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Climate change at sea


Climate change at sea

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Jerry Percy, fisherman
“I don’t understand the scientific aspects, but I know that over the last 20 or so years that I’ve been involved in the sea on the West coast here that we’ve seen a number of species change their habits. And as far as I can see — as a layman — the only sensible reason is that the temperatures are going up.

“Twenty years ago you wouldn’t have seen a single spider crab in Welsh waters, or in fact along the west coast of the UK. They were certainly a Spanish, almost a Mediterranean species. Now, as we speak, you could call them a pest species but they do have a market value (and) there are literally tens of thousands of them.

“I suppose the spider-crab is the best example of the beneficial effects of potentially what climate change is, because it’s given us a new species in quite significant quantities.

“In the short term, this is actually a good thing for the fishermen. We’ve got an alternative species that is in demand. In the long-term, we don’t know. Because if they continue this northward migration, somewhere in the not-too-distant future, they will go.

“I think the main species that we used to fish that has changed its seasonality is probably sea-bass. Sea-bass here was always a high-summer fish. You caught it end of May, June, July, August and then they’d disappear back to warmer climes. Now it’s a year round fish. You can catch bass here in the estuary in mid-winter.

“We used to fish long-lines from a small boat for sharks off here in Milford Haven. And again, a few years ago you would never see a killer whale. Now, on an annual basis you’ll see half a dozen through the season.

“It’s not common by any means. And they are massive creatures. The difference between those and the normal fish you fish for is, if they go past the boat they have a look at you. (He laughs) You can see them eyeing you up. ‘Are you a tasty enough snack?’

“When you talk to fishermen from Milford (Haven) who’ve perhaps fished out of here for 20 or 30 or 40 years, they are under no misapprehension at all that the weather has become windier. The incidence of stonger winds is becoming more common. Some of the fishermen will also say the tides are getting stronger. Whether that’s the case or whether it is more related to wind — wind does have an effect on tides — I don’t know, but certainly there are climatic changes going on.

“I’m a layman. I’m not a climate change fanatic. I don’t know enough about it. All I can say is that the things we’ve seen as a commercial fishing industry – being at sea 24-7 over the last few decades – there ARE changes taking place and they are very noticeable, very significant.”

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