Author: Lyndsey Maiden

Winter Woodland Working Ceredigion

Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe
Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe

Coed Maidie B Goddard coupe

Over the winter we’ve done a lot of tree felling, mostly to finish our Better Woodlands Wales grant work. We’ve thinned the woods at Pant Da and Coed Maidie B Goddard and cut coupes in both of these reserves as well. We’ve also fitted in some water vole habitat improvement works at Cors Ian where we’ve cut back some willow that was over-shading a stream- there were a few wet feet!

Now that’s all done we’ve moved on to attacking the brambles that threaten our grasslands, encroaching from the sides and springing up in the middle of the meadows! We cleared lots in Old Warren Hill too where they were encroaching the paths and covering the bluebells carpets. Blackthorn and gorse growing in the wrong place don’t escape us either!

Weekend work parties at Cwm Clettwr have been working on halo thinning the birch around the oaks, hazels and rowans and removing any rogue western hemlocks. Contractors have also been in and worked on some of the larger western hemlocks on the south side where bigger oaks are struggling to survive amongst them.

There has been some halo thinning and some ring barking and there is a lot more light getting through to the floor now and room for the oaks to grow.

Volunteering Opportunities at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre Landwatch volunteers

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre Landwatch volunteers

Calling all marine enthusiasts!

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre are looking for volunteers to help us to collect data on the marine wildlife of Cardigan Bay, run our busy visitor centre and inspire people through our educational and awareness raising activities.

Dolphin by Sarah Perry

Dolphin by Sarah Perry

The day to day life of a Wildlife Trust Living Seas Volunteer at CBMWC varies greatly. In the morning you could be conducting a land based marine mammal survey, monitoring Cardigan Bay’s bottlenose dolphin population and in the afternoon you could be running the visitor centre and interacting with members of the public.

But that’s not all our volunteers do. Other daily duties include entering data, helping to run educational events such as Seashore Safaris as well as helping to protect our coastal environment by conducting beach cleans.

Volunteering for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales at CBMWC is a fantastic opportunity for you to gain valuable experience, contribute towards marine conservation, meet new people with similar interest and experience Wales’ amazing marine life.

Want to get involved?

Each research season we offer Research Volunteer positions (over 18’s only) to those living outside the area to join us for specific time periods (min commitment 8 weeks). These positions are ideal for those seeking a career in conservation as you will gain valuable work experience. For more information please visit Cardigan Bay website.

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre volunteers

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre volunteers

Live locally to New Quay? Local volunteers who are available on a part-time basis are welcome year round.  Whatever your age, experience or background we would like to hear from you. For more information please visit the Cardigan Bay website.

If you’re between your 14th and 26th birthday and want to volunteer at CBMWC then you also have the opportunity become a Millennium Volunteer (MV). MV is a recognised award that highlights the number of hours of your time you have dedicated to volunteering; this is great for your CV. You can work towards your 50, 100 or 200 hour certificates whilst helping with our work.

Please note that enthusiasm for our work and the marine environment is as valued as experience, since full training is provided.

The volunteering programme at CBMWC is supported by the Volunteering in Wales Fund via Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

ShoreFin Project – Eye spy a fin!

Jacky and her calf by Manon Chautard

Jacky and her calf by Manon Chautard

About the ShoreFin Project

Volunteers collecting data for the ShoreFin Project whilst being filmed for the UK Big Blue programme in 2015. Photography by Sarah Perry

Volunteers collecting data for the ShoreFin Project whilst being filmed for the UK Big Blue programme in 2015. Photography by Sarah Perry

Initiated in 2014 the ShoreFin project is our dedicated land-based bottlenose dolphin Photo-identification study located in New Quay Bay. For decades we have known that New Quay bay on the Ceredigion coast is a hotspot for bottlenose dolphins, but why?

The ShoreFin project was set up to find out why New Quay bay is such a hotspot as well as to understand more about the bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay. The ShoreFin Project allows us to extend our dolphin photo-id work and enables us to take photographs from shore-based survey sites using a digital SLR camera and a 500mm lens, it is ideal for our photo-id work in New Quay bay.

The primary aim of the project is to improve the understanding of bottlenose dolphin site usage within New Quay Bay, to identify which individuals visit this site, how frequently and for what purpose.

