The North West has a diverse range of coastal habitats, from the tidal mudflats of Morecambe Bay, to seacliffs at St Bees in Cumbria, and dune systems of the Fylde coastline. These provide homes for a wide range of life, which is fed by the nutrient rich waters of the Irish Sea.
Recently a number of new MCZs have been approved in the North West to help protect the organisms that live here – including the estuaries of the Ribble and Wyre and Lune, which have been designated in part to protect the smelt (or cucumber fish – so called because it smells of cucumber!).
It will be important in the future to actively manage these new conservation zones, which are under pressure from a range of factors, including:
Overfishing, where by-catch and practices such as bottom trawling are immensely damaging to communities that dwell in and on the soft sediments of the Irish Sea.
Development, the installation of offshore wind turbines (for example) causes sound pollution that has an effect on marine wildlife that is not restricted to cetaceans. (Members of the audience pointed out that once installed, the turbines do provide a managed and effective haven for fish stocks, as sea traffic around the turbine bases is restricted).
Climate change, with increased temperature moving the preferred range for species Northwards, and acidification reducing reducing the fitness of species that rely on calcareous structures, e.g. shells or exoskeletons.
The Wildlife Trusts organise a range of coastal activities that you can get involved with, from shore searches (grown up rock pooling) to christmas tree planting on the Fylde, to protect and enhance the dune system. For more information, or to get involved see:
Thanks to everybody who made the recent World Oceans day at Freeport Fleetwood such a success. Trawls in Fleetwood harbour resulted in us finding and identifying nearly 50 species, many of which were available for visitors to Freeport to see, and touch – before being returned safe and unharmed on the Saturday evening! Stars of the event included a European eel, a lobster, a greater pipefish and several species of flatfish.
More from this event on That’s Lancashire TV (via YouTube):
Images and sea-life survey information from the Lancashire MCS group’s dives around Calve Island, Tobermory Bay have been converted into a display at the Mull Visitor Centre. We hope this will encourage people to take more interest in the (usually) unseen wildlife around our coasts, and recognise it as forming unique and precious ecosystems.
The Chagos Conservation Trust reports that in the year to April 2012 “…there was significant progress in developing and prioritising the necessary scientific research to support the conservation and long-term management of the world’s largest no-take marine reserve. Crucially, too, there has been a dramatic increase in the interest and involvement of the international scientific community in research relating to the Chagos archipelago.”
The full report is available from their website through the link below:
A couple of articles over the last few weeks do make interesting and/or disturbing reading: I think it is pretty much a given that for wild fisheries to have much chance of survival they must be managed. In this light recent gene marker studies on fish sales raise both hopes that we can now clearly identify the provenance of a fish on the fishmonger’s counter, and a warning that some existing certification schemes are not working as well as they need to. Farmed fish may be managed, but that also makes them subject to pretty unpleasant management practices, such as the practice of eye-stalk ablation, which apparently speeds maturity of black tiger shrimp…
We start, however, with one of the big stories in the popular press over the last few weeks, the latest estimate of the total number of species on the planet. To be pedantic we should perhaps say eukaryotic species, though the term ‘species’ is not very easy to apply to prokaryotes… Read the rest of this entry »
This will be an informal event looking for and recording some of the creatures that can be found on the shore at Roa Island. Low tide is at 7:30pm and will be particularly low – at 0.5 metres it should expose more of the shore than most tides which means that many creatures that are often only seen by divers may be found. There are also some creatures that divers don’t normally see that are easier to find when the tide has gone out.
Suitable for all ages; children must be supervised by a responsible adult. Meet at the top of the Jetty next to the Lifeboat Station @6:15pm – map reference SD 232648.
What to bring?
Must haves –
Wellies, sandals or other shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and probably a little muddy;
The same applies to your clothes; also bring some warmer clothes – the shore is exposed so can feel chillier than places on shore.
Optional extras –
A towel and a change of clothes just in case may be a good idea;
Shallow trays or a bucket to put creatures in to study (but be sure to put them back carefully exactly where you find them!);
A camera – but be aware that sea water and cameras do not mix well, if you bring a camera and have a waterproof housing then please use it and in any case take extreme care on the shore not to drop (or even put) your camera into water;
A torch – preferrably a waterproof one, or another good option would be a head torch (sunset is @8:10pm, dusk 8:45pm).
Anything that you bring or wear will be at your own risk.
If anyone wants to car share please let me know and I will try to arrange to meet at the westbound layby on the A65 about half a mile east of junction 36 of the M6 – map ref SD 541821. But note that timing will be a little tight for some of us to get away from work and get to the meeting point in time and that I will NOT do this unless it is requested and I can arrange to leave in time to get to Roa Island.
The hardest coral on the reef may well be a softie, as much of the rocky structure of these reefs is found to derive from the sclerites from soft corals! This debate over how much support environmental agencies will grow as our economic worries deepen, how high up the scale do you put the environment? Essential for our continued existence on the planet, or jobs/hospitals now (environment later – maybe)? This week DSN reports on the debate in the US in our conservation leader. Our pollution section, however, points out that one of the most damaging aquatic pollutants – nitrogen from fertilisers – can be reduced while saving money and increasing yields… Read the rest of this entry »
A cracker of crazy stuff from the ocean this issue: Our contribution to shark week this year might be a shark with a hump – or the camel with very sharp teeth… Plus buzzing lobsters, binary snails and when to fix your beach defenses. Perhaps the best news this issue is the partial recovery of the Grand Banks fishing area. White fish stocks had been reduced close to extinction, and this set up feedback loops that resulted in smaller fish and squid taking over, as they ate what few young fish that were born. After over 20 years of ban, however, there are signs that the cod are coming back… Lessons? – Stop fishing before you hit stock bottom (unless you can survive 30 years without work that is)! Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last few years we have built up a species list for the Hotel beach and wall at Lochaline. Most of the work has been done by Ron Crosby, with occasional contributions from other embers of the group. This year, however, we are glad to welcome contributions from Ron Ates and Godfried van Moorsel, both based in the Netherlands. Their additions (and corrections) take our list up to 122 named species – not bad at all for 100m stretch of coastline! Mind you the coastline is very conducive to diving, with easy access over a gently sloping beach, leading to a near vertical drop down to 80+m. This makes a wide range of habitats readily accessible to the diver – and reminds us about how much there is in the seas around our coasts.
Below is a quick breakdown table of the life recorded, for a full species list see our survey page:
The coolest story in this issue is the all seeing-eye that sea-urchins apparently have, using light sensitive detectors on the tips of each of their tube feet, which are distributed all around their body! Less good is the prediction of a global marine mass extinction event. Otherwise, a few groups are publishing genetic studies increasing our understanding of how marine organisms biomineralise carbonates. Quite imporant given the expected increase in ocean acidification.