As someone who, in his younger days, collected ‘pets’ from the ponds and waste ground of north Swansea, I have always taken an interest in wildlife, and indeed (in the phase that followed the pet collecting) wild life. Many a carefree boyhood hour was spent catching grass snakes, collecting newts, and sneaking up on lizards to attempt that perfect catch – on the body (for they detach their tails) but not so roughly as to harm them. Or it was summers in Port Eynon crabbing and observing the life of the shoreline and the rock pools.
So I was naturally drawn to the story of porpoises killing dolphins in Cardigan Bay. Reading it I learnt that this behaviour has been observed by volunteers at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay. So – you know me – wanting to learn more about this outfit I went to the CBMWC website.
The website – entirely in English, of course – is quite open about what it does, who funds it, and who runs it. The volunteers for 2014 include Milly, “part of a big, outdoorsy family” (not them Swansea dossers again?). Lea, who “grew up in the Swiss countryside”. Abigail from Worcester who has “attended a dormouse survey training day”. (Something of which I can only dream.) Rebecca, who “spent holidays in Corwall and Wales”. Then there’s Josephine from Manchester, Gaby from Canada, Ashleigh from “the Midlands”, Sophie from Suffolk, Will from West Yorkshire, even one or two (out of 17) who may even be Welsh. Among “the CBMWC Team” (of 14) there is one who seems to be Welsh, then there’s Barry the wino, a host of ‘locals’ who’ve all moved to Wales, and young Ben, who grew up on the East African Coast. (Of course he’s not bleck, don’t be silly!) It’s all so frightfully English that they could have stepped from the pages of some Enid Blyton tale of middle class youngsters having a jolly good time in darkest Wales.
Before anyone says that these people do good work, or are no harm to anyone; and that I am a wicked old nationalist for picking on them, just remember this. The Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and its allies among the Fleece Jacket Fascists form a lobby that – among other things – would like to extend conservation zones around our coasts, putting Welsh people out of work so that they can
enjoy their hobby jobs pursue vital marine research. In fact, they would like to turn rural and coastal Wales into one big playground for them and their friends. With no Welsh involvement . . . well, other than funding.
The CBMWC is some kind of subsidiary of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW), so this was my next stop. Another packed, informative website . . . until you try to find out who actually runs the show. For while the website gives a link to the names of the Trustees I could find nothing to tell me who is responsible for the day to day running of the Trust. A major omission. Especially as the Trust receives funding from The National Lottery, the People’s Postcode Lottery, and two lots of funding from the EU, via the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Wales European Funding Office. Is it lawful for an organisation receiving EU funding to withhold from the public the names of its management? It should go without saying that the WTSWW website is also in English only.
Returning to New Quay for a moment (to where, incidentally, I can trace a paternal great-grandmother and a maternal great-great-grandfather), the CBMWC website tells us that the Centre is “funded by grants from Environment Wales (EW) and Natural Resources Wales” (NRW) (of Alun Davies fame). Environment Wales is a hotch-potch of Englandandwales fleece jacket gangs feeding at a trough topped up by the ‘Welsh’ Government, almost certainly with EU cash. But I was unable to find the dolphin watchers or their parent outfit listed among the grant recipients or the ‘Registered Project Links’. And, again, no clue given as to who runs Environment Wales. The picture was no better with Natural Resources Wales. The website contains no mention of grants, and doesn’t even offer a way of sending an e-mail or ‘phoning, for contact is limited to social media! Can it be right that a member of the public is unable to contact an organisation supported by EU funding?
Every area of the country has groups like the CBMWC, some national, others local: in Wales, but not of Wales. Existing as exclusive ex-pat outposts of the kind the English form in Spain and elsewhere. Social, cultural and financial impositions that we had better start challenging before they become dominant; to the point where it becomes impossible to walk on a Welsh hill, or through a Welsh wood; swim off a Welsh beach, or visit some site important in our history, because it’s now owned and run by strangers – with funding provided by our government!
Appeals to the emotions aside, the real issue here is about hard cash, and how it’s used. About the waste of public funding on hobby jobs, for which the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre merely serves as an example. The CBMWC obviously attracts the well-heeled from England and beyond, but would anyone in Penrhiwceiber or Penygroes notice if the CBMWC closed tomorrow? Of course not, but EU funding was given to improve the lives of people in communities such as these. So henceforth, if the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre can survive on selling ice cream and fluffy dolphins, boat trips and donations, then fine, but no more public funding for it or any similar organisations.
The next round of EU funding must not be wasted on ephemeral and unnecessary projects simply because they generate good publicity; it must not be squandered on politically correct scams; it must not be spent on encouraging the Third Sector to make an industry of poverty and deprivation. Any application for funding should be asked one simple question: ‘Will there be direct and tangible benefits for Welsh people in terms of jobs, education and training, community benefits, social and cultural cohesion and other fields?’ Supporting projects that fail this test is merely funding colonisation.