What we have found out

Since 2014, the ShoreFin project has identified a total of 92 different dolphins that have used New Quay Bay. In 2015, 61 individuals were identified from photographs taken by the ShoreFin project, 19 of which were new to the CBMWC Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin photo-identification catalogue. The data collected by the ShoreFin project suggests that it is often the same individual dolphins frequenting New Quay bay, thus highlighting the importance of adherence to local codes of conduct such as Ceredigion marine code of conduct. The ShoreFin project also provides evidence of the frequent use of New Quay Bay by mother and calf pairs; seven were photographed in 2014 and ten in 2015. The area is believed to be favoured by these mothers for its sheltered shallow waters where their calves are safe to socialise and learn to forage.

Nick and calf by Manon Chautard

Nick and calf by Manon Chautard

The project has also found that individual bottlenose dolphins show different degrees of site fidelity (the tendency of a dolphin to stay in or regularly return to a particular area); those who were photographed regularly, likely to be semi-residents and those seen only once during the season, therefore likely to be in transit.

Bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay are exposed to potentially disturbing activities that could pose conservation challenges. The continuation of the ShoreFin project will help provide rigorous scientific assessments of the population to help develop effective and adaptive management strategies and conservation measures.

Interested in reading the report…

The ShoreFin project 2015 report is now available to download from the CBMWC website.

We do not receive any direct funding to carry out this project, but rely entirely on the support of our team of Living Seas volunteers, grants and donations to purchase vital equipment to enable this project to run. If you would like to donate to our work then please contact us.

We would like to thank all the Living Seas volunteers at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre for their valuable contribution to our work and in respect of this project Anna Stevens and Manon Chautard for their enthusiasm, hard work and dedication to the ShoreFin project in the 2015 season.

Living Seas volunteer 2015 Anna Stevens photographing mother and calf dolphin in New Quay bay. Photography by Sarah Perry

Living Seas volunteer 2015 Anna Stevens photographing mother and calf dolphin in New Quay bay. Photography by Sarah Perry

Be involved…

We are currently on the look-out for volunteers to become part of the ShoreFin team for 2016. If you are interested or know anyone that would be interested in joining the ShoreFin team and volunteering for the whole season (April to November) then please contact us at volunteer@cbmwc.org or phone 01545 560224.

Further information on the project can be found on our website or feel free to contact me directly.

Sarah Perry
Living Seas Science Officer
Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales

Limpets at Frenchman’s Steps, Pembrokeshire

Limpets by Lara Howe

Limpets by Lara Howe

John Archer-Thomson was studying limpets in Pembrokeshire before the Sea Empress grounded in 1996. Here he tells the story of his work on the coastal ecology before and since the disaster, and the wider impacts of man’s activities on the two seashore species.

I have been studying the population of limpets on a rocky shore called Frenchman’s Steps since I started work at Dale Fort Field Centre in 1982. Residential student groups collected the data as part of their biology field course and I kept the data sets, as it seemed like a good idea at the time! When the Sea Empress oil spill occurred in 1996 I had a good set of “normal” data to compare the effects of the oil to.

In essence the oil reduced the population by approximately 50%. Students collected data by measuring the longest diameter, in millimeters, of every limpet in their randomly placed quadrats at different heights up the shore from a base height, a known marker point 2.25m above Chart Datum. They then worked up the shore in 0.75m height jumps until they ran out of limpets. Because we had size data we could also say that the oil had warped the age structure of the population by killing proportionally more young limpets. We assumed, for this shore, that the smallest limpets were the youngest, it might not actually be this straightforward but it’s probably not too unfair an assumption in general.

Student data is all very well but I wished to assess the recovery of the population from the oil and then go on to look at the limpets each year to see what represented “normal” variation. For this I wanted the data to be as reliable as possible so I enlisted the help of some MSc students, from the University of Leuven, to collect the data as I taught them every year. To my surprise numbers of limpets had recovered to what might be considered “normal” within a year of the spill but the population age structure was still askew. Two years later numbers were on the high side of “normal” but, to my delight, the age structure had returned to “normal” as well.

I continued to monitor the population using Dale Fort teaching staff in the latter years as Leuven students found measuring limpets less fascinating than hitherto! All proceeded normally (numbers and population structure) until 2010. To my surprise the numbers of limpets were much greater than ever before (so much so I wondered if the data, collected by Dale Fort placement students, was reliable). In 2011 I collected the data myself, with Dale Fort teaching staff, to check its reliability and to my astonishment numbers were even higher again! In both years the structure of the population was normal.

The explanation for these off the chart limpet numbers is where life gets even more interesting, rather speculative and a little more complex.

Dogwhelk by Lara Howe

Dogwhelk by Lara Howe

Another rocky shore denizen is the dogwhelk, a carnivorous snail that on the shores around Dale Fort eats barnacles (and young limpets at a push). When I arrived at Dale Fort in 1982 you had to search really hard to find any dogwhelks on the shores from the Fort to Dale village, they were incredibly rare. The reason for their rarity was a spectacularly toxic anti-fouling paint called Tri-butyl Tin (TBT). This was applied to the hulls of yachts, tankers etc. to prevent fouling organisms settling on the hulls and therefore slowing the boats passage through the water by friction. This was the most toxic substance ever deliberately introduced into the marine environment by humans; a teaspoon-full in an Olympic-sized swimming pool is enough to adversely affect marine organisms. Since dogwhelks are carnivores they received a bigger “hit” from the TBT as their suspension-feeding prey concentrated it. Female dogwhelks grew a non-functional male reproductive organ, which blocked their oviduct and prevented successful reproduction. Numbers plummeted in estuaries around the UK as a consequence of TBT poisoning. TBT was banned from small vessels in 1987 (and a complete ban has been in place on all vessels since 2008) and as a result dogwhelk numbers have increased spectacularly on the shores around Dale Fort. My suggestion is that the dogwhelk population spike has impacted their main prey, barnacles, freeing up space on the rocks for young limpets to settle on and allowing a population increase above “normal” limits.

After 2011 limpet numbers have decreased again and my suggestion for the decrease is as follows. Dogwhelks may have impacted the barnacle population to such an extent as to need to switch prey species and I think they then targeted young limpets (old limpets’ shells are too thick to be worth the effort). This has led to a decrease in the limpet population to “normal” again possibly by 2013. I will monitor the population again in April 2016 to continue the story!

All this shows the value of long-term data sets, ideally without missing years. The above explanation for the patterns observed is reasonable but not definite, other variables may well have contributed but it does make an interesting story and allows students to see how data they have collected fits into a broader picture and also how their efforts are valuable in long-term monitoring.

The Sea Empress: twenty years on

Dyfed Wildlife Trust Magazine cover, August 1996

Dyfed Wildlife Trust Magazine cover, August 1996

Many of our readers and members will remember the fateful date of 15 February 1996. The Sea Empress, a tanker carrying over 70,000 tons of crude oil was making her way to the refinery near Pembroke, when she grounded in the Milford Haven waterway, on rocks near St Ann’s Head. The grounding site was close to our internationally important nature reserves of Skomer and Skokholm. The disaster that rapidly unfolded came to be Britain’s third largest oil spillage.

Oil floating in the Wick with Kittiwakes already on the ledges by Simon Smith

Oil floating in the Wick with Kittiwakes already on the ledges by Simon Smith

According to a report from Swansea University, over 6,900 birds were found, recovered dead or rescued. More than 250 birds were recorded as stranded on the Irish coast. The common scoter made up the largest proportion of casualties, with at least 4,700 recovered. In excess of 1,100 guillemots were also recovered, and other species included cormorant, red-throated diver and razorbill. More than 25 species were affected in total.

The Trust (then the Dyfed Wildlife Trust in the west) was heavily involved in the aftermath and clean up effort, which made headline news for weeks. David Saunders, Director of the Trust at the time of the disaster, recalls meeting HRH the Prince of Wales at West Angle to discuss the nature conservation impacts, being filmed for Panorama, and even meeting Tony Blair, who was then leader of the opposition.

Steve Sutcliffe, who had been warden on Skomer till not long before the spill and who lives close to the site of the grounding, remembers:

“In the next few days there were people all over the beaches and cleaning centres set up for oiled birds, although many of them were past it. The oil headed for Carmarthen Bay with north westerly winds prevailing and it was all hands on deck around Tenby and Saundersfoot where the tourist season was due to start.  The cleaning up operation here was a mega removal effort. On Caldey, the oil came ashore all around the island and can still be seen on the rocky shores today, and there are still residues in the sand. St Margarets Island’s auk populations suffered badly – almost 60% of the cliff nesting breeding birds disappeared. The large cormorant colony was unaffected as the breeding birds had not returned yet and somehow they missed it all. Most gulls seemed able to keep out of the oil.”

Experiments carried out after the event suggested that most dead birds probably went across the Irish Sea to Ireland, and it seems likely that many dead oiled auks might have also drifted away from the Pembrokeshire shores on the strong offshore currents. It is very possible that the numbers of dead birds counted was probably a big underestimate.

