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Marine Life & Conservation

Caution advised over social solitary bottlenose dolphin frequenting Cornish waters

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Marine conservation charities British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Marine Connection are advising people to act with caution around Cornwall’s latest unusual visitor.  A lone bottlenose dolphin has turned up in the area recently, spending most of its time around the Isles of Scilly, but has also been frequenting waters around the coast of Cornwall, attracting a lot of attention.

This animal is known to the groups as a ‘social solitary’ dolphin, a highly unusual circumstance where an individual chooses to interact primarily with people and watercraft over living with other dolphins.  They often display behaviours such as following boats, spending time inside harbours, and even coming amongst swimmers, which can understandably elicit a lot of excitement from observers.  This particular individual is known to have visited Scilly in June 2020, and since then has also been seen in County Cork, Ireland.

BDMLR Area Coordinator Dan Jarvis said: “Yesterday afternoon we had a call about a dolphin in St Ives harbour, which turned out to be the new social solitary bottlenose dolphin who has been called ‘Nick’.  It later turned up in Hayle harbour and came in amongst a large group of people, mostly children, who were already in the water and began interacting with them quite boisterously.  After a little while it became obvious that the dolphin’s behaviour was escalating and becoming more erratic, so we were very concerned that someone would get injured.  Hayle Surf Life Saving Club who were also monitoring the situation with us, also advised people to leave the water for their safety and their boat was then used to lure the animal back out to sea before the outgoing tide trapped it”.

Marine Connection Co-Founder Liz Sandeman comments: “Sadly, the more these dolphins become habituated through prolonged human contact and behaviours like this develop, the greater the potential for accidents and injury to both the dolphin and members of the public to occur.  Dolphins are powerful marine mammals and have been known to, albeit unintentionally at times, seriously injure people when thrashing their tail or even butting them with their snout.  There is also concern for the welfare of the dolphin which itself can become injured, sometimes fatally.  The last such dolphin in the region, which had become known as ‘Danny’, frequented the coast of Dorset and was killed in December 2020 after being struck by a boat propeller, and sadly was just the latest in a shockingly long list of such incidents, which can be avoided if due care is taken and advice followed.”

The two charities are working together to raise awareness of the unique situation around this dolphin, and are urging people who encounter it to act with caution as its behaviour will not be like that of other dolphins and could be much more unpredictable.  Advice includes not purposely going into the water to play with it, to not feed it, to keep boats moving at a steady course and speed and to avoid chasing and fast manoeuvres.

Find out more about the issues around these social solitary dolphins by downloading and reading the ‘Lone Rangers’ report on social solitary dolphin case studies around the world that was produced by the Marine Connection.

For further information, see www.bdmlr.org.uk and www.marineconnection.org.

Photos: Constance Morris – Cornwall Coast Photography

Marine Life & Conservation

Beach litter going down, but plastic still polluting UK shores

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  • Marine Conservation Society reveals results of 2021 Great British Beach Clean
  • On average, litter found on UK beaches dropping year on year
  • 75% of beach litter made of plastic or polystyrene
  • An average of just 3 single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches

The Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean, which took place from 17th – 26th September this year, saw 6,176 volunteers head outside to clear litter from their local streets, parks and over 55,000 metres of UK beaches.

A total of 5064.8kg of litter was collected and recorded over the week by dedicated volunteers and the results are in.

In positive news, the average litter recorded per 100 metres is dropping year on year across the UK. This year, an average of 385 items were found, dropping from averages of 425 in 2020, and 558 in 2019.

Cotton bud sticks moved out of the UK’s top ten most common rubbish items this year, with the number of plastic cotton bud sticks collected being the lowest in the Great British Beach Clean’s 28-year history. This year, an average of 6 plastic cotton bud sticks were found, dropping from 15 in 2020. These decreasing figures are a positive indication that policies are working.

