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Strumble Head: Sea Watch Foundation reports ‘killer whale’ sighting

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Impressive sight: Killer whale (Stock photo)

Impressive sight: Killer whale (Stock photo)

LAST SATURDAY, an unusual marine mammal was spotted off Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire, according to the Sea Watch Foundation. According to their website, one of their observers, Caroline Webb, reported her sighting to the organisation, which holds the UK database for sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Initially thought to be a squid-eating Risso’s dolphin, there was something about the description of the animal that didn’t ring true; it was seen devouring a seal pup!

Caroline Webb said: “There was a struggle going on and a pool of blood was spreading on the surface of the water. It had the rounded blunt head of a Risso’s dolphin but the whole thing appeared to be dark and not pale. We saw the head clearly when it came out of the water to go for the seagulls. It was near a bay where a baby seal was known to have been lying, about half a mile east of Strumble Head.”

According to the SWF,  killer whales are known to visit the Irish Sea occasionally and have been seen off the coast of Wales on a number of occasions although sighting reports attributed to the species are often unconfirmed. Those that were confirmed include four killer whales seen off Bardsey Island in June 2013, a solitary animal recorded from the ferry between Dublin and Holyhead in May 2012, and six killer whales seen travelling north off South Stack, Anglesey in August 2011. There was also an unverified report of a killer whale off nearby Mwnt, in Ceredigion, back in July. However, most Welsh sightings have been west of Pembrokeshire in the waters referred to as the Celtic Deep.

Dr Peter Evans, Sea Watch’s Director, told The Herald: “Essentially, the size of the whale, the shape of its head and description of its fin, along with the observation of an actual seal attack make it difficult to attribute the sighting to anything else other than killer whale.”

Dr Evans added: “One might have expected the white oval patch behind the eye to have been seen but at a distance in dull light, this can easily go unnoticed. Since the fin was described as recurved rather than erect and triangular, it was probably either an immature male or adult female.”

“We don’t know very much about the movements of killer whales (or orcas as we prefer to call them) on the west coast of Britain. Members of a pod that has numbered up to fourteen can be seen annually around the Hebrides of west Scotland, mainly in summer. The most famous of these is a mature male nicknamed “John Coe” that we have observed since at least 1980.  It has a distinct nick towards the base of the dorsal fin making it instantly recognisable (and recently gained a chunk out of its tail, possibly a shark bite). Sightings of John Coe have ranged from the Hebrides over to East Scotland, south to the northwest coast of Ireland and well  into the Irish Sea off West Wales – a true wanderer,”

Kathy explained that the sighting could not be verified. She explained: “So although we couldn’t give Caroline a 100% definite ID for the animal she witnessed, everything she told us leads us to believe it was a killer whale feeding off Strumble Head.”

Kathy added: “This is really exciting news for wildlife enthusiasts and I would urge them to take to the headlands of West Wales these coming days to see if they can catch up with the animal. If people do see this or any other whale, dolphin or porpoise, they should report them to Sea Watch. All the information we can gather about these majestic animals allows us to protect and conserve them gong forwards”

 

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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Milford Haven-bound ‘flying oil tanker’ hits the national news

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A MILFORD HAVEN bound oil tanker has made the national news, after a photograph taken off the Cornish coast made it look like the ship was flying.

An optical illusion caused the ship to appear as though it was floating above the horizon

The ship is believed to be the Hafnia Malacca Oil/Chemical Tanker which is heading to Pembrokeshire from Primorsk, Russia via the English Channel.

David Morris, from the hamlet of Gillan, near Falmouth took a photo of the ship near Falmouth, Cornwall, the BBC have reported.

On the BBC news website, meteorologist David Braine said the “superior mirage” occurred because of “special atmospheric conditions that bend light”.

He said the illusion is common in the Arctic, but can appear “very rarely” in the UK during winter.

Mr Morris said he was “stunned” after capturing the picture while looking out to sea from the hamlet of Gillan

Mr Braine said: “Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it.

“Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears.

“Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images – here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible.”

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