Oil washing ashore in Angle Bay by Jack Donovan

Oil washing ashore in Angle Bay by Jack Donovan

Significant impacts were observed on the wider marine ecology of the area. John Archer-Thomson is a local ecologist who has been studying the area for many years. Beginning work at the Dale Fort Field Centre in 1982; he is a member of the Trust’s Islands Conservation Advisory Committee to this day. Though his work at the Centre he had been studying the population of limpets on a rocky shore called Frenchman’s Steps and so had over ten years of data by the time the Sea Empress grounded. His valuable monitoring data both before and after the event showed that the oil reduced the population by approximately 50%.

It was fortunate that both Skomer and Skokholm were remarkably unaffected – a gift of the prevailing weather conditions which in contrast sealed the fate of locations like Tenby. Nonetheless many of the long term studies on Skomer did detect impacts at a population level, even though relatively few oiled birds were seen immediately around the island. Professor Tim Birkhead’s detailed work on Skomer subsequently showed an effect on populations and breeding success of guillemots in the immediate aftermath of the incident, despite being masked to some extent by the continuing significant general population increases. The St Margaret’s Island population recovered by 2005 and went on to substantially exceed the pre 1996 figures – but it took nine years to do that.

So twenty years on, what has changed? The Milford Haven waterway remains a busy and important industrial centre, and if you stand on Skomer and Skokholm and watch the lights of the tankers and refinery at night it throws the vulnerability of the islands to a catastrophic event into undeniably sharp relief. Safety procedures and environmental controls have improved, but the potential will always be there. And the Sea Empress herself? She was repaired and put back to work after the 1996 disaster, changing hands (and name) several times, before being decommissioned in 2012.

One of the most important lessons remains incredibly pertinent in these days of austerity. We are only able to look back and talk about the impacts of the disaster because of the long terms studies undertaken by the Trust, and by individuals such as John Archer-Thomson and Professor Tim Birkhead. Their long term investment in monitoring meant that high quality data were available for the years before the event, providing the baseline against which the impact was measured. Without the maintenance of these long term studies we cannot decipher the evidence to establish the effect of our decisions, policies- and yes, disasters. Funding has already been cut to many biological monitoring programmes, and there are serious concerns about the security of those that remain.

Sea Empress beneath St Ann's Head by Mick Baines

Sea Empress beneath St Ann’s Head by Mick Baines

It seems fitting, twenty years on, to end with a memory from David Saunders, who watched from St Ann’s Head as the Sea Empress was towed away from the grounding site on 27 March 1996.

“As soon as I left the car near the old light I could smell oil, and see an enormous oil film spread back from the stern of the Sea Empress, narrow at first, just like the wake of a ship, but broadening out the further east one looked. It extended from the ship eastwards into Milford Haven at least as far as West Block-house, and from the Mid Channel Light north to under St Ann’s itself. It looked to be an oil film, though here and there one could see (through binoculars) small patches of darker material. A Gannet flew low over the oil film heading north… …at one stage, a female Grey Seal appeared several times in the midst of the film south-east of St Ann’s, it seemed to be watching the inward passage of anti-pollution craft and tugs.”

The Snail

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys
Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) by Graham Watkeys

An embodiment of the golden ratio, a mathematical secret of the universe hidden in the turns of a shell; a horticultural horror, an armoured spiral, chewed leaves and silver trails reveal the single footed glider.

A conqueror of the land coming from ancient seas needing only the sun gifted ghost of oceans and the shade of the night to thrive, snails are a seemingly ubiquitous part of the world, hated by some, ignored by most it has been shown that snails have more to them than meets the eye.

The garden snail (Cornu aspersum) Graham Watkeys

The garden snail (Cornu aspersum) Graham Watkeys

An experiment carried out in 2010 by a frustrated but snail friendly gardener of ravaged beans and decimated lettuce, found that snails have a strong homing instinct (search snails homing instinct if you don’t believe me) and you have to move them over 20 metres away (which is a very, very long way for a snail) to be sure of them not coming back. (And of course I did BBC So You Want To Be A Scientist – Snails – the Editor)

So simple snails have the ability to know which way is home, I wonder how the pigeon, that most famous of cartologically minded animals, feels about being upstaged by a mere gastropod?

I often see snails in the crevices of walls and rocky outcrops at Taf Fechan and knowing they could be the same individual snails in the same crevices every time I pass makes me feel we have a relationship if only a vicarious one.

