“Sea Trust” Surfaces!


Sea Trust (S&W Wales)
(Supported by Environment Wales- a Welsh Assembly Government initiative)

September 2003 - No1

Having gone through the larval stage as P.O.R.P.P. (Pencaer Observation & Recording Programme Pembrokeshire) we have metamorphosised into Sea Trust (S&W Wales) and in effect, have become a marine arm (Flipper?) of The Wildlife Trust South and West Wales. In doing so we have formed a committee and agreed a constitution. Colossal thanks to Dr Madeleine Havard (Director of Operations) of the WTS&WW for her help in pulling our group into shape and also to Derek Moore OBE (Chief Exec) for his encouragement.

Our committee stands thus: Hon. President - Iolo Williams; Chair - Cliff Benson; Secretary - Sarah Earl; Treasurer - Lindsay Sheene; Recorder - Steve Berry (01348 891229; stephen.berry03@virgin.net ) and members Sue Burton, Rob Colley, Lyndon Lomax, Graham Rees and Powell Strong. As Chair, I couldn't hope for a more competent or supportive team!

As such we hope to become a focus for fellow WTS&WW members who share our passion for marine life and also attract non members into the fold. We believe the Wildlife trusts with their local membership and expertise should fit in comfortably and liaise with existing local, national and international marine conservation communities. Indeed as P.O.R.P.P. we already have a history of doing so.

A good example of this continuing role occurred in July of this year. Steve Hartley aboard his vessel "Suliaire" came upon a Minke Whale that had become enmeshed in a fishing net. He was engaged in one of his CCW sponsored Bottle Nosed Dolphin surveys out of Newquay. Steve contacted Rod Penrose, Strandings co-ordinator for Wales, who in turn got in touch with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, and the R.S.P.C.A. The plan was to find it again and free it from the net. Cardigan Bay's weather put the mockers on this by producing three days of thick fog. Realizing that the whale had probably moved some distance from its last known position, W.D.C.S, I.F.A.W. and the British Divers Marine Mammal Live Rescue Group chipped in for the hire of an aircraft to search for the whale. Rod contacted me to ask if we could provide spotters in the plane, which we did (Mike and Kathy Young-Powell & yours truly). We spent a total of six hours on Friday and Saturday afternoons staring down at boats, gulls and dolphins but sadly, no Minke whale. Maybe not a positive result for the whale, but a magnificent example of local, national and international co-operation.

Our ongoing projects include a long term land based study of Porpoises around Strumble Head; we also plan to liaise with other Porpoise projects around the SW Approaches, Bristol Channel, Celtic and Irish Seas. Offshore, we are also involved with a similar project focusing on Common Dolphins and other sea life in the Celtic and Irish Seas.

In both these surveys we are looking to improve our techniques by utilizing video/acoustics technology. To this end we have applied to be registered with Environment Wales, sustainable development initiative with funding from the Welsh Assembly. This was successfully achieved in August (thanks Alison!) which opens the door to funding for these projects, hopefully more of which in the next issue.

Our attempts to get out in the "Cartlett Lady" this season have been dogged by unhelpful weather. Nonetheless we have managed some trial filming of common Dolphin. Thanks to Andy and Brian Rickards here. The Strumble season is well under way and we are seeing the build-up of Porpoise numbers and what seems to be plenty of juveniles. The sighting of an all-white individual is exciting. Pale ones have been noted in the past but this one appeared to be possibly an albino, accompanied by a normal juvenile. Given the proximity of the juvenile we presume it to be a female.

After an unfortunate inability to get the message through to Stena that their fast ferry was endangering the porpoises by approaching Strumble Bank too closely, we were invited to put our case directly to the Sea Lynx III officers. They were sympathetic and are now taking a much wider course than previously. Thanks to them and Roy Harries, also to Sophie Atherton and Iolo Williams for helping to get the message over. Sightings and some strandings continue to be reported and we hope that approaches to commercial operators will lead to increased information within the cetacean scene around our coast. Last thanks to Tony Crotty, Jack Donovan and David Worrall for their invaluable advice.


Cliff Benson - Chair, Sea Trust (S&W Wales)
Tel: 01348 874507; Email:

Photo's (courtesy F.s'Jacob) are of David Saunders MBE (Vice President WTS&WW) and self with St Kilda in back ground and an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) taken from the "Cartlett Lady" in the Celtic Sea.


Sea Trust within the community.

Sea Trust is not merely interested in research. Our objective is to work with and engage  the community in our projects.

In the real world our cetaceans and other sea life are considered of little value unless people are made aware of their presence.  Once this is achieved they become an asset to the community and their protection more assured.

Sea Trust actively encourages members of the public to accompany us on our Celtic/Irish Sea surveys. we have also organised outdoor and indoor events which the public can attend. On one of these, over two hundred and fifty people came to watch Porpoises at Strumble head on a glorious August evening

A  real time video link up with divers and scientists on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and our invited audience at the ‘e-centre’, Fishguard was a first for Wales. It was incredibly exciting to talk with and ask questions, even direct the divers as they filmed huge sharks thousands of miles away.

Astounding to think that the sun had only just risen over their part of the sunny Pacific Ocean to start a new day, whilst with us the sun had gone down on the chilly Atlantic four hours earlier

Closer to home we have been asked to take part in the consultation stages regarding a proposed marina development in Fishguard by the Welsh Assembly Government. It is hoped we will continue to Work with the Marina developers Anglesey Boat Company, and help them to address any environmental and community  issues.  It should be mentioned that Anglesey Boat Company kindly sponsored our Great Barrier Reef event., and Mr Dafydd Jones their M.D. has offered further support in the future for our projects.

The Past.

Sea Trust has come together in a relatively short time but it has good foundations based on P.O.R.P.P. and the work of the Strumble pioneers. such as David Saunders Stuart Devonald Jack Donovan and Graham Rees. The Wildlife Trust , South and West Wales gives us a pretty good pedigree and I feel we could count the famous Pembrokeshire naturalist Ronald Lockley as a founding father, certainly the sea was ever foremost in his eyes. 

The Future

Since our  inaugural meeting in June 2003 Sea Trust has accelerated off the starting line and continued apace leaping hurdles and achieving results. We see no reason to slow down and are in the process of  entering into new projects and partnerships

 Through committee member Powell Strong, we have made contact with  Pembrokeshire College who have responded very favourably to the proposal of working together in future projects This is an essential part of our aim to work within the community and involve young people. Further efforts will be made to widen the educational scope of our operations for all ages.

Through our contacts formed at recent Dolphin workshops in Aberystwyth, we have looked at ways of combining efforts with other groups that have made up the recently formed Welsh Cetacean Group. We are currently hoping to secure funding for a ferry based, three year cetacean survey . Should our bid prove successful we hope to invite Pembrokeshire College, Gower marine Mammal Group and Friends of Cardigan Bay to participate in this exciting project.



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