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Marine Life & Conservation

Boating and conservation worlds unite to save Studland’s seagrass and seahorses

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Charity The Seahorse Trust and national marina group boatfolk have joined forces to deliver a practical solution for saving Studland’s unique marine environment.

The two organisations have collaborated on a not-for-profit scheme to put ten ‘eco-moorings’ into Studland Bay to give boaters an attractive, environmentally friendly alternative to dropping their anchors. The dropping of anchors has damaging consequences for seabed environments including seagrass meadows. This is a significant concern as seagrass provides essential habitat for species including seahorses and also stores up to twice as much carbon per hectare as terrestrial forests, playing a major role in keeping climate change in check.

The scheme was recently approved by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) following its designation in 2019 as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and installation of the new eco-moorings is now underway. The organisations’ eco-mooring proposal was supported by letters from high-profile conservation advocates including Chris Packham and Steve Backshall. The scheme is also being supported by Mitch Tonks and Rockfish who will provide funding for the installation of one of the eco-moorings.

The MCZ designation was made on the basis of Studland Bay’s seagrass meadows, which are an internationally important breeding ground for the Spiny Seahorse, one of Britain’s native seahorse species. The Spiny Seahorse was protected in 2008 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act following campaigning by the Seahorse Trust. The legal aim of the MCZ designation was to return both seagrass and seahorses to ‘favourable condition’.

Image: Ross Young

Neil Garrick-Maidment, Founder and Executive Director of The Seahorse Trust said: “The designation of Studland Bay as a Marine Conservation Zone was a long-awaited and hugely significant moment in safeguarding UK seahorse populations. It is now vital that the area is effectively protected and that everyone who uses the bay does so responsibly and sustainably. I am delighted to be working with boatfolk to develop a practical solution, which allows boaters to continue enjoying this remarkable site, in a way which also enables the conservation of rare seagrass meadows and crucial seahorse breeding grounds.”

Michael Prideaux, Managing Director of boatfolk said: “In late August, I met Neil on the beach at Studland Bay. We were united by our shared passion for the environment and by a desire to work with, and alongside, the boating community for a solution that everyone can get behind. boatfolk is all about making it easy for people to get out on the water and to enjoy their time afloat. Providing an alternative option at Studland that protects this incredible marine environment is about doing the right thing for boaters and for our planet. Financial return is not an objective here; we are committed to making Studland Bay a sustainable boating destination for generations to come and are proud to be putting our name and resources behind the scheme.”

The scheme forms part of boatfolk’s wider sustainability strategy, Coastline Deadline, a new platform designed to back projects which have a real, positive and measurable impact on the coastline.

Michael Prideaux adds, “We know our industry has an impact on the environment and that not enough is being done to raise awareness and change behaviours. Our goal isn’t to stop people boating. In fact, it’s the opposite. By making changes now we want to ensure that the coastline and oceans remain a place that can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Image: Neil Garrick-Maidment

The benefits of eco-moorings are well-documented. Such moorings involve a helical screw anchor being driven into the seabed. An elastic rode is then attached, connecting the anchor system with the mooring buoy. The elastic rode will stretch at higher tides and contract at lower tides meaning that none of the equipment scours the seagrass around it. The moorings also provide a hassle-free option for boaters, saving them the trouble of having to drop their own anchors (which can often drag before taking a hold and leave the boat owner to clean the equipment afterwards).

Neil Garrick-Maidment and Michael Prideaux commented: “The Seahorse Trust and boatfolk are united in a clear belief that eco-moorings are the way forward for Studland, allowing boaters to continue enjoying the site while seagrass and seahorses thrive alongside. We were thrilled  to secure  MMO approval   for our proposal, which we believe provides a practical and collaborative roadmap to finally giving Studland Bay the effective protection it deserves, and are delighted that installation of the eco-moorings is now underway following successful tests of the helical screw.

The Seahorse Trust and boatfolk are very grateful to award-winning Devon and Dorset restaurant group Rockfish for their generous sponsorship of one of the initial ten eco-moorings.

Mitch Tonks, restaurateur, Rockfish and Seahorse restaurants, and co-founder of the Devon Environment Foundation, expressed his support for the scheme: “We believe Rockfish has a purpose beyond our restaurants. This is exactly the sort of project we like to support – practical, visible and useful, as well as changing the way we impact our world. It’s this on-the-ground stuff we love that people like The Seahorse Trust go out there and do.”

For more information on the work of The Seahorse Trust visit their website by clicking here.

Header image: Neil Garrick-Maidment

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Leading UK-based shark conservation charity, the Shark Trust, is delighted to announce tour operator Diverse Travel as a Corporate Patron

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Corporate Patrons provide a valuable boost to the work of The Shark Trust. The Trust team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays, engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters to further shark conservation.

Specialist tour operator Diverse Travel has operated since 2014 and is committed to offering its guests high quality, sustainable scuba diving holidays worldwide. Working together with the Shark Trust will enable both organisations to widen engagement and encourage divers and snorkellers to actively get involved in shark conservation.

Sharks are truly at the heart of every diver and at Diverse Travel, we absolutely share that passion. There is nothing like seeing a shark in the wild – it’s a moment that stays with you forever!” says Holly Bredin, Sales & Marketing Manager, Diverse Travel.

We’re delighted to celebrate our 10th year of business by becoming a Corporate Patron of the Shark Trust. This is an exciting partnership for Diverse and our guests. We will be donating on behalf of every person who books a holiday with us to contribute towards their vital shark conservation initiatives around the world. We will also be working together with the Trust to inspire divers, snorkellers and other travellers to take an active role – at home and abroad – in citizen science projects and other activities.”

Paul Cox, CEO of The Shark Trust, said:

It’s an exciting partnership and we’re thrilled to be working with Diverse Travel to enable more divers and travellers to get involved with sharks and shark conservation. Sharks face considerable conservation challenges but, through collaboration and collective action, we can secure a brighter future for sharks and their ocean home. This new partnership takes us one more valuable step towards that goal.”

For more information about the Shark Trust visit their website here.

For more about Diverse Travel click here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust Asks Divers to help with Shark Sightings this Global Citizen Science Month

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Whether you are stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids or are off on the dive trip of your dreams. You can get involved in Citizen Science Month and help the Shark Trust by providing vital data about sharks are rays both close to home and further afield.

In addition to reporting the sharks and rays you see on your dives, the eggcases you find on the beach, the Shark Trust is looking for some specific data from divers who are asked to report any Oceanic Whitetip and Basking Sharks.

Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

The Shark Trust are looking specifically for Oceanic Whitetip Shark sightings over the coming weeks and months. So, if you are diving anywhere in the world, please report your sightings via the website or app.

Website: https://recording.sharktrust.org/

App: Search The Shark Trust in your app store

The Oceanic Whitetip. Known for their incredibly long dorsal and pectoral fins, this species was once the most abundant oceanic-pelagic species of shark on the planet.

Large and stocky, they are grey or brown above, and white below and famous for their huge rounded first dorsal fin and paddle-like pectoral fins. The fins also highly prized within the shark fin trade. Whilst they are mostly solitary, Oceanic Whitetips do occasionally hunt in groups.

An inquisitive species, they were easy prey for fisheries. Combined with their low reproductive rate, they were inevitably at high risk of population depletion. And declines of up to 99% have been reported in certain sea areas. They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist (2019).

Conservation efforts to discourage further declines include listing on CITES Appendix II and CMS Appendix I. They’re also the only species prohibited from take by all the Tuna RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Organisations). However, these measures do not mean that Oceanic Whitetips are not still caught – whether targeted or as bycatch – in some parts of the world. With populations declining at such a high rate, effective implementation of management measures is essential to ensure that the species can recover.

If you are lucky enough to get an image of an Oceanic Whitetip and you record your sighting on the Shark Trust app or website YOU CAN WIN! All images submitted with sightings, that also give consent to use in conservation messaging, will be in with a chance to win an Oceanic Whitetip T-shirt and mug. The competition will run until the end of “Shark Month” in July – so keep those sightings (and images) coming in.

Basking Sharks

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) season is upon us, and the Shark Trust is asking everyone to keep an eye out for these majestic giants over the summer months. If you see any, you can record your sighting to the Basking Shark Sightings database.

Each year, these mighty fish return to British waters to feed on plankton. You may see one, (or a few if you’re really lucky) from around April-October. They can be seen feeding at the surface of the water, where they look like they’re basking in the sun. Thus, their name!

Sighting hotspots around the British Isles include southwest England, Isle of Man, north coast of Ireland, and western Scotland. The Sea of the Hebrides is the most prolific sightings area in Scotland, but they have been spotted all around the coast and have even ventured into some of the sea lochs. The Shark Trust has received thousands of sightings since the Basking Shark project began, but more data is needed to truly understand what is going on with population numbers and distribution. You can help by recording your sightings this summer.

Great Eggcase Hunt

The Shark Trust has an Easter Egg Hunt with a difference for you to try. Take part in the Great Eggcase Hunt and get involved with a big citizen science project that helps shark, ray and skate conservation. And it’s an enjoyable activity for all the family.

The Shark Trust also want snorkellers and divers to record their underwater eggcase findings. Underwater records help pinpoint exactly where sharks and skates are laying their eggs and can help link to beach records. Learning the depth and substrate that they lay on also helps better understand the species.

Find out more: https://www.sharktrust.org/great-eggcase-hunt

Whether you are diving, snorkelling or exploring on the beach you can take part in Citizen Science Month and get actively involved in shark and ray conservation. Find out more: www.sharktrust.org

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