Cardigan: Anger of fishermen at safety pontoon closure

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Closed Pontoon with sign
Image caption,
The pontoon, which has helped fishermen get their catch to shore, has closed partly due to storm damage

Fishermen have said they are scared for their lives and livelihood after a safety pontoon was closed.

The commercial fishermen said the pontoon on Patch beach, near Cardigan, Ceredigion, was used to help collect and deliver their catch to land.

It was closed due to "safety reasons", but fishermen claimed there was more of a risk without it.

Ceredigion council said it would look at the options surrounding its future in both the short and long term.

Patch beach is some two miles downstream from Cardigan and although it's an idyllic part of the estuary, it is notorious for being dangerous.

Over the years many people have been caught out by the tide and some have died.

However, it is also an ideal location for access to Cardigan Bay for commercial fishermen.

Image caption,
Aaron Walters says the pontoon was introduced for safety, but has been taken away from fishermen who need it

The pontoon was built on the beach more than 16 years ago to offer protection from the elements and some safety, according to Aaron Walters, who uses the pontoon to get his catch on shore.

"You can have four to five knots of tide on the river as the water shoots through," he said.

"You've got the sandbanks as well - if the tide pushes you onto the sandbanks you'll get stuck. If there's a southerly gale the weather here can be very dangerous.

'Big waves crashing on the beach'

"Last summer, there were two young boys playing here. The tide was starting to go out and they got washed into the middle of the river. We went after them in the dinghy. They didn't know what had happened.

"This pontoon is massive in terms of safety. If you have bad weather you can come in behind the pontoon and it's quieter. If we haven't got this here we just have big waves crashing on the beach."

Image caption,
Len Walters says a lot of children fish in the area and it puts them at risk

Usually the fishermen would be able to bring their vehicles onto the pontoon to collect their catch but storms over the last year have caused too much damage.

Part of the pontoon has blown up onto dry land which didn't exist before the storms, the tracking boards were blown away and had to be tied down with rope by the fishermen.

When they turned up recently the pontoon was closed with tape preventing entry as the council had closed it due to safety concerns.

'Fantastic asset'

However, fisherman Len Walters said it came without warning and the seven businesses who use it have been affected.

He said: "Two boats go out on trips - 24 people every time, every hour.

"Throughout the summer it's packed with children fishing for green crabs. It's a fantastic asset for the area. But something is going to happen again - someone is going to drown out there."

He added one day people will "give up, they won't have much choice".

"If you're going to spend two to three hours to get your catch off the boat and then another hour to meet the lorry afterward the fish will be dead.

"How do you get equipment on the boat? Bags of rope, the pots, pot weights. You'll be back and forth all day. You can only take so many pots in one go. You just can't do it."

Image caption,
Teifi Estuary can be seen from Patch beach and is popular with children in the summer, say the local fishermen

Ceredigion council said the tenant, Afon Teifi Fairways Ltd (ATFL), has operational responsibility for the pontoon.

Following consultation with the local authority, ATFL said it had taken reasonable steps to restrict access to the pontoon.

Following a report undertaken by the company that originally supplied the pontoon, the council said it will look to work with stakeholders to look and consider options for its future.