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Scallop dredging banned
CARDIGAN Bay’s controversial scallop fishery has been closed down, the Cambrian News can reveal.
The industrial dredging operation which has been blamed for destroying the sea bed has been banned from the Bay indefinitely.
And the fishing practice which was due to begin its new season on 1 November may never be permitted in Ceredigion and Gwynedd's coastal waters again.
The county’s Fisheries Committee representative Elizabeth Evans said: “The fishery has been shut down for an indefinite period.
“It was due to open for the new season on 1 November but the committee has decided not to allow that.
“We are waiting for an assessment of the damage done to the Bay by scallop dredging, and we won’t consider re-opening the fishery until this is completed.
“If evidence is found that scallop dredging causes extensive damage, the fishery may not be re-opened.”
County Cllr Evans said she believed the practice of dragging scoops along the sea bed was ruining large areas of the Bay and destroying the habitat of underwater creatures.
Her views are disputed by scallop fishermen, who claim that the environmental impact of their activities have been exaggerated.
She said: “Common sense tells you that dragging massive steel buckets along the bottom of the sea is not good for the environment.
“The problem we have is that without a proper assessment there is no scientific evidence to support a permanent ban.
“At the moment we have stopped a very profitable industry and taken away the livelihoods of fishermen without having the evidence we need to justify that. We need the assessment to be completed as soon as possible.”
Scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay has been the target of campaigns by environmentalists who believe that the industrial method is causing permanent harm to wildlife.
Mark Williams MP and AM Elin Jones have also expressed concerns about its impact on the Bay’s delicate ecosystem.
The numbers of scallop dredgers operating in the area have dramatically increased over recent years as other parts of the British coastline have banned the practice.
Cllr Evans, who is also Mayor of Aberaeron, added: “Four years ago there were three local scallop boats in use in the Bay, and most of the fishing was done by them.
“Since other areas have banned scallop dredging we have seen more and more boats from elsewhere coming into our waters.
“We now have a situation where as many as 70 vessels are operating at once, and this clearly is not sustainable.
“Scallop dredging is one of the most lucrative fishing methods and this is why there are so many boats wanting to carry on the trade.”
Cllr Evans is one of two members of Ceredigion County Council who sit on the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee, which controls Cardigan Bay.
She said the decision to ban scallop boats at the start of the new season had been taken during a recent meeting in Mold.
Marine biologists from Lancaster University will carry out an assessment of the fishery’s environmental impact.
The findings will be scrutinised by scientists employed by the scallop fishing industry and will be presented to a future committee meeting.