Following a major public consultation last year, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet has recently approved a recreational boating plan for its coastline. Ceredigion’s waters are one of the finest wildlife areas in Europe, and have the continent’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins. The plan sets out ways in which important marine wildlife can be protected and sustainable boating activity encouraged “Maintaining the current voluntary management approach and continuing to provide information to skippers and develop their involvement sums up the way forward in Ceredigion” says Cllr. Gethin James, Cabinet member for DESH. “Some people during the consultation felt that the Council should take more enforcement action, but we have seen from the results of our long-term monitoring study that the Code of Conduct is now working well and that there is good compliance amongst the boating community.”
Liz Allan, Conservation Management Officer, explained: “The Council has been actively promoting a boating code and working with skippers since the Marine Heritage Coast was established in 1991. We have now updated our information to incorporate the latest research to help boating and wildlife coexist. The plan identifies certain areas as being particularly important for dolphins and boaters are being asked to take particular care in these areas. Advisory 8 knot speed zones have been created along the coast from Cardigan Island to Cribach Bay and extending the existing speed zone from New Quay to reach Llangrannog rather than finish at Ynys Lochtyn. Other amendments include a request to avoid entering sea caves during the seal pupping season from August to October – an increasing problem with the growing popularity of sea kayaking and coasteering.”
Ben Sampson, from the Council’s Conservation team runs boat patrols during the summer raising awareness of the wildlife and promoting the code. “Almost everyone I talk to at sea cares deeply about the marine environment and the wonderful wildlife we have in our seas. There is sometimes a lack of awareness of what to do when people encounter dolphins and other wildlife at sea, but there is a strong desire to do the right thing. The Ceredigion Marine Code is all about providing this information, ensuring that generations to come can enjoy these spectacular animals. One of the questions I hear most often is “but dolphins like boats don’t they?” Yes, sometimes, is the simple answer. It depends what they are doing. We know that fast, highly manoeuvrable powerboats present the greatest threat to these animals. Underwater noise from propellers can affect dolphins’ ability to navigate, hunt prey and communicate. The faster a boat travels the noisier it is. Dolphins may choose to approach a boat, but it must be their choice – never try to approach or follow.”
As well as providing laminated versions of the updated Code to boaters, new information panels have been erected at all launch sites in the county, thanks to grant aid from The Crown Estate’s Marine Stewardship Fund. The Crown Estate has been supporting Ceredigion County Council’s efforts to promote sustainable boating for many years, enabling the setting up of ‘The Boat Place’, a wildlife and boating information centre on New Quay harbour, and the purchase of the patrol boat.
|What to do if a dolphin pops up ahead: