THE Whale and Dolphin Conservation group has expressed disbelief and disappointment over the Welsh Government’s announcement that it intends to go ahead with opening up further protected areas of Cardigan Bay to scallop dredging.
The area of Cardigan Bay concerned is designated as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ due to its importance as a habitat for bottlenose dolphins.
It is also proposed as an SAC for harbour porpoise.
Commercial scallop fishing came to an end in the bay five years ago and WDC believes that it is incompatible with the aims of the SAC and with the protection of dolphins and porpoises.
The goup says the dredging destroys almost everything, smashing the seabed life forms to pieces and quickly reducing a rich ecosystem to a sandy or muddy desert.
WDC believes that, whilst trials for new management measures to help develop a more sustainable scallop fishery are welcome, they should not be carried out in such a sensitive, protected area.
WDC is also very concerned that no account has been taken of the possible impact on harbour porpoise populations, especially as the UK Government is currently being prosecuted for its failure to designate sites for this species.
Mick Green, from WDC, said: “We are very disappointed that the Welsh government has decided to ignore the robust scientific evidence we have provided, and to ignore the views of over 30,000 people who signed a petition against developing this fishery within a protected area.
"The SAC has been shown to be in an unfavourable state and we believe that work should focus on remedying this before any new fisheries are opened.”
TV presenter, naturalist and WDC supporter, Iolo Williams said: “I am appalled that the Welsh government, who are supposed to have sustainability at the heart of all their work, can contemplate opening up a protected area to such a destructive fishing method.”
WDC will now be reviewing the full statement by Welsh Government before deciding on any future actions.