THE GIANT white shark in the entrance to the Ocean Lab is a life-sized plastic replica, and not to be feared. But Council cuts that recently threatened the Ocean Lab truly terrified the residents of Fishguard and Goodwick.
When the County Council informed them of its intentions to close the beloved sea front attraction last spring, over 2,000 letters were written pleading to keep the centre open. It is the only free leisure centre with a playground; beach, helter-skelter, educational activities, cafe, shop, soft play, baby and wheelchair friendly, and all within a walk or bus of Fishguard and Goodwick town centres.
The Council claimed that closure would save it £73,000 each year. Cliff Benson of Sea Trust rode to the rescue. Working with Conygar the developer, which has acquired the sea front for development, he has taken on the management of the centre, but he has to find £10,000 to keep it going.
Since May the Ocean Lab has been invaded by sea creatures: from fish which look like bits of wire with horse heads to a live octopus, and giant lobster called Mister Claws. All the sea creatures in the Oceanarium come from the sea outside the window. They stay a few months then return to their ocean home, and new visitors arrive for a predator free holiday. The purpose is to awaken interest and knowledge of Pembrokeshire’s other half, its marine coastal habitat.
The Sea Trust staff who man reception, leave their desks at the drop of a hat to share their passion for the undersea world bordering our own. Santa Jaws, the great white shark replica is the latest arrival, and is great for attracting children in and catching toy seals in its many rows of teeth.
The Ocean Lab close to Fishguard Ferry is also a shop window for the coastal walks and boat trips led by the Sea Trust to spot dolphins, porpoise, streamlined diving sea birds, seals and pups and (who knows?) rarities like the minke whale.
Listening to Cliff and the Sea Trust staff one can wonder if they are perhaps part sea creature themselves, so intimate is their knowledge.