Proposed plans to increase scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay face large opposition

OVER 30,000 people have signed a petition in opposition to the Welsh government’s plans to increase the amount of scallop dredging that can legally be done in Cardigan Bay.

Photo credit: Toby Gray

Photo credit: Toby Gray

The petition was started three months ago by ecologist and campaigner Mick Green in the midst of the public consultation on the proposed plans, and has a goal of 35,000 signatures. The petition opposes the proposed plans to allow scallop dredging in the area, which is currently designated as a special area of conservation. This is due to the possible harm that this may do to the ecosystem and the vulnerable species it contains, which includes Bottlenose dolphins.

Cardigan Bay is currently classified as an area of special conservation, which protects it from most forms of scallop dredging. The only exception is a small area known as the “Kaiser Box”, which is open for a limited season annually from November until April. However, following the findings of a study performed by Bangor University, the Welsh government began a consultation on opening up the area to dredging. This would be subject to limitations, including a permit requirement; limits on the weight of scallops caught; limits to the number of working hours per season; and limiting dredging to a number of zones, which would rotate in order to allow the ecosystem in those areas to recover.

However the plan, which aims to “balance between the need to avoid activity that harms our environment … and the desire to maximise the value of activities that we can undertake sustainably”, has been heavily criticised. When interviewed by The Guardian, Professor Callum Roberts, one of the UK’s leading experts on marine conservation, referred to the study, which forms the basis of the proposals as “a dreadful piece of science”. The study claims that dredging may not cause too much damage in Cardigan Bay since it already has a sparse ecosystem.

According to critics, this is due to damage done from previous dredging and so does not reflect the natural and optimum state of the local environment. The study itself also acknowledges that even if its recommendations (which include limiting dredging to limited areas and to three/four times a year) are followed, “It is not certain that benthic (invertebrates such as crustaceans and polychaetes) communities fished below this threshold would fully recover but the area seems to show some degree of resilience”.

The consultation on the proposed changes has itself been criticised, with some sources claiming that the online implementation of the consultation contained a glitch which could cause an answer of “no” on the question relating to approval of the proposals to be changed to “yes” if they answered yes to the following question, which could result in some submissions containing an incorrect response.

The petition is located here on the Change.org website.

More information on the Welsh government’s proposals can be found in the documents of their website here.