Recent analysis of data from the local monitoring scheme, Dolphin Watch, has shown that more boats than ever are following the Ceredigion Marine Conservation Code of Conduct.
Ceredigion County Council was one of the first coastal Local Authorities in the UK to introduce a voluntary Code in 1993 as part of its work with the Marine Heritage Coast.
Since that time, local volunteers have been recording dolphin site usage and boat behaviour from 6 sites along the coastline, as part of the Council’s Coast & Countryside Section survey. Over the last two summers, 1038 watches were carried out, 2028 hours of observation were recorded and one hundred and nine observers took part in the survey.
Results show that in 2004 and 2005, a high proportion of boat encounters clearly took place in accordance with the code of conduct: at New Quay Harbour for example, 94% of 394 boats were recorded as having followed the code during encounters with bottlenose dolphins.
Encounters were defined as an occasion when dolphin and boat came within 300 m of each other. Results from Bird’s Rock, near New Quay were similarly high. However, it wasn’t all good news as although fewer encounters occurred at Ynys Lochtyn, Mwnt and Aberporth, approximately 20% of these encounters failed to follow the code.
Liz Allan, Conservation Management Officer for the Council, said “It is clear from the data that the boats most frequently offending were boats that habitually travel at high speeds: speedboats (41% non-compliance), speedboats with water skiers (57%) and pwc/jet skis (40%).
In contrast, we recorded a whopping 98% compliance with the code by the trip boat operators during a total of 198 encounters. The trip boat skippers are to be commended for their continued respect for the code, and for proving such a good example to the rest of the Bay’s boat users.
Now that much of the Bay is a Special Area of Conservation, compliance with the code is even more important if we are to ensure that boat users and dolphins can co-exist happily along this important stretch of coastline.”
The Council has also opened the “Cardigan Bay Boat Place” on New Quay harbour for skippers and boat users to discover more about the wildlife of Cardigan Bay, the Code of Conduct and how to make the most of their experience at sea. Information about the Dolphin Watch monitoring and data results is also be on display.