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Marine Life & Conservation

Basking Sharks Injured by Marine Debris

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After spotting a basking shark this summer with rope around its nose we were rightly upset about the distress that was being caused to the shark. White abrasions can be seen where the rope has been cutting in and being in close proximity to the eye, must be damaging.

We did not see the shark again, so unfortunately couldn’t help it even after gaining the necessary means in which to do so. After a request to use the image of the shark to show school kids, highlighting the problem of marine debris, I did some searching on the net to see if any sharks had been seen before.

We found out that another shark with plastic on its nose was seen in 2012 by Craig Whalley round the Isle of Man (see his picture below). We got in touch with Craig (a kayaker from the IoM) and Jackie Hall from the Manx Basking Shark Watch. They had actually seen their shark this summer (2013) too, two years in a row. They named the shark Ringo for obvious reasons, putting an upbeat side to the shark’s predicament.

Initially we thought it was good news that the basking shark had been seen and that the shark was surviving under the circumstances. However after checking videos and pictures (looking for the sharks ‘bits’) it seems that we had spotted a female but the IoM shark was male.

The debris on our shark does appear to look like rope and the IoM like the plastic wrapping that goes round cardboard boxes. Jackie also advised that Colin Speedie, a Basking Shark researcher, saw one in 2001 fouled by plastic wrapping off Cornwall. So it’s very distressing to hear that three of our gentle ocean giants have been affected by our waste in such a way.

What you also must remember that a sharks nose is a highly sensitive part of its body, an area where the sharks electro-senses are concentrated. There is no question that this fouling will have an effect on the shark. Imagine what it would be like to have something on a sensitive part of your body but not have the means to remove it! The way I think about it, is having a splinter of wood stuck under your fingernail but not being able to get it out. Painful and extremely irritating.

From seeing these amazing sharks in this state, the lesson for us is to make sure you cut any strapping up before you dispose of it. If you are walking along the beach, please pick it up.  Make sure that you dispose of all waste responsibly and along with the bigger issues of marine debris, try to reduce the amount of plastic that you use!

If we ever see this shark again, we’ll be geared up to help it. Please share this message with everyone so the message hits home about our how rubbish is effecting our ocean giants. With lots of messages of around the world about the issue of marine debris, here’s a real story from your own doorstep – it’s up to you to do something about it!

For more information on Basking Sharks Scotland, visit www.baskingsharkscotland.co.uk

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: My Octopus Teacher

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netflix documentary: My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher is the story of how filmmaker Craig Foster befriends a common octopus in the kelp forests off of the Cape Town coast.  Mike and I love to watch all things underwater and nature-based and so eagerly sat down to this documentary film, a new September arrival on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:

After burning out at work Foster finds fascination and a deep connection with nature when spending time freediving at his favourite local spot.  In a sequence familiar to those who watched the “Green Seas” episode of Blue Planet 2, he comes across an octopus camouflaging itself with shells.  With his curiosity piqued, he begins to seek out the octopus on all of his dives, finding delight in its seemingly strange behaviours, learning what he can from the scientific literature and slowing working to gain the mollusc’s trust on his daily visits to her world.

My Octopus Teacher portrays a very anthropomorphised view of our subject and Foster’s relationship with her.  His conclusions tend to be more emotional than scientific and his eagerness to find similarities between himself and the octopus shows a great sentimentality.  However, you cannot help but be captivated by the incredible mutual curiosity and bond developing before you.  This relationship, and the stunning scenes of the kelp forest with its diverse inhabitants make for a deeply absorbing viewing experience.  There is some fantastic cephalopod behaviour, from the octopus adapting her hunting tactics for different prey, to strategies for outwitting predators and incredible colour and shape morphology.  Foster is also keen to point out how little we know about octopuses and that there is a great opportunity to learn something with every dive.

One of my favourite observations made by Foster at the end of the film is that by going into the water for liberation from daily life’s concerns and dramas, he realised how precious these wild places are.  As he starts to care about all the animals there, even the most minuscule, he comes to find that each one is both important and vulnerable.  Foster finds that his relationship with the octopus changes him and he feels a part of the kelp forest rather than just a visitor, an experience he then shares with his son.  To me Foster’s insight that we must connect with an environment in order to be truly motivated to protect it resonated very strongly.  For those fortunate enough to fall in love with our wilder environments and connect with them, seeing it mirrored in this documentary is quite moving.

Overall we very much enjoyed the film, especially the weird and wonderful behaviours caught on screen and the story as it unfolds.  Though our first reaction was one of pure jealousy (that Foster has such a stunning local dive spot and coastal property!) we soon moved past the envy and found My Octopus Teacher to be a very relaxing and enjoyable evening’s entertainment, which we highly recommend.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society recognises young ocean optimists with new award

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Nominations needed for the Young Ocean Optimist of the Year Award celebrating under 25s who have done something amazing to help our ocean

This year, the Marine Conservation Society is launching a brand new award to recognise incredible young people who go the extra mile to celebrate and protect the ocean. The winner of the award for under 25s will be announced at the charity’s online Annual Conference and AGM on 19th November 2020.

The Young Ocean Optimist of the Year Award has been set up to celebrate the achievements of young people who have worked tirelessly to protect, recover and celebrate the seas and wildlife around the UK coastline. The Marine Conservation Society encourages individuals to nominate any inspiring young person who uses their spare time to clean their local beach, raise awareness of threats to marine life, or shares their passion through research, art, social media, writing, walking or myriad other creative ways.

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “I’m so pleased to be able to recognise and celebrate the incredible young people around the UK whose passion for the ocean is limitless. I can’t wait to see all the nominations and learn about the amazing things that young people across the country are doing to explore, fundraise, raise awareness, protect and celebrate our blue heart. If you know an inspirational young person who has done any of those things, please nominate them now and shine a light on their brilliant work.”

Inka Cresswell, Ocean Ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society and judge for the Young Ocean Optimist of the Year Award said: “There has never been a more important time for us to use our voices for the ocean. I believe we all have an incredibly important role to play in preserving these ecosystems for future generations but there are some individuals who have gone above and beyond, to ensure a brighter future for our ocean and its inhabitants. This award is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the work of young people, leading by example, and showing how one individual’s actions can turn the tide on Ocean Conservation.”

Nominations for the award will be shortlisted by a cross section of staff and volunteers from across the Marine Conservation Society. A top ten list of nominees will then be sent to the judging panel, which includes: Sandy Luk, CEO of the Marine Conservation Society; Mark Haviland, Vice Chair of MCS; Inka Cresswell, MCS Ocean Ambassador; Tara Proud, MCS Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager for Scotland and Hannah Birse, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

The winner will be decided by the judging panel, and announced live at the charity’s online Annual Conference and AGM on the evening of 19th November. Links to short videos (under 5 minutes), audio recordings (under 2 minutes) and social media or online articles/blogs are encouraged to be included in your nomination.

The deadline for nominations is 9am on Monday 19th October. To nominate someone, download the nomination form (here), and send to education@mcsuk.org.

For more information about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

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