Aberaeron is centrally located on the coast of
Cardigan Bay, about halfway between the larger towns of Aberystwyth
in the north and Cardigan in the south.
The Bay is
most famously known for its Dolphins, as it has one of the largest
populations of Bottlenose Dolphins anywhere around the British
Cardigan Bay is a large section of the Irish Sea,
embraced by the west coasts of three Welsh counties, Gwynedd,
Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) and Pembrokeshire. It extends from
Bardsey Island, Gwynedd to the north and south to to Strumble
Head in Pembrokeshire.
Ocean currents are influenced by the rotation of the
earth, with currents in northern hemisphere oceans moving clockwise.
This means that water in the North Atlantic originates in the West
Indies, and then flows north along the west coast of North America
before crossing the Atlantic towards Europe. A major component of this
water is the Gulf Stream - warm water from the Gulf of Mexico which
travels through the Florida Straits before moving north.
||The Gulf Stream has a big influence on the
climate of Britain and makes it considerably more temperate than it
should be at this latitude. It also brings with it a number of
species normally found only in warmer waters. These include
Leatherback Turtles, Sunfish and Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish,
all of which are seen from time to time in Cardigan Bay.
The largest turtle ever recorded was found washed up in Cardigan Bay
at Harlech in 1988. It was a male Leatherback that drowned after
becoming tangled in ropes. It weighed 916kg and measured 2.91 metres
Historically, Cardigan Bay is famous for its Herrings.
In 1808 it was reported that the fisherman of New Quay and nearby ports
had caught nine million Herring in one night with catches averaging
4,000 to 5,000 fish per boat per night.
Samuel Lewis wrote about New Quay in
his Topographical Dictionary of Wales in 1833 that: 'There
are at present from sixty to seventy vessels belonging to this port,
averaging from forty to fifty tons' burden each, and employing from one
hundred and fifty to two hundred men. Fish of very superior quality is
found in abundance on this part of the coast, soles, turbots, and
oysters, being taken in great numbers during the season ; a good
herring fishery may also be established with advantage.'
By the 1830's
though, the catch had diminished and the fishing boats started to
disappear to be replaced by larger boats designed to trade in various
cargoes. The demise of the fishing industry at that time however gave
birth to the shipbuilding industry for which New Quay, Aberaeron and
As environmental pressures on fisheries and
wildlife species increased, it became evident that further conservation
measures should be taken in Cardigan Bay.
the 'Heritage Coast' area was created from New Quay to Tresaith. Since
1996, the sea area adjacent to the Heritage Coast, extending from south
of Cardigan to Aberarth just north of Aberaeron, has been designated a
Special Area of Conservation under the European Habitats Directive. A
number of important species and marine features, were taken into
consideration in creating this area. These include:
Bottlenose Dolphins, Tursiops truncatus
The Grey Seal,
The River Lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis
The Sea Lamprey, Petromyzon marinus
Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water
all the time
Reefs - both rocky and living
Submerged or partially submerged sea caves
are now nine organisations with statutory responsibilities for the
site, which are working together, as ‘relevant authorities’
(RAs). Their aim is to establish a scheme of site management for the
The Bay is quite shallow, with the 40m depth contour
being some 25 miles offshore. As a result, plant life in the form of
marine algae can survive on the sea bed over a large area as sufficient
light can penetrate to allow photosynthesis. The algae - or seaweeds, as
well as the the plentiful plant plankton are, like plants on land at the
base of the food chain able to pass on their biomass to the grazers and
other animals that make up the complex ecosystem of the Bay.