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Volunteer Warden

Primary colonisers

Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys
Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Bonfire Moss – Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Another in the series of updates on interesting species recorded at Taf Fechan sees the inclusion of Bonfire moss AKA Common cord-moss as number 554 on my list.

The Taf Fechan reserve is known as an important location for Bryophytes and is acknowledged as one of the best sites in Glamorgan for these small but fascinating plants.

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Recognisable by its wavy setae (the stalk that holds the spore baring capsules) Funaria hygrometrica is a primary coloniser of fire sites; in fact it miraculously and invariably turns up almost as soon as the fire goes out.

Being a specialist of what is essentially an extremely geographically random and sporadically generated habitat it must be ready to colonise and germinate at a moment’s notice.

Millions of its spores must be drifting in the wind hoping to land on the right habitat; it’s not just pollen floating around in the air. Primary colonisers do a vastly important and often underrated job, they are able to tolerate, and even thrive in, very hostile habitats and their death and decay provides humic organic material to what is effectively a sterile environment eventually allowing other plants to grow; they bring back life to the scorched earth.

Finding an unrecorded moss species at Taf Fechan was a bit of a surprise but it is usually very inconspicuous when not fruiting, now is the best time of year to look for this species on old fire sites as well as other hostile habitats, for example the moss found on old compost in plant pots is probably this species.

Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan voluntary warden

Say Yes to Gift Aid

Dolphin in Cardigan Bay by Sarah Perry

Say Yes to Gift Aid and our Dolphins will be jumping for joy (picture by Sarah Perry)

You may soon receive a phone call from a representative of WTSWW asking if you are eligible for Gift Aid. These are genuine calls on behalf of the Trust and we kindly ask that where possible you take the call to help us raise much needed funds.

hareGift Aid is vital for charities as it helps us increase our donations and subscriptions by 25% without any additional cost to you. If you are a UK tax payer (nearly everyone in the UK pays a certain amount of tax) and pay an amount of tax that is equal to, or more than, the amount we will reclaim in the tax year, you can say yes to Gift Aid.

So, if you are a member and pay us £60 in any one year, we can claim an additional £15 in Gift Aid! As long as you pay at least £15 in tax in a year, then you can say YES to Gift Aid and increase your donation with no cost to yourself.

We understand that people can sometimes be wary about taking phone calls, however the more people that say yes to Gift Aid over the phone, the more money we can save, as this will drastically reduce the amount of letters we need to post.

You may already have received a call regarding this but were not sure how Gift Aid works, or preferred not to speak to someone over the phone at that particular time. Don’t worry, you can still say yes to Gift Aid by contacting our membership department on Tel: 01656 724100 and speaking to one of our friendly team. Alternatively you can drop us an email to membership@welshwildlife.org with your full name, membership number and postcode, informing us that you would like to say yes to Gift Aid. It really is as simple as that.

If you do have any queries about this or would like to check whether you have already said yes to Gift Aid, please do not hesitate to contact us on Tel: 01656 724100.

Frog Went A-Courting

Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks
Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks

Frogs at Coed y Bwl Richard Marks

Frog spawn at Coed y Bwl

Frog spawn at Coed y Bwl by Richard Marks

Frogs are already on the march at Coed-y-Bwl Reserve – one jump ahead this year with masses of spawn appearing on January 27.

Reserve volunteers have logged only one January record in the same ancient sheep pond alongside the wood – coincidentally on January 27, 2008 during a comparably mild period of westerly weather.

At a time when frog ponds are vanishing through land development, the Coed-y-Bwl team have cared for the frogs by diverting rain water from a lane next to the reserve along a ditch and into the pond.

Twenty years ago the workers excavated – with buckets and spades – tonnes of silt to restore the pond for wildlife.

Richard Marks Coed y Bwl volunteer

Time to Save Our Seas

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte
Queen scallop by Amy Lewis

Queen scallop by Amy Lewis

Time for action: Save our seabed

Welsh Scallop fishery consultation

Cardigan Bay, on the west coast of Wales, is an important area for scallops. It is also an important area for wildlife, with a large Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Click the What You Can Do tab to Take Action Now or download our template response here. Thank You. 

Download Template Response
Introduction
The History
Cause for concern?
What can you do?
References

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

Queen Scallop by Polly Whyte

Current government management measures for scallops within the protected site in Cardigan Bay (Cardigan Bay SAC) allow only one area within the SAC being opened for a limited time each year for scallop dredging. These measures came into force in 2010 and were based on the limited evidence available at the time of inception. Welsh Government has now stated that it aims to establish a viable and sustainable scallop fishery within the currently closed area within Cardigan Bay SAC.