Scotland was the first UK country to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton bud sticks in October 2019. England followed suit last year, introducing a ban on single-use plastic straws, cotton bud sticks and stirrers. It’s likely that the drop in numbers found on beaches is, at least in part, as a result of these policies over the last couple of years. The Welsh Government is yet to introduce a ban on plastic cotton bud sticks.

Numbers of single-use plastic bags on beaches have continued to drop, from a high of 13 on average in 2013, down to just 3 in 2021.

Plastic pieces remain the most prevalent form of litter on UK beaches, with 75% of all litter collected being plastic or polystyrene, with an average of 112 pieces found for every 100 metres of UK beach surveyed.

Top five most common litter items on UK beaches (average per 100m)

  1. Plastic and polystyrene pieces (111.7)
  2. Cigarette stubs (27.8)
  3. Crisp and sweet packets, lolly sticks etc (25.9)
  4. Plastic caps and lids (15.5)
  5. String/cord (15.3)

With so much beach litter being made from plastic, the Marine Conservation Society is continuing to campaign for ambitious single-use plastics policies which would phase out the manufacture and sale of plastic products in the UK.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “UK governments’ current piecemeal approach to single-use plastics policy just won’t cut it anymore. While we’re seeing a downward trend in litter on beaches, we’re still seeing huge volumes of plastic washing up on our shores.

“A shocking 75% of all the litter we collected from UK beaches this year was made of plastic or polystyrene, so it’s clear what we need to focus our attention on. Comprehensive and ambitious single-use plastics policies which reduce the manufacture and sale of items is the quickest way of phasing out plastic from our environment.”

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Manager at the Marine Conservation Society: The ongoing downward trend we’re seeing in litter levels on UK beaches is a positive sign that the actions we’re taking at a personal, local and national level are working. But we can’t sit back and relax, now is the time for even more ambitious action.”

The Marine Conservation Society included PPE items on its survey form for the first time this year*, providing a baseline from which to understand the impact and presence of face masks and gloves in the future. Levels of PPE found this year were similar to 2020, when masks were made mandatory across the UK. 32% of UK beaches cleaned found PPE litter though masks ranked  59 out of 121 for most common litter items.  Inland, for the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest, 80% of litter picks found PPE in 2021, in comparison to 69% found in 2020.

Read more about the Great British Beach Clean, and the Marine Conservation Society’s year-round Beachwatch programme on the charity’s website: www.mcsuk.org.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Endangered Mako Sharks win vital protection

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The Shark Trust are celebrating this week. After many years of hard work with their Shark League Colleagues, the team has been successful in securing protection for the North Atlantic Short Fin Mako Sharks. This hard-fought ban on the catching of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks was adopted this week by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). It is a giant step toward in reversing the decline of this seriously over-fished population.

“At long last, we have the basis for a game-changing rebuilding plan, but it won’t be successful if we take our eyes off the EU and their egregious intent to resume fishing a decade before rebuilding is predicted to begin,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “In this moment, however, we focus on the overwhelming chorus of concern that helped us reach this critical breakthrough. We’re deeply grateful for the ‘voices for makos’ – the continuous calls from conservationists, divers, scientists, aquarists, retailers, and elected representatives to protect this beleaguered shark.”

While the ban in initially in place for two years, this move shifts the emphasis of the debate and parties will now have to justify the reopening of the fishery of an Endangered shark.  The Shark Trust will be keeping a close eye on future discussions.

Makos are exceptionally vulnerable to over-fishing. These oceanic species are classified by the IUCN as globally Endangered and so this new ban on fishing them will help populations recover. Whilst the Shark Trust are delighted at this positive result, they will not be standing still and will both continue to safeguard Makos and fight for all the other endangered shark species.

The dive community, assisted by Shark League partner PADI AWARE Foundation, played their part in achieving this win, putting their many voices behind the Voice for Makos campaign. Together the Shark Trust and the dive community will raise awareness and share their love of sharks in the ongoing fight to protect them.

For further information on the work of the Shark Trust: www.sharktrust.org

For further information on the Shark League: www.sharkleague.org


Header Image: Jacob Brunetti

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