Controversy surrounds plan to permit Scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay

Walesonline reports, 17th November 2015: Author and journalist George Monbiot has led a scathing attack against Welsh Government proposals allowing commercial scallop fishing in West Wales for the first time since 2009.

The Welsh Government is in danger of positioning itself as one of “the most environmentally destructive on Earth” if plans to allow scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay are given the green light, it has been claimed.

Environmental journalist, author and campaigner George Monbiot says the idea “beggars belief”.

Writing for his blog in the Guardian, he said: “Scallop dredges are rakes with long steel tines that dig into the seafloor, towed at great speed by boats. They tear out the entire structure of the seabed and catch the scallops in chainmail baskets.

“Sea floors that have not been dredged or trawled tend to be covered with a dense reef of living creatures: oysters, fan mussels and many other shelly species, soft corals, sea pens, sea fans, sponges, coralline seaweeds, peacock worms and anemones. Living among them are lobsters and crabs of many species as well as a great variety of fish.

“When bottlenose dolphin calves are young their mothers rely for much of their food on slow or sedentary animals on the seafloor, as they cannot travel fast or far at this time.

Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SACSAC Special Areas of Conservation) was closed to scallop fishing in 2009.

But earlier this year findings from an impact study undertaken by scientists from Bangor University, the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales established that West Wales can withstand a certain level of fishing.

Research focused on understanding the amount of scallop fishing within the conservation area that would be considered sustainable and would not damage the conservation features of the area.

Dr Gwladys Lambert, who led the research, said: “We learnt a huge amount from this study and we know that Cardigan Bay is very resilient to scallop dredging but we now know precisely how much fishing can be considered to be sustainable.”

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

The Welsh Government now aims to establish a viable and sustainable scallop fishery within the Cardigan Bay SAC.

The intention is to introduce a flexible new management system which should ensure a sustainable supply of scallops into the future while safeguarding important marine species and habitats.

The proposals have been welcome by Ceredigion AM Elin Jones.

She said: “I recall the decisions that had to be made some years ago following over-dredging.

Progress has been a long time coming but I welcome the minister’s announcement that he’s intending to reopen sustainable scallop fishing.”

But environmental campaigners have described the move as an ecological disaster. Mr Monbiot said: “The dredges destroy almost everything.”

“Their rakes and chain mail nets smash the sessile life forms to pieces and quickly reduce a rich ecosystem to a sandy or muddy desert. Many of the bare sea floors covered in loose sediments, that we have come to see as natural, are artefacts created by various forms of trawling.

“It is likely to take decades, possibly even centuries, for the rich crust of life that once covered the sea floor to recover. The idea that scallop dredging is an appropriate activity within a special area of conservation beggars belief.”

He added: “The Welsh government has a reputation for being environmentally responsible. But on this issue it positions itself among the most destructive governments on Earth. It has repeatedly ignored its own advisers, who have pointed out that scallop dredging is incompatible with protecting the species for which the SACsSAC Special Areas of Conservation were created.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Following an extensive research programme undertaken by Bangor University we are currently considering the establishment of a viable and sustainable scallop fishery which may include areas currently closed to dredging for king scallops within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation.

“Any changes to management could only occur if adverse effect on the site integrity of any European Marine Site (EMS) resulting from those changes could be ruled out.

“Our public consultation exercise will be fully considered before a final decision is reached.”

Source: 17th November 2015. For the full details, see

Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS