Dan E. Rouse was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales and grew up with a keen interest in marine wildlife. She spends most of her time wrapped up with a scope on the coast looking out to sea. She is a nature writer and blogger. You can follow her on twitter at @danerouse or visit her website – www.danrouse.org.uk .
Despite the concerns of specialist marine ecologists, scallop dredging is still allowed in Cardigan Bay. There are great places in and around the Pembrokeshire coast area where you can view marine wildlife, and the area is particularly brilliant for cetaceans.
One of the best known areas is Cardigan Bay, which is home to the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. The centre conducts invaluable surveys and researches the inhabitants of the bay. I’ve visited this place on a number of occasions and each time I witness something new. Last year I saw a large number of Bottlenose dolphins close to the coast where the volunteers were recording their sightings. What’s amazing about this is that the Centre itself is licensed by National Resources Wales to conduct photo identification to identify individual dolphins. The UK is home to two semi-residential pods, one in Moray Firth in Scotland, and the other is located in Cardigan Bay which makes the area an ideal location to research these amazing creatures. The Bottlenose dolphins around Cardigan Bay put on quite a performance. They are seen often breeching and tail slapping around the shore and occasionally bow ride the boats in the area.
Another species which calls Pembrokeshire home, is the Harbour Porpoise. These are a lot shyer and often feed solo or in small groups of 2-3. They are usually hard to spot out at sea because of their small dorsal fin and almost ‘roll’ like swim, usually extremely difficult to spot in a large sea-state or swell. Strumble Head is a great place to spot these creatures, and they are often seen closer to land. They can often be seen from the islands just off Pembrokeshire such as Ramsey, Skomer and Skokholm. They hunt using echolocation and can dive for up to five minutes, with their slow-swimming style, they can cover hundreds of miles in a couple of days.
The last species that can be seen in abundance in Pembrokeshire, is the Atlantic Grey Seal. You can see one of the largest breeding colonies in Southern Britain of these noisy creatures on Ramsey island. The team undertake a number of surveys and conduct research of the colony. Throughout the year you will see around 100 individuals but that will increase to around 1,000 during the breeding season! The seals use the quiet shores and beaches of the island, yet there are more pups being born in sea caves around the island so there may be more being born than people can locate. Again, photo identification techniques are used by researchers to monitor the movements and breeding locations of individuals.
The Pembrokeshire coast is well worth a visit for any Marine Wildlife enthusiast. The ‘Big Three’ as they are known are definitely the highlight of a visit to the coasts but there is an abundance of wildlife found around the coast and below the surface. The area is a great source of research and surveys which are carried out around different locations. I cannot recommend enough that you visit one of the islands, but even a visit around the coast is enough – you will not be disappointed.