Monday, 17 February 2014

Who Knows What?

A quick look at Strumble after work was rewarded as usual by several Porpoises in the tide-race. As any Strumble regular will know, providing the tide is right, they are pretty much guaranteed. In this most unhelpful of storm swept winters, and  even in this last couple of weeks, we have  recorded Porpoises and Risso's at Strumble. Its all about local people looking after their wildlife. But to really look after it we need help. 

We started last year by naming it  "2013,Year of the Welsh Porpoise" and trying to get the Welsh Government to back us in gaining better protection for them. Porpoises are on the European Habitats and species list and the UK and Welsh Government are legally bound to protect them.

The criteria for inclusion in the already existing Pembrokeshire SAC or any other, is that they are either resident or seasonally abundant, proved to be breeding and  or regularly feeding in an area. As any of the hundreds of our followers on "Whales in Wales" or our Sea Trust Facebook or twitter accounts will know, we and our volunteers are engaged in this work throughout the year seven days a week  and have conclusively proven this to be the case. Winter and summer our Strumble Diary records them as well as their calves.
The responses from the Welsh Government were at best non-committal, although due to the politics that besmirch the cetacean world it seems that behind the scenes someone began to put things in motion without our knowledge. 

Instead of coming to us, the UK Governments Joint Nature Conservation Committee decided to go to other sources. Apparently they asked for our data via the West Wales Biological Records Centre, and then through a rival organisation that has a less than enviable reputation for  data management. 

JNCC's last survey of our waters (from the air) failed to record our third most common cetacean (Risso's Dolphin) but apparently did record a white beaked dolphin which has a similar fin shape. In ten years and thousands of hours effort related surveys we have never recorded a live white beaked dolphin in the Bristol Channel,  Southern Irish or Celtic Seas. we do have hundreds of Risso's sightings!

We are working on several reports that should give the most comprehensive view of cetacean presence and habits in the waters of West Wales. Several of our best qualified volunteers are and have been engaged in this task and we believe it is important that the facts and figures are accurate, verified and coordinated. We believe the integrity of our data depends on its ability to be analysed as a whole not piece meal or out of the context of the protocols by which it was gathered. It needs to be robust and convincing.

The world is full of so called experts that assume the mantle of all-knowing wisdom like the emperors new clothes. Hopefully when we produce our reports people will see things as they actually are! Then and only then will our porpoises get the protection they deserve!