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Crash, bang, Scallop

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screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-12-28-58RESTRICTIONS on scallop fishing in Cardigan Bay were originally placed in 2008-9, following an influx of boats from around the UK.

At present, one area of the bay, known as the Kaiser Box after scientist Michel Kaiser, is open to scallop dredging on a seasonal basis. However, as has been pointed out, beam trawling is still permitted in the bay outside the three mile limit.

A study commissioned by the Welsh Government to assess whether a sustainable scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay was feasible was completed in 2015. The report found that most of the area outside of the three mile fishing limit was relatively shallow and the seabed composed of a mixture of mixed sediment (gravels and sands) overlaid with highly mobile sand waves.

‘As a result of high levels of wave erosion, the seabed is dominated by opportunistic species such as small bivalves and worms and ephemeral surface dwellers like crabs and starfishes’, a summary of the report stated.

It was noted that the seabed in these areas was generally resilient to the effects of dredging, and that recovery was swift. In most cases, there were no marks left by dredging evident a year after the area was fished.

The findings were: “Seabed animal communities living in Cardigan Bay mostly recovered within four months of the fishing disturbance, particularly in areas fished less than four times. This recovery period coincided with summer recruitment and growth of seabed animals. The current management practice of a seasonal closure over the summer would appear to facilitate recovery of the biological components on the seabed.

“The seabed in deeper water offshore seems to be partly reconstructed by natural processes within four months of fishing disturbance and certainly 10 months later and would appear to be able to withstand fishing intensities up to 6.2 times complete coverage by scallop dredging. Some areas closer inshore would appear to take longer for the seabed to be reformed by natural processes and may require a full year for this to occur (with fishing intensities of 3.8 times swept per year).”

The presence of cobble reefs and bottlenose dolphins were the main factors behind the creation of the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation. Most of the cobble reefs in the bay are within the three mile limit, and there has been no suggestion that the entire bay will be permanently opened to scallop dredging.

In terms of potential harm to the dolphin population of the bay, the picture is far less clear-cut. In a snappily-titled opinion piece for The Guardian newspaper ‘The Dolphin Killers of Cardigan Bay’, environmental activist George Monbiot claimed that ‘when bottlenose dolphin calves are young, their mothers rely for much of their food on slow or sedentary animals on the seafloor, as they cannot travel fast or far at this time. Sustaining a healthy dolphin population, in other words, means sustaining a healthy seabed’.

It is also worth noting that the bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay declined between 2008-14. However, the Director of Sea Watch, Dr Peter Evans, said it was difficult to be sure that the two were related: “It could be due to natural changes in food availability or to the increasing evidence of disturbance related to the rise in recreational activities in the area. Or it could be a combination of all these. At present we don’t know,” he added.

Dr Evans went on to suggest that he believed dolphins and scallop dredging could co-exist, even within an SAC, and also recognised that restricting the scallop fishery to a limited area, as is currently the case, was unsustainable, ‘so either a larger area needs to be included, or the activity (which means its profits) should be limited’.

“A balance should therefore be struck. In this context, authorities should bear in mind that the overall annual income from dolphin-watching (direct through boat trips and indirect through purchase of food/meals, gifts and accommodation) is estimated to well exceed £3.5 million, and to involve 50,000+ visitors to West Wales,” he concluded.

The Welsh Government proposals which were put up for public consultation included restricting fishing activity through quotas (if necessary) temporal restrictions such as those which are currently in place, and rotational open areas, which would mean that the seabed would be given additional time to recover if needed.

However, Mid and West AM Simon Thomas is among a number of people who have accused the Welsh Government of turning their backs on ‘concerned constituents’, as well as putting the future of vulnerable wildlife at risk.

“I’ve met with Petition organisers and continually kept my constituents updated as I asked the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, to rethink the Welsh Government’s position and support the sustainability of the sensitive Ceredigion marine environment,” he added. A petition calling on the Welsh Government to change its plans currently has more than 30,000 signatures.

However, like his third Assembly predecessor in the role, Elin Jones AM, Mr Thomas wished to see a sustainable scallop fishery in Cardigan Bay: “First we have to ensure the current habitats have recovered enough to support such dredging. The decision to allow dredging when we don’t fully understand the impact on those areas that are supposed to be under conservation is concerning,” he remarked, before questioning how the WG would police the scallop fishery.

While it is unclear at present exactly what changes the Welsh Government would bring to policing the fishery, the current ‘suckfish’ dual tracker system used to enforce scallop dredging in the bay at present should still be effective if new areas were opened up.

The main deterrent to fishing outside permitted areas, or failing to comply with government imposed terms and conditions would be, as is the case today, heavy financial penalties. The skipper of a small scallop dredger was recently fined £13,000 for fishing outside the Kaiser Box, and was caught doing so as a result of tracker data. The skipper of a Cornish dredger was ordered to pay £50,000 in fines and costs in 2014, and it is worth noting that the Welsh Government pushed for a much stricter penalty at the time.

The question of allowing the habitat to recover is a far more complex issue, largely because confusion appears to exist over the point it is to be allowed to recover to. Cardigan Bay has been fished using a wide mixture of fishing techniques since time immemorial, and it is reasonable to assume that a large proportion of it has been bottom-trawled at some point over the last 50-100 years.

The view espoused by George Monbiot and Professor Callum Roberts, who contributed to The Guardian article above, was directly referred to by researchers from Bangor University who said: “Clearly we know that Robert’s statement is rather simplistic, as does any first year student of ecology who has studied succession in natural systems.”

While the findings of the Bangor University study have been openly queried, this remains the most comprehensive study of its kind ever carried out in the UK, and peer reviews described the work as ‘of high merit’ and sufficient to inform Welsh Government policy’.

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Directory of services launched by Ceredigion’s Carers Unit as part of Carers Rights Day

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WHETHER you are a new carer or have been caring for someone for a while, it’s important that you understand your rights and you’re able to access the support that is available to you as soon as you need it. Wherever you are in your caring journey.

It is more important than ever that Carers look after their own health and wellbeing as well as the people they care for. This year for Carers Rights Day, Ceredigion Carers Unit and our partners wanted to ensure Carers have the information and the knowledge that they need at their fingertips, so they can feel confident asking for what they need.

Ceredigion Carers Unit and partners have brought together a Bumper Edition of the Winter Carers Magazine. It’s a ‘Carers Rights Day Directory of services’ bursting with useful information and advice on your rights, including, where to get help and support in West Wales.

There is also a free Carers programme of talks & short training sessions online (also with access by telephone). This programme runs right through until end of March 2021.

Being a carer can take its toll on your wellbeing. Following a recent Carers UK survey, 78% of Carers in Wales said that they have been unable to take any, or a sufficient, breaks from their caring role since the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result of this, surveyed Carers also reported that their health and wellbeing had been affected, with 66% reporting that their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic.

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Carers Champion for Ceredigion County Council, said: “The magazine and the programme of talks & short courses appeals to a huge variety of unpaid Carers. There is something in there for parent Carers, dementia Carers, young Carers, those caring for someone affected by mental health or substance misuse issues and everything in between. And relevant to those caring for people of all ages. If you know of anyone with caring responsibilities who would benefit from this magazine or the free advice sessions, please pass it on.”

Catherine Moyle, Carers Support and Development Officer, Ceredigion County Council, Carers Unit said: “A warm welcome is extended to all unpaid Carers in the county and those that you care for. These are challenging times. Reaching out for support when you need it is a form of self-care and it boosts your resilience. It takes a strong person to carry on caring – it takes a stronger, more resilient person to reach out to others.”

The programme of online sessions and the magazine are available on Ceredigion County Council’s website here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/social-care-wellbeing/support-for-carers/carers-rights-day-2020/ and on their Facebook pages @CeredigionCC under events.

If you would prefer to request a printed copy of the magazine or would like any further information, please get in touch with the Ceredigion Carers Unit on 01970 633564 or e-mail carersunit@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Make this week count to reduce the spread of the virus

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THE NUMBER of coronavirus cases in Ceredigion continues to increase and we ask all residents to follow the guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. The sacrifices we make in the coming week will help to reduce the spread of the virus.

Over the last week, the County has seen 107 new cases, with 57 Ceredigion residents in the Cardigan area. But we are also seeing increasing numbers in the Lampeter area.

This sudden increase is something that we are not familiar with in Ceredigion but now is the time to work together to stop the spread even further.

We ask that you limit the number of times you leave your house and that you limit your social contact – the fewer people you mix with the less likely the virus will spread. It is better to see the same one or two people regularly than to see lots of different people. In both cases, it is safer to meet them outdoors and ensuring that you always maintain a 2m social distance.

Symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste. But be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with flu. We are urging people who feel unwell to be extra cautious, especially to practice hand hygiene and distancing, and if in doubt, please book a test.

But only book a test if you have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms and you go for a test and receive a negative result, it only tells you that you were didn’t have the virus on that day alone.

You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

If you have come into contact with a positive case or if you or a member of your household have symptoms, you must all self-isolate immediately. This means that you cannot leave the house for any reason, except to go for a test.

If you receive a positive test, you must self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started, meaning that you can leave your house on day 11. If you are a contact of a positive case, you must self-isolate for 14 days from when their symptoms started, meaning you can leave the house on day 15. It is critical that anyone needing to self-isolate completes the full number of days.

If you have been contacted by the Contact Tracing Team and been told to self-isolate, you may be entitled to Financial Support under the Self-Isolation Support Payment Scheme A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who qualify on the basis of low income, are unable to work from home and, as a consequence, will suffer a loss of income. To check if you are eligible for this payment and to make an application visit http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-support-payment-scheme/

Over the last week, we have seen our communities pulling together to stop the spread of the virus. Businesses in Cardigan have put in place procedures to ensure the safety of their customers whilst others have closed voluntarily during this period. We have also seen community spirit with support being provided to those who are self-isolating.

Remain vigilant and remember the key messages:

Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about;
Wash your hands regularly;
Limit your social contact;
Work from home wherever possible;
Wear a face mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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Development of Ceredigion’s first Wellbeing Hub approved

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THE PROPOSAL to develop a Wellbeing Centre in Lampeter was approved at a Cabinet meeting on 01 December 2020.

As part of its commitment to form an Adult Wellbeing Program, Ceredigion County Council intends to establish Wellbeing Hubs in North, Mid and South Ceredigion as well as pop-up provision in other locations in the County. Each Wellbeing Hub (area) will host a ‘Wellbeing Centre’ – a facility that enhances its core offer of Leisure provision with areas for meeting, consultation and treatment to contribute to improving the physical, mental and social well-being of the County’s residents.

Councillor Catherine Hughes said, “It is clear that residents’ support needs are changing and the Wellbeing Centre should be able to offer assistance and provide services to ensure that they respond to need and offer support to a wide range of support for people of all ages. It’s great to see this positive first step for the residents of mid Ceredigion.”

The Wellbeing Centre development concept will be presented to the Corporate Project Management Board and Development Group to ensure that it follows the agreed protocols for a project of this status. Ceredigion County Council intends to develop further Wellbeing Centres in the North and South of the County. The learning through the creation of the first Centre in Lampeter will influence the other Centres and implement the program in the future.

The Wellbeing Hub in Lampeter is being developed with the help of a grant from the Welsh Government.

In approving the application, this allows the Welfare Services to progress the project work on the development of the Wellbeing Centre in Lampeter.

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