South West Wales

Protect porpoises off Pembrokeshire, says Sea Trust

Image caption Manyporpoises are consistently attracted to Strumble Head, the Sea Trust says

A marine conservation group is calling for the protection of sites off Pembrokeshire where large numbers of harbour porpoises congregate.

Sea Trust says the area's importance as a "porpoise stronghold" should be internationally recognised.

Research shows sightings there are consistently higher than in other UK and European areas.

Trust director Cliff Benson says protection would be based on preserving the area as it is at the moment.

"Obviously the porpoises are undeterred by our local fishermen and recreational boaters," said Mr Benson.

"But the importance of this areas as a porpoise stronghold should be internationally recognised so that any future developments which might affect their status here would be subject to stringent environmental assessments.

"Let's make 2013 the year we put them on the map".

In recent years research by Sea Trust and other conservationists has established that the north Pembrokeshire coast and such inshore islands as Skokholm, Skomer and Ramsay are strongholds.

They are not uncommon in Welsh waters, Mr Benson added, but there are few if any similar recorded concentrations in UK waters.

'Long overdue'

"It is something we in west Wales should be very proud of," he said.

He said this year the Trust aimed to make a determined effort to make the case that several places in Pembrokeshire meet the criteria to be "porpoise hotspots" and be included in the designation of Marine Protection Areas.

"The designation of and inclusion of harbour porpoise into the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is long overdue and it needs extending," he added.

Strumble Head, just west of Fishguard and outside the SAC, has consistently attracted concentrations of scores and occasionally hundreds of porpoises.

"They are there on a daily basis throughout the year and we have plentiful records of them feeding and breeding there," said Mr Benson.

The Sea Trust campaign is supported by Elfyn Pugh, a director of the cetacean conservation organisation Orca, who described the waters off Strumble as "like porpoise soup," he said.

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