The Minister for Natural Resources has launched a consultation entitled ‘Proposed New Management Measures for the Scallop Fishery in Cardigan Bay’.

The Welsh Government had suspended the consultation due to technical glitches with the online form. This has now been resolved and the consultation has been reopened with a closing date of the 17th Feb 2016. All responses already submitted using the original method should be resubmitted in case they weren’t received as intended.

On the 26th November 2015 the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant relaunched a Welsh Government consultation entitled “Proposed New Management Measures for the Scallop Fishery in Cardigan Bay”.

Cast your minds back to the winter of 2008/2009, at this time if you were to look out to sea at night you may have seen a myriad of shining lights on the horizon – these were the lights from fishing boats, fishing for scallops.

fishing boat and fishery patrol

Fishing boat and fishery patrol

At that time the fishing was reportedly good and there was an influx of vessels into Cardigan Bay from all around the UK and further afield all wanting to take advantage of a good thing!

Following this, concerns were raised over the amount of dredging taking place and the impact on the features of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This led to the closure of all Welsh territorial waters to scallop dredging in 2009.

In 2010 the Welsh Government introduced a new piece of legislation, opening up an area of sea within the Cardigan Bay SAC within which scallop dredging was allowed to once again take place. This area is commonly referred to as the “Kaiser box” and allows a restricted fishery to occur on a seasonal basis which continues to date.

Parts of Cardigan Bay are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Cardigan Bay Sac and Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC. Cardigan Bay SAC is designated for its population of bottlenose dolphins, its sandbanks, reefs and sea caves, which are of European importance. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are particularly concerned about the potential impact on the features of the site as well as the effect across the whole of the SAC including the long term impact on the marine ecosystem.

It is well documented that the process of dredging can alter the seabed habitat and diversity through the movement and disturbance of the seabed (Dayton et al 1995, Kaiser et al., 1996).

Newhaven scallop dredger

Newhaven scallop dredger

Fishing for scallops with the toothed Newhaven dredges commonly used around the United Kingdom (UK) has been considered one of the most damaging of all fishing gears to non-target benthic communities and habitats (Kaiser et al., 2006). Changes to the physical structure of the seabed can occur (Collie et al., 2000) as well as changes to the seabed community structure (Dayton et al., 1995).

Larger sediment, such as cobbles, are picked up and brought to the surface in the dredge itself and discarded away from source. Other impacts include sediment compaction, and chemical changes caused by the disturbance of the seabed (Sciberras et al., 2013).

Dredges can damage reef structures and other vulnerable seabed habitats and features as well as impacting non-target species. The long-term impact on the marine ecosystem as a whole, including all species, in particular species further up the food chain is largely unknown.

Pink Sea Fan Paul Naylor

Pink Sea Fan Paul Naylor

The current consultation includes the Welsh Government’s recommendations for the establishment of a viable and sustainable scallop fishery within the Cardigan Bay SAC.

There has been little or no pre-consultation engagement with wider stakeholders other than representatives from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) scientists (it is not clear which scientists were consulted with), and industry representatives.

No conservation organisations were involved. The Welsh Government proposals include the introduction of a scallop permit scheme allowing those with a permit to dredge for scallops anywhere in the Cardigan Bay area within the 3 to 12 nautical mile zone, subject to certain conditions that would be applied on an annual basis.

These recommendations are based on a study conducted in the Cardigan Bay SAC, undertaken by Bangor University in collaboration with the industry during 2014 and early 2015. This study investigated the impact that scallop dredging may have on the SAC and its wildlife. However, this study fails to take into account the fact that the seabed has already been damaged by previous dredging activity.

Until 2010, over two thirds of the Cardigan Bay SAC were open to scallop dredging, creating modified seabed habitats throughout the whole of Cardigan Bay. Using a previously dredged area of the SAC as a baseline is not adequate justification for permitting further damaging activity; a more appropriate control would have been a pristine area of seabed.

The Cardigan Bay SAC is in an unfavourable condition with the protected features in a degraded state. It is unclear why the Welsh Government is considering opening up additional areas within Cardigan Bay to a damaging activity which could prevent the site from recovering, a requirement by both national and international legislation, without robust scientific evidence to suggest there would be no adverse effect on the area.

There are concerns that the potential effect of the fishing activity and the impacts of this on other economic activities within Cardigan Bay have not been considered.

