Dark and dull? Underwater wildlife photography in British waters

November 27th, 2018

Tunicates and worms by Barry Kaye

At our next meeting, members of the group will take personal views on the subject of photography around UK coastline. This will include a look at the photographic equipment they use, and the challenges they face in getting a ‘good’ photograph. Main speakers: Gordon Fletcher (film), Lewis Bambury (digital), Jo Kaye (macro).

Dark and dull? Underwater wildlife photography in British waters (PDF 117kB)
Wednesday, 12th December, 19:30 – 21:00 at the Gregson Centre, 33 – 35 Moor Gate, Lancaster LA1 3PY.
Admission £3.00, everybody welcome!

Please note, we do not have a meeting in January 2019, our first meeting of the New Year wil be in February, the remainder of our winter lecture programme is available in the PDF linked below:

MCS winter lectures 2018 (PDF format 82kB)

Posted in Marine science update, MCS talks

MCS Beach Clean at Half Moon Bay

November 27th, 2018

Sunday, 2nd December, 11:00 – 13:00
Picking litter on the GB beach clean. Photo by Nicola Darbyshire
Meet up at 11:00 at the Half Moon Bay cafe car park (LW 13:30), or join us on the beach if you arrive later. Please bring suitable clothing and tough gloves (gardening or similar) for picking litter. Organised by Kathy MacAdam

Photo: Picking litter on the GB beach clean earlier this year. Photo by Nicola Darbyshire

Posted in Beach Clean

Loch Sunart and the Isle of Gigha

November 20th, 2018

Photo of a flame shell in Loch Sunart by Gordon Fletcher.
A big thanks to everyone who came along to our meeting, ‘Loch Sunart and the Isle of Gigha’ on the 14th November, which looked at the life in two very different post-glacial marine-scapes. Gordon did an excellent job exploring some of the fascinating life in Loch Sunart, which included flame shells (photo. above by Gordon Fletcher) and hard corals.

The life around Gigha might be described as prosaic – almost terrestrial in that is is dominated by large marine plants (though this is unusual for a marine ecosystem!). It did, however, open up a brief discussion about invasive species, led by observations of wireweed (Sargassum muticum) and Codium (tomentosum/fragilis). The problem with introduced species is that they are extremely difficult to remove once established, and the process of removal may be damaging to many other species in the area. For Codium, studies suggest that our native species are not being overwhelmed. Wireweed is hard to ignore, being a large spreading kelp species, but is also being colonised by local wildlife; so while it clearly competes with native species, it also presents opportunities for local wildlife. The final picture, I felt, was of quite a healthy mix of marine plant and animal species around the island.

You can read a more scientifically literate argument for considering invasives as a potentially valuable part of the ecological mix by Martin Schlaepfer in PLOS Biology – see ‘On the important of monitoring and valuing all forms of biodiversity‘.

Posted in Uncategorized

Great British Beach Clean 2018

October 1st, 2018

MCS beach clean at Half Moon bay 2018. Photo Jo Kaye

Above: Some of the litter pickers and recorders on our september beach clean. Photo Jo Kaye.

The annual Great British Beach Clean and Survey for the Lancashire area group happened on Sunday 16th September at Half Moon Bay Heysham. 46 volunteers took part and removed 22.5 kg rubbish across the whole beach. Including the 200 hundred metres designated for surveys. Our volunteers found 441 small pieces of plastic and 78 larger pieces as well as various other items. That means those pieces of plastic won’t be ingested by marine creatures or birds. Encouragingly, the beach at Half Moon Bay seemed relatively clean as it has for the last few beach cleans.

Picking litter on the GB beach clean. Photo by Nicola Darbyshire

The issue of marine plastic is very much in the news at the moment and research by Thoughtworks reported in the Guardian that 62% of 2,000 people surveyed were concerned to reduce plastic packaging and use recyclable materials. The supermarket Waitrose has pledged to remove traditional plastic bags from loose fruit and vegetables from its stores by March 2019 and also the 5p bags by the same date. With public support for these initiatives growing, this is very welcome and it seems Iceland, Asda, Morrisons and the Co-op are all taking action too.

Right: Picking litter at Half Moon Bay. Photo Nicola Darbyshire.

The Marine Conservation Society has been running the annual beach cleaning events for the last 24 years and expects 2018 to beat all records with 7,391 volunteers registering at 432 coastal sites.

Last year 718 pieces of rubbish were collected per 100 metres of beach, much of the waste being plastics.

MCS has called on the government to introduce a charge on single use plastic items such as straws, cutlery and cups.

We look forward to the results of this year’s survey from MCS and thank everyone again for their efforts at Half Moon Bay. Please check our website for future beach deals dates and we hope to see you again!

Kathy MacAdam
Lancs MCS Beach Clean coordinator

Posted in Beach Clean, litter

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