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Marine Life & Conservation

Climate solutions must include ban on bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas, says Marine Conservation Society

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A new report from the Marine Conservation SocietyMarine unProtected Areas, has found that bottom trawling is taking place in 98% of the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas intended to protect vital seabed habitats.

The yearlong study by experts at the Marine Conservation Society assessed fishing activity in the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas. As a result of the report, the Marine Conservation Society is calling for a ban on bottom trawling in these protected areas.

Bottom trawling not only destroys vital underwater habitats but also churns up the seafloor and releases carbon into the ocean and, potentially, the atmosphere. It’s estimated that carbon emissions released by bottom trawling across the UK continental shelf between 2016 and 2040 could cost up to £9 billion to mitigate in other areas of the economy.

Out of all the UK’s Marine Protected Areas, just 5% currently ban bottom trawling. Continuing to allow this fishing method in areas intended to protect the seabed is equivalent to bulldozing a national park on land.

The Marine Conservation Society’s research found that fishing activity inside protected areas continues unabated:

  • All but one of the offshore Marine Protected Areas designated to protect the seabed experienced bottom trawling and dredging between 2015 and 2018
  • Areas of seabed later designated as MPAs in 2019, experienced the highest rates of fishing between 2015 and 18. There are no fishing restrictions inside these MPAs so nothing is in place to stop this level of fishing from continuing
  • Bottom trawl and dredge vessels spent at least 89,894 hours fishing the seabed inside Marine Protected Areas between 2015 and 2018.

Much of the carbon stored in the UK’s seafloor (93%) is found in the muddy and sandy sediments mainly in offshore waters where there are no trawling restrictions. As the seabed is trawled, with fishing gear dragging along the sea floor, carbon stored there is released into the water, where it can make its way into the atmosphere and could ultimately contribute to climate change.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principal Specialist in Marine Protected Areas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “Our research shows that Marine Protected Areas aren’t protecting our marine habitats.   While bottom trawling is still allowed we will continue to release more carbon from the seafloor and prevent complex carbon storing habitats from recovering.  In order to battle the climate emergency there has to be limits on where fishing of this kind can take place.

“We’ve been calling for adequate protections for UK seas for more than a decade, to protect and recover our degraded marine life, with very few results. With the introduction of the new Fisheries Act, bottom trawling must be banned in Marine Protected Areas that are designed to protect the seabed. Without a ban on this form of fishing, these areas of our seas simply aren’t recovering and we’re missing a crucial opportunity to combat climate change and ensure there are indeed plenty more fish in the sea.” 

A complete ban of bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas is proven to be effective; within five years of protection from bottom trawling, animals in three UK and Isle of Man Marine Protected Areas were found to be larger and more diverse. When areas of sea around the world were fully protected, biodiversity was found to increase by an average of 21%. Alongside flora and fauna bouncing back, carbon stores are left undisturbed and are able to build back up, as new life emerges on the seabed.

To date, agreeing fisheries management measures for offshore Marine Protected Areas through an EU consultation and evidence gathering process has been complicated by changing dynamics between other EU member states and the UK. Now, with the powers provided by the Fisheries Act 2020, the UK Governments can act more independently to recover our seas and combat climate change.

Read the Marine Conservation Society’s summary report here. For more information on the charity’s Marine Protected Area work, visit the website here.

Header Image: Curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa) amongst a horse mussel bed (Modiolus modiolus) Shetland, Scotland, UK, August. Photographer: SCOTLAND:The Big Picture

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

Scubaverse meet the Ullapool Sea Savers

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On a recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland we met up with an amazing bunch of ocean conservationists called the Ullapool Sea Savers. They are a passionate group of young people based in the beautiful coastal town of Ullapool who are working to protect the marine environment around them and it was a real pleasure to hear their ideas and to witness just how committed they are to their cause.

They are a group run by kids for kids, in response to the inspirational work of local marine campaigner Noel Hawkins. Their core premise is that people will protect what they love and they aim to show people just how much there is to love about the sea. The Ullapool Sea Savers keep things positive and work to inspire those around them and each other.

Each Sea Saver is a Species Champion, and they nominate their preferred species, learn all about them and then present a “fact fie” to the rest of the group. This ties in with the Species Champion Initiative launched by Scottish Environment LINK which asks Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to lend political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. This has led to some great support from MSPs when it comes to campaigning, such as Maree Todd MSP and Minister for Children and Young People (who is also from Ullapool which helped!) becoming the Flameshell Species Champion and working closely with Caillin who is Flameshell Ambassador for the Ullapool Sea Savers. Similarly, Gail Ross MSP for our region, took on the role of Seagrass Species Champion and helped USS campaign against plans to allow Mechanical Kelp Extraction (Dredging!) to be given the go ahead in Scotland. There are plenty more example of this great partnering scheme here.

On top of this, the Ullapool Sea Savers have formed pods, and each small group selects a local campaign to work on, with the “New Wave” working on a “Drain Campaign” to educate people that litter dropped on the street ends up in the surrounding sea. They recently surveyed the litter by the first drain in the campaign and found over 300 cigarette butts that would have all washed out to sea during the next rainfall.

The “Blue Starfish” are working on a crisp packet recycling campaign, starting at the local school with hopes to widen the scale going forward. There is now also the newly formed Seal Pups Pod and we look forward to seeing what campaign they decide to focus on.

Many of the group have passed qualifications in snorkeling, diving, boat handling and they are currently learning to operate an ROV that they plan to use to mark underwater litter and ghost nets so it can be retrieved by divers. The group are also regularly found litter-picking along the coastline. As a group they have a powerful voice and recently won the Sunday Mail, Young Scot Awards 2021 for the Environment Category.

The older kids mentor some of the younger ones that are new to joining the group and what really struck us on meeting the group was how keen they were to pass on their wealth of knowledge and their passion for ocean conservation. We chatted to them about what we do and told them about some of our favourite marine life encounters from around the world. I hope we inspired them just a fraction as much as they inspired us! 

To find out more about the Ullapool Sea Savers you can visit their website by clicking here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Discover Whale Sharks in the Galapagos tomorrow with Regaldive

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Regaldive are inviting divers to join them next Wednesday for a virtual tour of the Galapagos Islands.  Marine biologist Sofía Green will give an insight into her incredible encounters with Whale Sharks.

An expert on Whale Shark behaviour, Sofía has been part of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project since 2017 and is at the forefront of global Whale Shark research. She will also be leading Regaldive’s exclusive Whale Shark Expedition in September 2022, timed to visit during prime Whale Shark season. Founder of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project, Jonathan Green, will also be joining the Zoom event taking questions so do join them to find out more.

  • Date: Wednesday, 16 June
  • Timings: 7-8 pm (UK time)

Register via email here to book your place and let the team know if you have any questions you would like to ask Sofia and Jonathan.

www.regaldive.co.uk

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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