The Bay ‘Super-Estuary’: After the last ice age, the ice sheets that scoured out Morecambe Bay retreated, leading to the formation of the Irish Sea, and flooding the Bay itself. While it still reaches depths of 80m at Lune Deeps, most of the Bay has been filled in with sediment brought down by the rivers Wyre, Lune, Keer, Kent and Leven to form the largest network of intertidal mudflats in the UK.
Satellite imagery shows that the bay as a whole has a very high primary productivity. Fixing around 1.5kg of organic carbon per square meter every year, this ecosystem is one of the most productive in the world. Despite this powerhouse of growth, life in the Bay tends to keep itself hidden, so on Saturday 28th September, Gordon Fletcher led a ‘Heysham Safari’, to expose some of its less commonly spotted inhabitants.
The event, organised with Morecambe Bay Partnership, was a great success, with twenty five participants filling the restaurant at the Royal Hotel, Heysham, for Gordon’s talk! The talk was followed by a shore walk around Throbshaw Point, where we found and identified 26 species in a little over an hour.
Thanks to everyone for attending, and helping to make for such an enjoyable occasion!
Wherever you are in the UK, you are only a few miles away from a true wilderness, were very little of the plant or animal life is tamed or cultivated.
If you would like to know a little more about the wilderness on your doorstep, you are cordially invited to our Marine Life ID course, where members of the local group will provide short introductions to many of the important marine groups – many of which have no terrestrial equivalent…
Marine Life ID course
By Lancashire MCS Local Area Group, with support of the Society of Biology Saturday 18th July for 10:00 AM at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve
Price £10 Booking essential Email: Secretary(AT)lancashiremcs.org.uk
Photo-montage: All but one of the photographs in the montage above were taken in the UK, and four were taken in Morecambe Bay. Photos by Gordon Fletcher, Barry and Jo Kaye. CLICK IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW!
Wednesday 10th June, 19:30hrs at Capernwray Dive centre
In a change to our published program, we are pleased to be able to announce that Gordon will be presenting his ‘Morecambe Bay Underwater Safari’. This is a personal account of 20 years of encounters with the diverse sea life to be found in Morecambe Bay.
Saturday 18th July 10:00-17:00: Members of the Lancashire MCS will be presenting an introduction to marine life, with a particular focus on life in the Bay area and the North West Coast of the UK. This course is suitable for beginners, and introduces many of the important groups of marine life, from shore plants to fish. Price £10 per person.
Booking is essential for this event, please contact us to confirm your place.
With the start of summer, we have a lot of practical events coming up for you! We begin with two events celebrating World Environment Day:
Friday 5th June 14:30-18:00: Gordon is leading the ‘Morecambe Bay Safari’ at the Royal Hotel, Heysham. This is followed by a guided beach walk. Meeting organised by MBP; £5 admission, booking essential: morecambebay.org.uk/events/marine-life-bay
Friday 5th June 18:00 to 18:00 6th June: Members of the MCS will be helping out at the Stanah BioBlitz (Wyre Estuary Country Park, River Road, Stanah, FY5 5LR). We will have a stand at this event on the Saturday, but local members will be available for much of the rest of the event, helping to ID marine life from two boat trawls of the estuary itself.
Following this we have our first meeting of the year at Capernwray Dive Centre:
Wednesday 10th June 19:30-20:30Morecambe Bay Cycle Way by Louise Smail. This will look at the new cycle way which now runs along the whole length of the Bay. Admission £2, all welcome. Download our poster (PDF, 102kB), or view the location in Google Maps.
Saturday 20th June 11:00 to 11:00 21st June: The Formby BioBlitz will be attended by members of the National MCS
By Justine Willard, National MCS, 13th November 2013
The Sea Champions initiative has passed us by in the North West – until now! This program received funding for the South of England, Scotland and Wales, and has paid for a small number of coordinators to inspire a larger number of volunteers to engage in a range of marine conservation activities and fund raising events.
Also importantly, Justine’s visit gave us a chance to talk about how we might leverage funding for a conservation officer in the North West, who could coordinate and inspire local activities. Most grant awards come with a requirement to get matching funding – but often a proportion of this can be ‘in kind’ rather than in cash. As a consequence, if you are engaged in volunteer work for the MCS, you can fill in an activity log, and we may be able to count your time against the matched funding requirement: Sea Champions Activity Log Sheet (Word .DOC file 141kB).
The talk reviewed a web project that brings together physical information about the Bay from a range of sources, including weather, sea state and river inputs. This data informs our current understanding of physical processes in the Bay. Data are interpreted in a map that shows sea states, wind directions and the levels of principle rivers over the last five days. In addition, graphical displays review sea-sate (wave height and period) and river levels over the last fifteen days.
The talk went on to look at how physical conditions might interact with the geography of the Bay to influence diving conditions. There is no formal model of the Bay’s ‘underwater weather’, but a number of approaches to developing such a model were proposed.
A link to the observatory is given below, users are advised, however, that this is a ‘work in progress’, there are a few rough edges, and information is provided without warranty of any kind:
The Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA’s) are a recent addition to the management of our coastal waters, taking on the role of the Sea Fisheries Committee in 2011. Unlike the old committee; they have a broader remit to manage fisheries, social and environmental activities up to 6 miles from the coastline.
Joe’s talk took in fisheries in the Bay area, describing the mix of traditional and more modern practices, and how they are managed to help ensure sustainable stocks and livelihoods. The Bay is an unusual fishery, with fishermen employing a small number of boats, and a larger number of tractors! Both require a great degree of skill to navigate across the shifting sands safely to their preferred fishing grounds, which include some of the largest mussel beds in the world. Many of the traditional catches are sustainable – with populations of cockles and mussels experiencing natural cycles of abundance. Where there have been concerns, for example with takes of juvenile Sea Bass around Heysham, both fishermen and the angling community have supported the ‘Heysham Bass Nursery Area’, which is now closed to fishing under Byelaw 5.
With further good management, and the engagement of the fishing and angling communities, it is to be hoped that the traditional pattern of seasonal fisheries can be sustained for the foreseeable future.
One of our mystery organisms (pictured) was a parasite on one of the juvenile spratts caught in the rock pools. Lewis had narrowed it down to probably being a copepod, and this was confirmed by David Fenwick and Mike Moon, who identified the species as Lernaeenicus sprattae. Commonly seen on Spratts in UK waters, it gets its name from its preferred feeding mode, attached to the eye of the unfortunate fish. Extensive parasitism is possible, and this can result in considerable deterioration in the health of individual fish. The two green appendages are egg sacks.
Some of the other organisms featured in the talk are shown int he gallery below, alongside some photos taken underwater on the same site: