Centurion Scouts Beach Clean at Half Moon Bay

April 27th, 2018

Centurion scouts beachclean at Half Moon Bay Heysham, by Kathy.

On Saturday 14th April, Centurion Scouts Heysham, carried out a beach clean at Half Moon Bay, for the Marine Conservation Society. Kathy McAdam MCS, organised the beach clean with the support of Jo Alexander Scout Leader and Danni Groves Assistant Scout leader. 10 scouts took part and luckily it was a fine afternoon so everyone enjoyed being on the beach. The scouts collected approximately 5kg of litter-not a lot in terms of weight but this included at least 220 pieces of plastic. This probably saved several marine creatures from a very unhealthy diet.

All 10 scouts achieved their Conservation badge, so it was a very successful afternoon all round.

Kathy MacAdam

Posted in Beach Clean

Life in Liverpool docks

April 7th, 2018

Review of ‘What’s up Dock?’, a talk presented by Wendy Northway (MCS North West England Seasearch Coordinator) on 14th March 2018.

While Liverpool’s pre-eminence as a maritime centre in the North West is undisputed today, it was only in 1751, with the construction of the world’s first commercial wet dock that she cemented her call to that title. Previously the most important port in the area was Chester, a position the city had held since Roman times.

The first wet docks allowed ships to be unloaded in a day and a half, significantly undercutting the older practice of unloading cargo to smaller boats at sea for transfer to shore – a process that could take two weeks on good weather. This gave the port a massive commercial advantage, and soon the docks were over-subscribed, leading to the rapid construction of new, larger facilities, which were also required as the expansion of trade with the industrial revolution lead to ever larger vessels…

Liverpool's Albert Dock with the Liver Building in the background. Photo B Kaye
Above: Liverpool’s Albert Dock (with the Liver Building in the background) has been cleaned up and is now a major tourist destination, housing Tate Liverpool and a number of museums. Diving in the docks is now strictly controlled. Photo B. Kaye

As each new dock was built, unseen and rather unheralded, we also built a new marine habitat, and it is these that were the subject of the talk What’s up Dock? by Wendy Northway (MCS North West England Seasearch Coordinator) to the group on 14th March 2018. The docks are no longer used commercially (having closed in 1972), but are actively managed leisure spaces. Water from the river Mersey is not used, as it is too polluted, instead the docks are topped up from the Irish sea on high water springs, giving a salinity in the range 24‰ to 28‰. The exchange of water with the Irish Sea allows for migration of marine wildlife between the Irish Sea and the docks, which have as a consequence become colonised by a fairly select group of organisms.

Mussels and algae colonising a discarded bicycle. Photo (c) BrokenDiver
Above: An old bicycle thrown into the dock has been colonised by mussels and algae. Photo © BrokenDiver.

In 1988 the docks were colonised by up to 1000 mussel spat per square meter. The absence of common starfish in the docks have allowed very large population densities of mussels to be established, and larger individuals have grown too big to have any natural predators. The mussels have been calculated to filter the entire of the docks water every four days, and are probably vital to maintaining water quality. Other filter feeders include bryozoans, sponges and tunicates, while cockles have colonised the soft, muddy bottom of the docks.

Black goby amidst mussels, bryozoans and sea squirts in Liverpool docks. Photo (c) Catherine Gras
Black goby amidst mussels, colonial hydroids and sea squirts (Ciona and Ascidiella) in Liverpool docks. © Catherine Gras

The modern docks are home to a thriving marine community, including a number of fish and crustaceans. I was, however, particularly interested to hear that the seasearch divers had confirmed the presence of an introduction from the southern hemisphere, the worm Ficopomatus enigmaticus in the Collingwood Dock. This species may have been introduced on the bottoms of ships or as larvae in bilge water. Unfortunately we do not know if this is a relatively modern introduction on pleasure craft, or a relict from the Liverpool port’s trading days.

