Scallop dredging is a contentious issue and one which triggered passionate debate at the SAC Liaison Group in December, following a large increase in the activity. Scalloping is acknowledged to be one of the most destructive forms of fishing; with heavy gear scraped along the seabed there is the potential for damage to sensitive habitats and other animals in the way.
There are national restrictions and local closed areas (see below) but around two thirds of the SAC is open to scalloping. Although the main aim of Cardigan Bay SAC is to ensure that its wildlife is protected, the area is used for a wide range of activities including commercial fishing. Such legitimate use of the site is encouraged, providing that it doesn’t harm the designated wildlife or habitats. The key question for managers is “is the scalloping likely to cause damage to the designated wildlife?” There are no easy answers – we have very little information about the offshore reefs and sandbanks and the ecological connection between scalloping and dolphins and seals is very complex. More research into the protected habitats is certainly needed and while there are good catches of scallops to be had, the debate looks set to continue. Have your say here.