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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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Three services in two days for New Quay RNLI

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NEW QUAY RNLI’s inshore lifeboat was called into action three times in two days last week, firstly to a surfer near New Quay while on a training exercise on Thursday evening (17 June), then to a windsurfer in Aberaeron on Friday (18 June) and, while returning to station, a passenger boat in New Quay with a fouled propeller. 

On Thursday evening Dylan Price, New Quay RNLI’s helm was taking crew on a training exercise when they were requested by HM Coastguard to assist a surfer in difficulty in Llanina, near New Quay. Dylan said, “On arrival we found them safe and well so a false alarm with good intent. We then continued with our training which included search patterns, a man overboard scenario and boat handling drills.” 

Next, on Friday afternoon, in a strong northerly wind, the inshore lifeboat was tasked on service once again. Pete Yates, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “We were requested by HM Coastguard to launch our inshore lifeboat at 1.40pm to a windsurfer in difficulty off Aberaeron. We made best speed up the coast in difficult conditions and arrived just as the casualty made it safely ashore, to be met by the New Quay Coastguard team. 

“On returning to New Quay we assisted a passenger boat with a fouled propeller. We were able to free the rope from the propeller and then returned to station. Good outcomes all round! Remember if you see if you see anyone in difficulty or you find yourself in trouble on the coast call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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NHS Wales announce first and second dose vaccination walk-in clinics

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Hywel Dda UHB is running walk-in vaccination clinics this week. There is no need to contact the health board to book an appointment and if you have already registered using the health board’s online form, you are still welcome to attend the walk-in clinic.

If you have a scheduled appointment, please keep your appointment time. 

With the rise in cases across the UK it is important that as many people come forward for their first and second vaccines.

First vaccine walk-in clinics for anyone aged 18 and over who hasn’t had their first COVID-19 vaccine yet:

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3FL): Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm.
  • Cardigan (Teifi Leisure Centre SA43 1HG): Friday 25 June, 9.30am to 5pm.
  • Carmarthen (Halliwell Conference Centre, UWTSD, SA31 3EP): Monday 21, Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23, Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. 
  • Llanelli (Ffwrnes Theatre SA15 3YE): Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. 
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ): Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 June, 10am to 8pm

Second vaccine walk-in clinics (please only attend if the centre is giving the same vaccine that you had for your first dose. This information can be found on your vaccine card.)

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3FL): Monday 21, Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Moderna vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 11 April.
  • Llanelli (Ffwrnes Theatre SA15 3YE): Monday 21, Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Moderna vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 11 April.
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ): Friday 25 June, 10am to 8pm. Second dose Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine only if you had your first dose on or before 25 April.

If you are unable to attend a walk-in clinic, you can still request your first vaccine by completing this form

To request your second dose please use this request form.

If you or someone you know is unable to use an online form, please contact our booking team on 0300 303 8322.

Important: By travelling to a centre, you accept there is a risk that all vaccines will be allocated before you arrive. If you arrive after all the vaccines are allocated, we will take your contact details and add you to our reserve list.

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Ceredigion RAF Veteran completes 500-mile walk around Scotland for RNLI Mayday

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ROGER PHILLIPS, an RAF veteran, recently completed a 500-mile walk around the north coast of Scotland. Roger, 73, chose to support the RNLI in their Mayday appeal after having survived becoming trapped in his sinking aircraft and nearly drowning in 1973.

After Roger’s dramatic experience, in which he became trapped in a sinking aircraft after it went down in the South China Sea, he chose to support the RNLI to help them continue to help other people who get into trouble in the water. In order to show his admiration for all the work that the RNLI has done over the years and continues to do, he decided to tackle Scotland’s 500 mile long North Coast route as part of the RNLI’s Mayday mile fundraiser.

Roger, from Aberaeron, Ceredigion began his journey from the village of Lochcarron and walked clockwise around the coastline managing to complete the entire 500 miles in 28 days. Despite difficult weather conditions and terrain, Roger still managed to achieve an 20.04 miles on the last day averaging 16 minutes 49 seconds per mile.

Reflecting on the challenge, Roger said: “The most outstanding thing to me was that I finished in Lochcarron and then it took 12 hours to drive home to Aberaeron and even I could not believe that was the same mileage as I had just walked. Put into a straight line the distance became unbelievable.”

Catherine Jones, RNLI Community Manager for North and Mid Wales said: “Throughout the Mayday challenge we have seen countless people show their support for the RNLI in many weird and wonderful ways. Roger’s has completed an amazing feat and raised a brilliant amount that will be essential to the RNLI’s ability to continue keeping people around the coast safe.

“The amount of support we’ve received from people like Roger who have gone above and beyond is truly heart-warming. It is thanks to people like him that our volunteer crews will be able to continue to save lives at sea particularly ahead of this summer which is looking to be one of the busiest ever.”

If you’d like to contribute to Roger’s fundraising efforts or find out more, you can via his Just Giving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walkthe500walkwithRoger

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