Cardigan Bay oil and gas survey 'threatens wildlife'

New Quay Image copyright Geograph/Steve Fareham
Image caption New Quay is a Cardigan Bay town popular with tourists because of its strong dolphin and porpoise spotting

An international energy company wants to search for oil and gas in a special area of conservation (SAC) off the Welsh coast, sparking outrage.

Eni UK Ltd has applied to the UK government to carry out a seismic survey in Cardigan Bay.

Conservationists claim the survey could kill young mammals in an area home to the UK's biggest dolphin population.

Eni said it always carries out impact assessments but has no seismic surveys currently scheduled for Cardigan Bay.

The UK government said the plan had not been approved and was subject to consultation and further assessment.

In March, Eni UK applied for permission to carry out the geological survey - which involves firing loud shock waves out of a submerged gun - "sometime between" 1 June and 30 September.

The application was prepared by Orbis Energy Ltd, which has been asked to comment.

Cardigan Bay has the UK's biggest resident population of dolphins, and is home to thousands of porpoises for part of the year.

Image copyright Eni
Image caption Eni would like to carry out the survey at some point between June and September

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity said it "strongly opposes" the plans.

It said the proposed timeframe would be "right in the middle" of the porpoise breeding period and the noise could cause the mammals to separate from their mother, leading to "certain death".

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the proposal was subject to consultation with Natural Resources Wales and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

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Media captionWales and dolphins! Pod spotted off Llyn Peninsula

Because the survey could impact a SAC, the regulator, which is part of BEIS, is also required to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment, the spokesman added.

Local environmentalists have labelled the plans "outrageous", and asked why the plans are only coming to light now.

"Blasting their habitat for sixty days none stop every tens seconds with ground penetrating booms will disturb, distress and disrupt every living marine creature for hundreds of miles," said Alan Cookson, of the Gwerin y Glannau group.

An Eni spokesman said: "In compliance with both company and regulatory requirements, Eni is committed to carry out environmental impact assessments in any areas where seismic surveys could take place.

"However, Eni currently has no planned seismic surveys scheduled for the outer Cardigan Bay area.

"Furthermore, Eni has strict guidelines in terms of monitoring marine life on any seismic surveys it carries out globally and takes its responsibilities very seriously.

"Any risk to marine life, including aquatic mammals, is heavily mitigated and safeguards are always in place to ensure minimal disruption."

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