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THE Dolphin coast wales...
Words & Pictures - Mark Deane
Here in Pembrokeshire we are proud and privileged to have a stunning coastline. The surrounding waters host a dazzling array of sea life both large and small.
The huge fin whale is occasionally seen. It weighs up to 70 tons and is the second biggest animal to ever have lived on our earth, after the blue whale. Both these giants feed on tiny shrimps and plankton. At seven tons, slightly larger than an African elephant but not much bigger than the fin whales tongue, the minke whale visits us mainly in the summer months.
Weighing in at only 70 kilos the diminutive harbour porpoise is almost the smallest cousin of the great whales and Pembrokeshire is one of the best places in Britain to see them. Fin Whale, Minke Whale, Pilot Whale, Killer Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, White Sided Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin have all been seen in the area. Another leviathan that hunts in our waters is the mighty eight metre long Basking Shark. No need to avoid a dip in the briny though, as this is also a plankton eater. Swimming slowly with its cavernous mouth wide open, it constantly sieves tiny creatures out of the water. In doing so it filters hundreds of tons of water per hour.
Sea birds, seals and cetaceans draw thousands of visitors to our coasts and islands. It brings much needed income over a longer season and shows just how valuable our wildlife is.
As a local operator at Celtic Diving we often take divers to remote and historical dive sites. We insist our customers take only photographs and leave only bubbles. Leaving things as undisturbed as possible for others to enjoy.
Our divers are still encouraged to take ‘goodie bags’ on a dive, not for brass port holes or lobsters for the pot; but to pick up any litter that they may find. In addition we will always stop the boat to pick up any flotsam or jetsam we come across. Sometimes on quiet days just for fun we beach comb inaccessible or remote areas to check for netting and other refuse that may have washed up.
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum has produced a voluntary marine code for users of the marine environment, with the cooperation and help of local operators and individuals. Part of the Code articulates the way to use marine craft on the coast in an intelligent and responsible way around environmentally sensitive areas.
Thankfully it is already illegal to chase or harass animals on the water. But perhaps the effects of recreational operators pale, when compared to the by catch of commercial fishing.
‘Mid water/pair trawling’, using one, sometimes two trawlers to haul a massive net (capable of surrounding 10 jumbo jets at a time) is heartbreaking. Basically what happens is that common dolphins are enticed into the net by the struggling, surrounded fish. They become trapped and drown. However one positive example of conservationists and industry communicating in Pembrokeshire was the case of the fast ferry. Unknown to the operators, the route of the ferry cut through some very important porpoise habitat. The local conservationists (Sea Trust S&W Wales) managed to alert the ferry company who altered the course thereby minimising the risk of collisions.
We take pride in our marvellous coastline, sometimes called the ‘The Dolphin Coast’, which gives the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful and majestic creatures on the planet. We must never forget how privileged we are and try and ensure this is possible for future generations.
Celtic Diving has had some wonderful encounters with sea creatures. Diving clubs, who had previously travelled to the Orkney Islands to observe seals underwater and came back without a single sighting, were mobbed by seals here in Pembrokeshire and have voted that this was the best UK diving by far !
More information on the local conservation group ‘Sea Trust’ can be obtained from; www.seatrust.org.uk