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
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills
The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.
The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.
Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEO: “Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk.
We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”
Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm.
Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean.
The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.
Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours.
According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards.
Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “Untreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”
In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.
A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored.
Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant.
“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”.
If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.
For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.
Header image credit: Natasha Ewins
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