Ficopomatus enigmaticus, an Austrolian introduction. Photo Wendy Northway (c) PhoebeSparke
Above: The characteristic pagoda shape of the tubes created by the worm Ficopomatus enigmaticus, an Australian introduction. Photo Wendy Northway © PhoebeSparke

NOTES: Ficopomatus has become a nuicance in many areas it has colonised, producing dense aggregations that can interfere with dock gates and other marine/estuarine structures, though at high densities in docks may help clear the water of particulates, and improve bottom biodiversity (JNCC report linked below). In some places it forms large reef structures in shallow brackish water. Needing a temperature above 18°C to breed, it may not be as invasive in our local open waters, but has been recorded in the docks at Barrow, so we should be looking out for it in the Bay! More information on Ficopomatus enigmaticus at ‘The Exotics Guide‘ and JNCC.

Posted in Marine science update, MCS talks

Sea Level Rise – the hidden coastal process?

January 3rd, 2018
Above: Simulation of sea level rise on the Fylde coastline.

Our next talk, by Trevor Lund of Blackpool and Fylde College, will examine the evidence from around the Bay for sea level change in the past, look at the processes involved and consider how this will affect us all in the future. The process of sea level rise is one of the most important in shaping our coasts and shallow seas, but what exactly is it and can we see any evidence for it in the environment around us?

Wed. 10th January 2018 at 19:30 ‘Sea Level Rise – the hidden coastal process?’ by Trevor Lund (Blackpool and Fylde College)
Meeting in the cinema upstairs at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY. Admission £2 – all are welcome!

Sea Level Rise (PDF 294kB) Poster with more information.

Posted in MCS talks

Marine Jellies

December 3rd, 2017

Photograph of the jellyfish Aequorea vitrina, by Gordon Fletcher

Contributing to the festive season, we have an illustrated talk on ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher on the 13th December. Gordon is a good story teller, and an excellent marine life photographer. I cannot think of a more able person to bring some of the strangest and most beautiful creatures in our seas to life for us!

Wed. 13th December 1t 19:30 ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher (Lancashire MCS)
Meeting in the cinema upstairs at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY. Admission £2 – all are welcome!

Posted in Events, MCS talks, Science

Half Moon Bay Beach Clean

December 3rd, 2017

Photo of litter pickers at Half Moon Bay, December 2017

We had both good weather, and a good turn-out to our the beach clean at Half Moon Bay on Saturday, thanks to everyone who managed to join us! The December clean is that last of the year for us, and adds quantitative knowledge of the amounts, types and sources of litter on the British coastline. Data from the ‘Great British Beach Clean’ in September is now available; regrettably this saw the MCS record a national 10% rise in the amount of litter collected from 2016. Despite the increasing awareness of plastic waste, the numbers of plastic fragments also increased year on year. National MCS has a number of initiatives to try and reduce single-use plastic packaging, the principle source of plastic waste, to find out more, visit:

mcsuk.org/appeal/stop-the-plastic-tide for more information, sign petitions or donate.

Posted in Beach Clean

Nov 8: Meeting Cancellation

November 8th, 2017

Sorry, Marine Life in Morecambe Bay has had to be cancelled due to a double booking.

Posted in Uncategorized

Morecambe kite festival 2017

July 1st, 2017

The MCS stand at the Morecambe kite festival 2017

The Saturday of the kite festival was particularly windy this year, and with a high tide at mid day there was not much beach to fly kites from, but still an excellent display. It was fun to see a diver (being chased by a very wide mouthed shark;-), and multi-coloured squid floating above the Bay, rather than swimming beneath its waters!

Diver and squid kites at Catch the wind 2017

Despite the wind our stand had a steady stream of visitors, and it was a pleasure, as every year, to chat to people about the diversity of life in the Bay. This year we had a collection of typical finds from the local beaches, including cuttlebones and a range of shark and ray egg cases, making a nice symmetry with the kites! Lewis also brought along a couple of Common Skate egg cases found on the Orkney Isles. Sadly, whilst these were common (it’s in the name!) they are now almost extinct, and it will take a major change in attitude towards marine resource management for us to find these on the shores of Morecambe Bay again.

Thanks to everyone who visited our stand over the weekend, and special thanks to Jo, Lewis, Hilary and Gordon for helping out over the two days, and Kathy for organising!

Kites at Morecambe kite festival 2017

Posted in Events

The scar at Sandylands

June 6th, 2017

Walking out to the Sandylands fishtrap with reef or scar in the background.

I think we approached the evening of Saturday 27th May with some concern, the hot weather earlier in the week had turned to heavy thunder storms, and our walk accross to the scar at Sandylands looked rather questionable! In the event the weather abated, and the rain only appeared on our walk back, allowing us to enjoy a rather interesting and historic marine landscape.

Scars (or skears) are a common geological formation in the Bay, periodically adding a bit of texture in the form of glacial boulder-clay deposites to flat mud and sands. Off Sandylands this feature has clearly been of historic importance, given the number of posts indicating fish traps. Apparently these had been in use until the early 1960’s, and while they looked like conventional fish traps, (a ‘V’ shape narrowing to trap the fish in its point as the tide goes out), anecdotally they may have been associated more with mussel farming. Indeed the reef is in part covered by a large mound of mussel shells. Interspersed in the mussel shells were oyster shells – our local species of oyster was wiped out by disease a hundred years ago, and these worn shells my have been relicts of the time when they were still plentiful.

Gordon talking about some of the finds

Many of the boulders in the scar were completely covered in barnacles, or the swirling patterns of the honeycombe worm reefs. Other animals of interest included anemones, sandhoppers, a grey nudibranch, and tiny common and hermit crabs, that have recently settled to the bottom from their planktonic larval stages.

All in all, an excellent and educational experience. Many thanks to Gordon for organising this, and making an appearance despite having raced in the thunderstorms earlier in the day!

Atmospheric walk back to Morecambe

Posted in Events, Shore walks

Roa Island survey

April 28th, 2017

Roa shore walk group April 2017

A big thanks to everyone who turned out for the beach walk and survey at Roa on Thursday night. The weather did not look very promising in Lancaster, but it was very sunny (though a cold wind) at Roa.

We split into two groups: The main group took a look at the life in the rock pools below the Lifeboat station, always a good hunting area, and saw a wide range of life, including plumose anemones exposed by the extreme low water. The high spot included a small lobster, I think the first time we have seen one on a beach walk, though they are a fairly common sight when diving at this time of year.

I turned to the rather less glamorous task of running a transect down the beach, which proved to be quite hard to complete before the tide turned!

Photograph of a curled octopus

We were joined by Albert towards the end of the evening; he spotted the star find – a curled octopus swimming in the surface waters within a meter of the shore. – I have added the photo above due to popular demand! The octopus was bright red in the water, but quickly changed color to white on capture. He (or she) returned to the original red colouration on release, and continued surface swimming…

I was asked about the guide we were using – this was ‘Seashore Safaris’ by Judith Oakley, and is published by Graffeg.

Posted in Shore walks

Deposit and return for plastic bottles

February 23rd, 2017

We have debated deposit and return for plastic bottles a couple of times in our public meetings, and I hope that many of you feel that charging a refundable deposit on all plastic bottles would be a good idea.

To get an idea of the scale of the problem; in 2007 approximately 13 billion plastic bottles of water were sold in the UK(1). It only takes a tiny number of people to toss their empty bottles aside, rather than recycling or even putting it in a bin for landfill, to make for an enormous mountain of rubbish that is going to litter  streets, our parks and the countryside around us.

Some of the rubbish dropped on land will be collected, by council workers or volunteers, but most of the plastic that ends up in the sea is going to be there for the next couple of hundred years. Here it is slowly ground up until it is small enough to eat…

A deposit scheme would reward people for returning plastic bottles for collection and recycling, and should have a positive impact on the urban landscape, and reduce significantly the numbers of bottles we find on our beaches – in 2016 the Great British Beach Clean recovered an average of 12.5 plastic bottles from every 100m of beach cleaned(2).

Over the past few years there have been a number of campaigns to increase general awareness of plastic as a litter problem. Finally, plastic bottles at least look to be a problem that we can solve, as large companies like Coca-Cola have come around to supporting a deposit scheme(3). If these large corporations think it can be made to work, there is a chance that our government can be made to listen.

You can support the Surfers Against Sewage campaign by adding your name to their petition on 38 Degrees:

Bring back bottle deposits to stop plastic pollution in our oceans.

Bary Kaye (Chair, Lancashire MCS)

References:

(1) Should we be using bottled water? Published by the Environmental Technology Centre, University of Nottingham

(2) Great British Beach Clean results 2016, Published by the MCS

(3) Coca-Cola supports Deposit Return System published by Surfers Against Sewage.

Posted in Beach Clean, Events