A MAJOR oil and gas exploration survey in the Cardigan Bay area has sparked alarm and anger.

Eni UK, which is part of an Italian-based multinational energy company, is due to start a 40-day seismic survey on June 1 covering an area of 955 square kilometres which will take in three Special Areas of Conservation - West Wales, Cardigan Bay and Pembrokeshire Marine.

The survey has been approved by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in Westminster but an environmental impact assessment says it could affect wildlife in the area.

News of the survey has provoked an angry response from Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, who has already fired off a letter to the Minister for BEIS Greg Clark and hopes to raise the matter in parliament today (May 23).

Sea Trust spokesman Cliff Benson said: "In their proposals ENI quote the SCANS Surveys (Small Cetaceans Atlantic North Sea) These have been snap shot surveys over the single month of July in in the years 1994, 2005 and 2016 roughly ten years apart. The first 1994 Scans Survey did not cover the Irish Sea, and the latter two were made from aeroplanes travelling at 600 feet at 120 mph.
"This might explain how they appear to have mistaken bottlenose dolphins for the much smaller porpoises in Cardigan Bay. It's unreliable science but ticks boxes for the UK governments.
"Both NRW and the Welsh Government need to see our data for a true picture and realise this area is the marine equivalent of the Serengeti.

"To allow seismic surveying there would be the equivalent of dropping bombs on the Serengeti to drive the animals away.
"Our cetaceans are here because it is a safe place to have their calves, Thousands of common dolphins use the southern Irish Sea as a marine maternity wing. We have proof that it is also a breeding ground for porpoises, Risso's dolphins and Minke whale, not to mention the 400-plus Cardigan Bay dolphins that the SCANS surveyors missed in 2016.
"The waters are rich in food which would also be affected. Thankfully we have all the evidence to prove that these areas are special and should have special protection.
"We need to be moving away from burning fossil fuels. Governments all over the world have identified it as another massive threat to our wildlife and all life on the earth.

"If we allow companies like ENI UK Ltd to disturb our whales and dolphins in their breeding grounds for speculative, highly-disruptive seismic surveys, inspired only by profit, we could easily lose 80 per cent of our marine marine wildlife in a lot less than 50 years.
"We at Sea Trust do not intend to allow this and neither should the people of Wales."

The Welsh Government recently declared a climate emergency, along with many local authorities in Wales – including those in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire and this plan would appear to fly in the face of combating climate change.

In his letter, Mr Lake said: “I am deeply troubled at the prospect that a survey of this nature will be conducted and that it has secured prior approval of BEIS.

“As you will be aware, seismic surveys can have a detrimental impact on ecological systems and marine wildlife.

“The resulting impact upon marine wildlife … is profound and of serious concern. I also understand that the survey will coincide with the breeding period of certain cetaceans, leading to a significantly increased risk of injury or death to these protected species.

“In addition, there will be inevitable disruption to fishing operations and tourist activity in the area, both of which generate significant employment along the coastline, including in Ceredigion.

“Furthermore, if the sole purpose of such a study is solely to identify whether there are large quantities of oil and gas in the area, I would be interested to know how on earth one could justify causing significant damage to this ecological system – as well as increasing the UK’s carbon emissions – by then seeking to extract the fuels from the seabed.

“Given the recent declaration by the Welsh Government of a climate emergency, a similar declaration in the House of Commons, the recommendations made in the latest report of the United National intergovernmental panel on climate change and the UK Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions pursuant to the Paris Agreement, I find it deeply concerning that Eni has been granted permission to conduct the survey.

“Indeed, such a decision is irreconcilable with the UK Government’s stated intentions you reduce its carbon emissions. I can only surmise it was an oversight and as such would urge that you reconsider your department’s support of this venture, to both safeguard the local marine environment and also to demonstrate the integrity of the UK Government’s commitment to its net zero carbon emissions target.”