A LEADING Pembrokeshire marine conservation charity, that has been conducting surveys in the Celtic Deep for two decades, has expressed concerns over the effects on marine wildlife of a proposed large-scale windfarm in the area.

Simply Blue energy is currently developing the 96MW test Erebus Project with monitoring technology deployed in the Celtic Deep. It is proposed that Erebus will be followed by the 300MW Valorous floating wind project in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Deep.

Sea Trust says it has concerns about the effect of the project on breeding common dolphins and on Seabirds.

Although digital aerial bird and marine mammal surveys have just finished, Sea Trust is questioning why it has not been consulted as a major stakeholder with in-depth knowledge of the Celtic Deep marine habitat.

"We have concerns about the possible displacement of the thousands of breeding common dolphins particularly maternal groups that commonly inhabit these waters. On a recent survey, we recorded over five hundred, including many mothers with small calves," said Sea Trust founder, Cliff Benson.

"We have been surveying this area for marine megafauna/wildlife almost twenty years and know it to have significant importance for breeding common dolphins and other cetaceans.

"This is also an important feeding area for our Manx shearwater colonies on Skokholm and Skomer that comprise half the world's population."

Cliff said he was 'not necessarily against' the projects but was disappointed that Sea Trust had not been consulted as a stakeholder on the Erebus project.

"Sea Trust has considerable environmental data for the area, amassed over the past two decades," said Cliff.

"We would expect to be foremost in the list of stakeholders that Blue Gem Wind should be consulting with but to date we have had no approach from them.

"This may be an oversight, but they clearly should be in contact with us. We are the only ones who go out there regularly.

"They can talk to other people, but they haven't been out there like we have."

A spokesperson for Blue Gem Wind said it had consulted with stakeholders on marine mammals in the area, namely Natural Resources Wales and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, as well as The Wildlife Trusts.

"This is in recognition of their experience of dealing with marine mammal and offshore wind projects elsewhere in UK waters," he said.

"We have also held two widely advertised public exhibitions, including in-person events when conditions allowed, most recently in July 2021."

"For all offshore operations including the deployment of the monitoring technology, notice to mariners have been issued to all relevant marine stakeholders and is on the website.

Blue Gem added that 24 months of offshore aerial bird/marine mammal surveys have just finished but any additional input from Sea Trust would be welcomed.

"We are now aiming to process the data [from the aerial surveys]and collate any other data available in this region to inform the ongoing impact assessment,

"We would of course welcome a discussion with Sea Trust to see what data they hold and how it may be used and have emailed Cliff to that effect."