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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Campaign to protect Skomer coast
Wyre Davies
By Wyre Davies
Wales correspondent

Skomer island is a protected site under European law
It may be one of the best-known parts of the Welsh coastline but conservationists and ecologists say waters around Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire are urgently in need of even greater protection.

Those campaigners, who include the ecologist Blaise Bullimore, say that whereas the birds, animals and plants on the island itself are well looked after it is a different tale beneath the waves.

The seas around this island have been designated as a marine reserve - one of only three in the UK - for more than a decade, yet commercial fishing still goes on all around Skomer.

Endangered species

Mr Bullimore admits the most invasive and aggressive methods of fishing are not allowed.

But he says continued lobster fishing and angling is removing important species from the seas around Skomer, leaving a lasting impact on the marine environment.

As we tour the south side of Skomer in a small research boat, bobbing around on the choppy seas, Phil Newman from the Countryside Council for Wales dons his dry-suit, jumps off the boat and disappears into the murky depths.

Mr Newman has been researching and cataloguing these waters for years.

Phil Newman from the Countryside Council for Wales
What we want is a nature reserve where nothing alive is taken out of the reserve and where we can closely monitor the progress of that policy
Phil Newman, Countryside Council for Wales

He supports the campaign to give the species in the waters around Skomer as much protection as those who live and breed on the island itself.

He said: "What we want is a nature reserve where nothing alive is taken out of the reserve and where we can closely monitor the progress of that policy."

Later, back on dry land amidst the small lobster boats that make up the remnants of the fishing fleet, I put those arguments to fisherman, Jerry Percy.

He dismisses the notion that Skomer's waters, however small, should be a complete fishing-free zone.

"There's absolutely no need. It would simply force my members to move on elsewhere," he said.

"We've already stopped the most destructive methods and, anyway, fishermen these days also have a vested interest in looking after the environment in which we work."

Unless the fishermen and the conservationists can agree on a compromise the possibility that Skomer and the waters around it can become an area genuinely free of all human activity is still some way off.

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