitality would be needed to ensure that there is enough headroom for Wales to relax coronavirus restrictions in time for Christmas.

He said the R number in Wales is now as high as 1.4 meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again.

He said that discussions were underway to finalise the details of the new arrangements and there would be a “major package of financial support”. He said more details would be announced on Monday.

He said: “The Cabinet has agreed to take further specific and targeted action to reinforce the current national measures we have place.

“We will focus these on places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on the recent evidence from the UK Sage group of experts about what interventions have had the biggest impact on the virus.

” It has highlighted the positive impact of measures in the Scottish level three system and the English tier three restrictions.

” We are already doing many of these here in Wales. Any additional actions we will take will build on the Sage advice but will be bespoke to our unique circumstances.

“Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will close.

“There will be new restrictions in the hospitality industry, which will come into effect next Friday.

“The sector has worked hard to put in place measures to protect the public and I know this will be a worrying time for all working in the industry.

“We will be working over the weekend with partners to finalise the details of the new arrangements and to put in place a further major package of financial support to respond to those changes.

“I will give further details about the package on Monday.

“Non-essential retail; hairdressers; gyms and leisure centres will continue to operate as now.

“These new arrangements will apply to the whole of Wales.”

Mr Drakeford said it was needed because there were very high rates in some parts of Wales.

He said: “All this is necessary because we need a further national effort to bring down rates in those parts of the country where they are high and to protect those areas from getting any worse, where cases are lower.

“A national approach can protect us all.”

He added: “We are particularly concerned about the increases we’re seeing in people under 25.
“Over the course of the pandemic, this is how the virus has spread – initially among younger age groups and then to older and more vulnerable groups.

Mr Drakeford said Wales would not be able to relax restrictions at Christmas unless he took action now.

He said: “Earlier this week, I met the First Ministers from Scotland and Northern Ireland and Michael Gove, from the UK Government, to discuss a common set of arrangements for Christmas.

“We agreed a five-day period between December 23 and 27 where travel restrictions would be lifted across the UK and up to three households would be able to form a Christmas bubble.

“Relaxing the restrictions will allow families to be together – maybe for the first time this year – for a few days over the festive period.

“But there is always a risk that when we come together we will spread or catch the virus.

“We therefore need to make sure have as much headroom as possible as we approach this Christmas period to enable us to relax these restrictions.

“This week we have seen restrictions tightened and extended in many countries across Europe.

“The UK Government has announced a strengthened tier regime, which comes into force in England from Wednesday. Northern Ireland today starts a new two-week lockdown and Scotland has extended the highest level restrictions.

“We too now have to use the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and create more headroom for the Christmas period.”

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Jail after heroin worth £45,000 seized

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AN ABERYSTYWYTH woman has been jailed, and an organised crime gang disrupted, after heroin worth £45,000 was found at her home.

Dyfed-Powys Police found more than 400g of the class A drug during a warrant at Susan Marie Proffitt’s home – resulting in one of the force’s largest single seizures of heroin in Ceredigion.

The result has disrupted an active organised crime gang supplying class A drugs to the area.

Sergeant Steven Jones said: “This swift and thorough investigation involved officers and staff from departments across the division, who worked together to secure this result.

“The defendant had a huge amount of heroin at her home, with efforts taken to conceal bags of the drug around the property.

“There is no doubt that in taking Proffitt out of the supply chain we will have disrupted an organised crime gang which she was a trusted part of in supplying heroin into the division.”

Officers carried out a warrant at the 52-year-old’s home in South Road on August 30, 2020.

On searching the property, a box containing 408g of heroin was found concealed in a vent under the staircase, and two further wraps were found in a shower head bracket. Fingerprint marks matching those of Proffitt were found on these items.

Four mobile phones were also seized from the property.

Sgt Jones said: “The quantity of heroin recovered is far in excess of what he would expect to see someone who is simply a user to be in possession of for their own use.

“Given the value of the heroin recovered and the financial circumstances of the defendant, we were confident it was unlikely she would be able to fund a purchase of such a quantity of heroin without being involved in the supply of drugs.

“The only realistic reason for possessing this quantity of heroin was for supply onto others.”

Proffitt was charged with possession with intent to supply, and pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to 57 months in prison when she appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Thursday, November 26.

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New permanent walk-in test centre opens in Aberystwyth

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PEOPLE in Aberystwyth with symptoms of COVID-19 now have access to a permanent walk-in testing facility.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has arranged for a Local Testing Site (LTS) to be located inside the former Padarn Nursery building, (behind, but not connected to, Padarn Surgery), on Penglais Road.

Local people should avoid using the nearby nursery car park, leaving it free for those people accessing tests to park there. People who attend the walk-in centre must wear a face covering.

Meanwhile, the drive-through facility at Canolfan Rheidol has now been relocated to Cardigan in response to a rise in cases in that area. Residents of Aberystwyth will not be impacted by this move as there is plenty of testing capacity at the LTS.

Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies & Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are very pleased to have secured this LTS for the people of Aberystwyth. Many residents in the town, including students, do not have their own private vehicle in order to access drive-through testing facilities, so the option of a walk-in facility is very important.

“This is a challenging time and I urge everyone to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings where required, maintain social distancing, washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible.”

Anyone who has symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell) must book a test as soon as possible.  This can be done through the online UK portal at www.gov.wales/coronavirus.

University students with COVID-19 symptoms, when booking a test, are required to provide their local address in Aberystwyth.

Please do not book a test if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and do not attend testing centres without booking first as you will not be seen without an appointment.

Please follow the latest self-isolation guidelines which can be found here.

For the latest news and updated from Hywel Dda University Health Board visit https://hduhb.nhs.wales/

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