Tourism brings far more money into the coastal economy than the fishing industry, a clean and healthy marine and coastal environment is fundamental for the future of coastal communities and therefore coastal tourism. In 2009 visitors (i.e. tourists) to Wales contributed £6.18bn (13.3% of Welsh GDP) (Wales Tourism Definitive Value report (2012).

In 2013 Dolphin watching in New Quay and the associated tourism activities contributed at least £4.9million to Ceredigion alone. The tourism sector is an industry based on many services and therefore the impact on the employment sector (such as agriculture, construction and hospitality) could be wide ranging. (Garcia Hernandez, 2015).

In Pembrokeshire studies have shown that total expenditure associated with tourism marine activities in St David’s was estimated at £51.4mn per annum, this equates to a contribution to the Welsh economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) of approx. £24.5mn per annum. The largest contributor is beach activities followed by walking and wildlife boat trips (Wales Activity Mapping, 2013).

The Welsh Government must consider additional scientific evidence and provide robust scientific evidence to demonstrate that additional scallop dredging activity in Cardigan Bay will not have an adverse effect, in the short or long term, on any of the features of the SAC.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are in the process of finalising our own formal response to this consultation.

However, we are aware that our members are keen to respond to the consultation and therefore we have created a draft response letter to assist those wishing to respond outlining the main concerns.

Download Template Response

We urge you to voice your own concerns; its very important that you personalise your response to ensure it is considered as a single response rather than a campaign response. It is also a good idea to word your response so that it cannot be misinterpreted. We hope that the information above will help you, should you wish to do this.

Please write directly to Welsh Government and send your letter in either by:
Email: fisheriesmailbox@Wales.gsi.gov.uk

Or
Post: Scallop Consultation, Marine & Fisheries Division, Llys-y-Draig, Penllergaer Business Park, Penllergaer, Swansea, SA4 9NX.

The formal consultation document can be downloaded in pdf format from the Welsh Government website.

Download Consultation Document

Please note that Welsh Government intends to publish the responses received. This includes publishing the name and address of the person or organisation that sent the response. If you do not want your name or address published then you must notify Welsh Government of this in writing. We suggest writing that you do not wish your personal data (name or address) to be published under any circumstances, clearly at the top of your letter of response.

We advise those wishing to respond to write directly to the Welsh Government, rather than use the online response form provided by the Welsh Government. The consultation is due to close on the 17th February 2016 and we strongly urge you to voice your opinions; have your say and respond to this consultation.

References and Useful Resources

Beukers-Stewert & Beukers-Stewart (2009). Principles for Management of Inshore Scallop Fisheries around the United Kingdom, Environment Department, University of York

Caddy, J.F (1973). Underwater observations on tracks of dredges and trawls and some effects of dredging on a scallop ground. Journal of Fisheries research board of Canada, 30. No 2 173-180.

Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Management Scheme 2008.

CCW (2009). Cardigan Bay European Maine Site Advice provided by the Countryside Council for Wales on fulfilment of regulation 33 of the conservation (Natural Habitats, &c). Regulations 1994, February 2009.

Collie, J.S., Escanero, G.A., and Valentine, P.C. (2000). Photographic evaluation of the impact of bottom fishing on benthic epifauna – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 57: 987-1001.

Dayton, P. K., S. F. Thrush, M. T. Agardy, and R. J. Hofman (1995). Environmental effects of marine fishing. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 5:205-232.

Garcia Hernandez, O (2015). Economic Impacts of sustainable marine tourism in the local economy. Case study: Dolphin watching activity in New Quay, Wales. MPhil thesis, Aberystwyth University

Hatton-Ellis, M., Kay, L., Lindenbaum, K., Wyn, G., Lewis, M., Camplin, M., Winterton, A., Bunker, A., Howard, S., Barter, G. & Jones, J (2012). MPA Management in Wales 1: Overview of current MPA management in Wales and a summary of new MPA management tools. CCW Marine Science Report 12/06/01, 56pp, CCW, Bangor.

Kaiser MJ, Hill AS, Ramsay K, Spencer BE and others (1996) Benthic disturbance by fishing gear in the Irish Sea: a comparison of beam trawling and scallop dredging. Aquat Conserv 6:269−285

Sciberras. M., Hinz, H., Bennell, J., Jenkins, S., Hawkns, S., Kaiser, M., 2013. Benthic community response to a scallop dredging closue within a dynamic seabed habitat. Marine Ecology Progress Series 480, 83-98.

Wales Activity Mapping: Economic Valuation of Marine Recreational Activity. Non Technical Executive Summary (2013). Report by Marine Planning Consultants Limited for Wales Activity Mapping Working Group.

Wales Tourism Alliance (2012). Wales Tourism Definitive Value Report

Early Spring Flowers Record Breaker

Coed y Bwl wild daffodil woods, near St. Brides Major by Richard Marks
Wild Daffodil at Coed y Bwl L Maiden

Wild Daffodil at Coed y Bwl L Maiden

It’s a record!

The first wild daffodils were in bloom at Coed y Bwl reserve on January 25 – beating a long-standing early record by six days.

Our mildest December since records began helped promote dormant bulbs at this wildwood gem in the Vale of Glamorgan.

On the same day, nuthatches were spring-cleaning an old woodpecker hole in an ash tree, song thrush and mistle thrush were in full song and a tawny owl was mobbed by wrens and blackbirds. Wood anemones and dog violets will bloom soon.

Visitors are asked to stay on the circular path and keep dogs on leads. The full display of daffodils is expected to mature by early March. And for the record: On Sunday, January 31, 1999, two daffodils burst forth to claim the earliest record since the Trust acquired the reserve forty-five years ago.

Coed y Bwl Daffodils

Coed y Bwl Daffodils

Set in the north west side of the Alun valley this stunning little nature reserve is well tended by a local group of volunteers who maintain its paths and walls. Every year this ancient ash woodland fills up with spring flowers, making it a spectacular sight, but the daffodils really make it special.

Concerned by the early onset of daffodils appearing in gardens from December one of our intrepid volunteers, Richard Marks, made it out to the site to check on the state of play. Whilst some daffodils are coming thankfully they are not all in flower yet, but it’s worthwhile remembering that we could have a very early bloom this year – so watch this space.

Signs of other spring flowers in many of our nature reserves are appearing, Dog’s Mercury has pushed up it’s leaves in many of our woodland reserves, snowdrops are blooming in Dinefwr Castle Woods Llandeilo, and bluebells are pushing their leaves up across the patch.

If our exceptionally warm weather continues then everyone will need to adjust their spring flower calendars back a little bit, although if we are in for a sudden cold snap before the winter is out then we could see many of our plants knocked back.

Amazing reserves to see spring flowers include:

Coed y Bedw – Pentyrch, Cardiff. An ancient broadleaved woodland. Bus number 136 from Cardiff to Gwaelod-y-Garth. ST111827

Coed y Bwl – Castle Upon Alun, Vale of Glamorgan. Ancient ash woodland where wild daffodils and bluebells are in abundance. Bus numbers 146 and 145 from Bridgend. SS909749

Craig Cilhendre Woods, Pontardawe, Swansea. Partially ancient oak woodland with some newer woodland areas. Bus numbers 122, X20 and X25 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Pontardawe. SN719022

Cwm Ivy Woods and Betty Church Reserve, Cwm Ivy, Gower, Swansea. Ancient broadleaved woodland with an abundance of spring woodland flowers, plantation and calcareous pasture and quarry. Bus number 116 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Llanmadoc. SS438937

Melincwrt Waterfalls, Resolven, Neath, Port Talbot. Spectacular waterfall and ancient oak woodland with beautiful spring woodland flowers. Bus number X5 and X6 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station or Neath Train Station. SN822020

Dinefwr Castle Woods, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Lowland mixed deciduous woodland with an abundance of spring flowers in a stunning setting. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. Bus number X13 from Swansea and the 280 from Carmarthen. SN623223

Coed Wern Ddu, Llanllwch, Carmarthen. Mixed deciduous and wet woodland with an abundance of spring flowers. No known public transport. SN373179

Poor Man’s Wood/Gallt y Tlodion, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. Sessile oak woodland with a hazel understorey. Lower down in the woodland is an abundance of spring flowers. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. 280 from Carmarthen although the bus stop is a reasonable walk from the woodland. SN781351

Coed Penglanowen and Old Warren Hill, Nanteos, Ceredigion. A varied woodland which includes the county’s tallest tree, a specimen of Sequioadendron giganteum. This woodland has a spectacular display of spring woodland flowers. The Aberystwyth circular town service stops in Penparcau, a 2km walk to the reserve. SN611786

Penderi Cliffs, between Llanrhystud and Monk’s Cave, Ceredigion. Oak woodland hanging on to the cliffs with a spectacular spring flower display of flowers. Bus numbers X40, X50 and 550. SN553734