A very public row
broke out in the normally peaceful community of Cwmtydu near New Quay a
couple of years ago. At the centre of the controversy was a family of
protected Atlantic Grey Seals that had chosen Cwmtydu beach as a
nursery. A council notice appeared on the beach apparently banning
people from using the beach - much to the anger of some local residents
and business owners. The local paper the 'Cambrian News' has
widely covered the saga.
enthusiastic group of seal watchers at Cwmtydu. The pup is circled, the
bull seal wallows in the surf.
Seal at Cwmtydu with her pup at the far side of the beach.
We visited the beach on the
afternoon of September 22nd, 2004 - a windy and rather damp day.
Normally the car park at Cwmtydu would have been almost empty on such a
miserable day, but we found it packed with cars, their passengers
lining the beach wall with cameras, binoculars and telephoto lenses.
There may have been no tourists on the beach, but there were plenty of
The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)
is Britain's largest Seal with the larger males weighing up to 230 kg
or more than 500 lbs in weight. They are thought to live at least 25
years, becoming sexually mature after 4 or 5 years. Grey Seals give
birth on the beach to a single pup in the Autumn. The pup, born with a
pure white coat is only suckled for just over two weeks during which
time the mother can lose almost thirty percent of her bodyweight. The
pup grows rapidly at this time, efficiently utilising the transferred
energy in the mother's milk. Towards the end of lactation, the white
fur is replaced by darker fur - a process taking some 16 days in West
Grey Seal pups are
white for the first two
weeks of their life.
Atlantic Grey Seal
There are thought to be more than
200,000 Atlantic Grey Seals ranging from Scandinavia to France. Of
these more than half are found primarily on the coasts of West Scotland
and the Scottish Islands, West Wales, the south west and western
Ireland. The population has recovered well in the last ninety years
from a low of only some 500 individuals in 1914. Until this time, the
seals were hunted throughout their range.
In the late 1980's, a virus killed
more than 10,000 common Seals in British waters, however, the Atlantic
Grey Seal was more resistant to the virus and few died although blood
tests have shown antibodies to this infection to be widely present in
There are indications that the West
Wales population of this species are increasing. This can only be good
news for local tourism, for along with Bottlenose Dolphins
and Red Kites, they are high
on the list of species that visitors to the area look forward to seeing.