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:
- Plastic (and other) pollution (see the amounts of plastic being collected at Silverdale, for example)
- 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:
Living Seas North West (Lancashire, Manchester North Merseyside)
Lancashire’s Living Seas, was a talk by Eleanor Falch to Lancashire MCS on Wednesday 11th December 2019