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Guest blog: Protecting the riches of the Welsh coast

By Iwan Ball

Iwan Ball, WWF Cymru Senior Marine Policy Officer

I expect many of you, like me, have spent time over the summer enjoying the Welsh coast.

We’re incredibly lucky that our coastline is both beautiful and nearby to visit (around three quarters of Wales’ population live near the sea) and home to a rich array of wildlife – from seahorses to sharks, from kelp to coral.

Despite the many threats, there’s a lot we can all do to make sure that our coasts and seas thrive for many more summers to come. That’s why my colleagues and I have been out and about during the past few weeks raising awareness of the diverse marine life around our shores and the need to better protect it.

Last month I took a trip out to sea off the Pembrokeshire coast to tag Blue Sharks.

These amazing, yet vulnerable creatures aren’t fully understood so the UK Shark Tagging programme is encouraging anglers to tag and release the sharks thereby gathering important data that will aid their conservation.

On a beautiful summer’s day we took the Environment Minister John Griffiths out on a boat. Within minutes of setting our lines about 25 miles off the coast, we caught our first shark!

The Environment Minister came shark-tagging off the Pembrokeshire coast with us this summer

In total, we landed and released four blue sharks, each about seven-feet long, and also spotted dolphins, gannets and the ‘pirate’ of seabirds – the Skua.

We wanted to share with the minister the wonderful range of wildlife that can be found around the Welsh coast and highlight that there is still much we don’t know about many species that live or frequent our waters. The minister has a key role to play in protecting these valuable species and habitats, which is why we’re campaigning for a network of highly protected marine sites around our coast.

View footage of WWF Cymru shark tagging from their YouTube channel below:

In July, I had my feet firmly on dry land! We were at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd/Builth Wells to drum up support for WWF’s ‘More Fish’ campaign to reform the EU’s dysfunctional fishing policies and tackle the issue of ‘discards’ – the wasteful practice of throwing back into the sea unwanted fish that are often dead.

Over 70 percent of assessed fish stocks in European waters are over exploited. A number of iconic fish species such as the Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna are on the brink of collapse.

Hundreds of people signed our fish-shaped petition cards which we attached to fishing nets on the WWF Cymru stand – you can also sign the petition on line.

It is obvious that there’s a lot of concern about the issue in Wales. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign has heightened peoples’ perception of the problem. We also had help from the latest addition to our team, ‘Sharon the Shark’!

If you’ve enjoyed the coasts and seas as much as I have this summer and want to help them to thrive for many summers to come, there’s plenty you can do.

Try some of our sustainable fish recipes. To help fish stocks, it’s a good idea to vary the type of fish you eat and buy fish with the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) blue-tick logo whenever possible.

I’m determined to  see improvements to the way our coasts and seas are managed so that wildlife can flourish, we can continue to harvest food from healthy fish stocks, and the coastal communities that depend on them can thrive.

  • Iwan Ball is the WWF Cymru Senior Marine Policy Officer. His role is to develop and advocate marine policy positions in the Welsh context on issues prioritised by the UK programme, and the Wales Strategic Plan, engaging with stakeholders and other audiences in Wales as determined by the communications strategy. For more information about Environmental issues covered by WWF Cymru visit their website or like them on Facebook.

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