A consultation launched by the UK’s Marine Management Organisation has been welcomed by the Marine Conservation Society.
The MMO has launched the consultation to explore whether bottom towed fishing activity should be prohibited in four Marine Protected Areas where there is evidence they harm wildlife or damage habitats.
Earlier this year the Marine Conservation Society released its Marine unProtected Areas report which found that bottom towed fishing gear was being used in almost all of the UK’s protected areas designated specifically to safeguard the seabed. As a result, the charity called for a ban on bottom trawling in these areas intended to protect the seabed. The consultation is a positive step in the right direction.
The charity’s report found that bottom trawl and dredge vessels spent at least 89,894 hours fishing the seabed inside Marine Protected Areas between 2015 and 2018.
Banning the bottom trawling of these protected seabeds would not only be positive for restoration efforts, but would be climate smart. Not only does bottom trawling damage vital underwater habitats but it also churns up the seafloor, releasing 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.
One of the four sites being considered is Dogger Bank, off the east of England, which is 12,300 km square of seabed – half the size of Wales. The Dogger Bank Marine Protected Area has the capacity to store the most carbon of all UK Marine Protected Areas– equivalent to 31,000 return flights from London to Sydney. Banning bottom trawling in this area alone would have a huge impact on wildlife recovery and the limiting of carbon emissions.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principle Specialist in Marine Protected Areas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “You’d think that Marine Protected Areas are, in fact, protected. However, just 5% currently ban bottom trawling, which has been shown time and again to damage the fragile sea floor. Whilst in the past the UK have had to get full agreement from other EU member states for bans on fishing, now we can act independently with the powers provided by the Fisheries Act.
“This announcement – whilst only for 4 of a possible 74 areas of protection – is an encouraging start. After years of heavily degrading our seas are we finally starting to see measures that can provide the green shoots of recovery?”
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.
For more information about the work of the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.
Stranded dolphin rescued from muddy inlet
At around 11:40 on Friday 16 February, a lone common dolphin was reported to British Divers Marine Life Rescue circling in the shallows in an inlet at Place, near Portscatho, in Cornwall. A couple of volunteer Marine Mammal Medics were sent down initially to monitor the animal in hope it would be able to get away by itself, and further assess the situation.
After an hour and a half or so of observation, the risk of stranding increased significantly as the tide went out as the inlet is very shallow, muddy and almost completely dries out over low tide. Therefore, a larger response team was dispatched with more equipment in preparation for a stranding. Indeed, the animal did soon strand in the mud and fell onto its side, submerging the blowhole. Luckily the team were on hand to help get it upright again quickly, then bring it ashore for a health assessment and to begin providing first aid. No obvious injuries could be found and it measured 2.03m, later confirmed as female.
The team were soon joined by two vets, who were able to confirm the animal to be in moderate nutritional condition and appeared otherwise okay following a more detailed health check, and so was suitable for the team to attempt to refloat. However, it was not possible to refloat it safely in the inlet due to the nature of the geography, substrate and tide there it seemed the most likely reason this dolphin had stranded was due to getting disoriented in this location, and would struggle to get out again. Luckily a local resident had his boat tender moored nearby and was happy to use it a transport craft to take the dolphin out to deeper water.
With help, the boat was slid across the mud and launched near the mouth of the inlet. A surfboard was placed on one side with a soft mat on top for the dolphin to lie comfortably on during the journey. When ready, the dolphin was carried across in a tarpaulin, transferred to a mesh stretcher and loaded on board with a team of four Medics including a vet.
The boat then carefully made its way out to the mouth of the Percuil River, facing into Carrick Roads and close to open sea, which was the most ideal site for release where the chance of returning and re-stranding was lower. The dolphin was carefully hauled overboard in the stretcher and held alongside briefly, though as she started kicking strongly almost straight away it was hard to keep hold and so she was released quickly. The boat retreated and the team observed her circling in the middle of the channel until she was lost from sight. The team returned to the inlet before darkness fell.
The area will be monitored over the weekend for re-sightings or re-strandings, but it is hoped that she will recover successfully and continue back out to sea. In the meantime BDMLR would like to thank the volunteer team, local residents and members of the public for all their efforts and support throughout this incident.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue is an international marine animal rescue organisation based in the UK and is a registered charity. The aims of the organisation are to provide a rescue service for marine wildlife, to support existing rehabilitation centres and to develop new methods of rescue, treatment, transport and care. Website www.bdmlr.org.uk.
Photos: Dan Jarvis
Mother of Corals Announces Ambassador Program
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