The President’s Evening Talk by Dr Ruth Callaway
Saturday 28th October
Marine Life on North Gower, specifically the decline of the Cockle Industry.
Our President, Byron Davies, has an abiding interest in Gower. Now living in Penclawdd, one of his concerns is the fluctuations in the cockle industry. The evening’s talk was a meticulous record of how Dr Callaway from Swansea University and colleagues from other institutions had gone about trying to find a cause for the decline in the Burry Inlet cockles. She highlighted that cockles had not died out, but that they were not achieving the lifespan and size of past decades. They experienced a shift in the population structure and are currently living for just one to two years rather than two to three. Everything had been checked, from oxygen levels, water quality, sea states, climate, sewage disposal, parasites and diseases, as well as the condition and health of other animals calling the sands of the Burry Inlet their home. The research further explored what was happening at cockle harvesting areas such as The Wash or Morecambe Bay. Historical records had been accessed – there was a major downturn of cockle landings in the 1970s. Still, while several potential causes for cockle mortalities could be ruled out, there are ongoing questions about the trigger for the changes in the Burry Inlet.
One thing she touched on was the importance of the cockle industry in terms of its heritage for North Gower. She considered if the role of women in the industry strengthened the independent financial state of the cockle women, and how tough they needed to be and indeed were. In relation to this Guto ap Gwent recollected how, as a boy in Dunvant, he dreaded playing rugby against Penclawdd – not because of the strength of the opposition but because the mothers came along to the matches and shouted stridently from the side-lines!
It was an excellent talk, thanks to Dr Callaway, and a very pleasant relaxed evening. The next event will be the launch of Gower 68 – the Journal – on Saturday 18th November at 10.30 am. Why not come and join us for that.