Mid Wales

Scallop fishing restart criticised by TV's Iolo Williams

A scallop

Plans to restart scallop fishing in a protected area could lead to "industrial scale" dredging, naturalist Iolo Williams has warned.

Commercial fishing ended in Cardigan Bay, Ceredigion, five years ago when it became a special area of conservation.

The Welsh government has approved limited fishing in specific areas using a "flexible permit scheme".

But TV presenter Williams said it "opens the door for ploughing the sea bed on an industrial scale".

In a post on his Facebook page, he wrote: "This does not support local, sustainable fisheries.

"I'm dismayed but not surprised that this bunch of worthless parasites has, once again, supported the destruction of an internationally important wildlife site."

"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," he added.

Image caption Naturalist and TV presenter Iolo Williams was born and raised in mid Wales

The Welsh government, which declined to respond to Mr Williams' criticism, gave the go ahead for scallop fishing to restart once legislation is in place.

The decision came after a two-year study found limited fishing in certain areas would have no adverse impact on the area.

On Tuesday, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) group revealed its "disbelief and disappointment" at the approval because of Cardigan Bay's "habitat for bottlenose dolphins and porpoise".

WDC claims the Welsh government "ignored" a petition of more than 30,000 people against what it described as a "highly destructive method of fishing".

"The dredging destroys almost everything, smashing the seabed life forms to pieces and quickly reducing a rich ecosystem to a sandy or muddy desert," said a WDC statement.

The Marine Conservation Society said the "good news" that the Welsh government can develop more sustainable fisheries was "overshadowed" by the dredging "damage" that could be caused in new areas.

"This protected site has been badly affected by damaging activities both before and after it was protected," the charity's head of conservation for Wales, Gill Bell, said.

"The existing section which has been open to scallop dredging here has been mismanaged and now the plan is to open others, before they have recovered from previous use.

"Welsh government must also recognise that they have a duty to restore and enhance these sites. By law, it is required to look at the impacts of activities on the wider marine system, which has not yet been done."

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