Trawling away Dolphins in Cardigan Bay
There has been a hint from the Welsh government about changing legislation about the marine reserve of Cardigan Bay in Wales. This would be a catastrophic change of the supposed green Welsh government allowing scallop trawling, legally back into this precious area. It has one of the highest levels of protection; however the government wish to allow the trawlers back in. The link to the original document is below, which highlighted how diverse and important it is, back in 2008, but now it seems they have forgotten it. It was originally commissioned by the government and local councils: Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation Original Report
Cardigan Bay itself is a haven for marine life, schools of fish, sea birds and of course dolphins. It is particularly important being slightly warmer than the surrounding seas because of the geology of the bay. Many of the rocks along the coast are 100’s of millions of years old, resisting erosion and weathering meaning that the coast line and bathymetry is an ideal home for many species of marine animals. It houses one of the largest populations of bottle nose dolphin in the UK, principally related to the size of bay and the supply of food. There are also grey seals, again one of the largest populations in Europe, lobsters, scallops, flat fish, rays and other species make their home in this area as there are plenty of locations to take cover and hide from predators. This naturally sheltered cove has plenty of food and provides a perfect place for the Dolphins to raise their young with plenty of shelter and bottom dwelling food slow enough for their pups to catch.
The Welsh government is in consultation about allowing full-scale trawling; the home of the dolphins and seals is under threat. This doesn’t sound terrible however; a good analogy is as follows. Deer hunted in woodland areas, has parallels to going fishing. Throwing a line out to catch the fish and shooting individual deer are moderate comparisons. However to make the analogy for trawling you would need a large bulldozer, laced with spikes the size of a small tree and then drive that over the woodland, destroying everything in its path just to collect the deer. That is essentially what trawling does. Scraping all life from the seabed and destroying any habitat there. The report link above shows small areas of sand, with the rest dominated by cobbles, rocks and boulders, ideal habitat for crustaceans to live providing food for the dolphins and seals. The image below shows the type of habitat found in our cold waters, with muddy substrate ideal for worms that has been carved by trawlers. The second, our soft corals and sponge epifauna ripped up, replaced by a discarded drop stone, most likely picked up in the trawlers net and discarded off the boat.
Initially, trawling away our marine life may have sounded dramatic but it has real impacts. The guidance for this legislation change is from an area within the reserve devoid of life, dominated with a muddy substrate. This is a direct result of both trawling before there was marine protection implemented and the current illegal trawling taking place right now! A once fruitfu habitat destroyed replaced by a barren wasteland, yet the government is using this report from as ammunition for change.
It seems odd how this type of measure has even come to fruition. A government and an area that is really connected to the wildlife and conservation, but has now taken a contradicting path. Public opinion needs rallying to stop these types of changes. It could be seen as an attempt for the government to increase jobs and money for the community, yet there is a huge expanse of ocean out there, with only this locality having such numbers of dolphins, seals and other wildlife. The Dolphins and wildlife watchers provide a significant amount of money to the area, and any trawling is likely to effect this income. Can we not just leave the wildlife alone in its natural home without smashing it down at every opportunity?
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