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Marine Life & Conservation

Cruise Ships

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For this occasion I’ll limit my comments to Roatan since I have something of a history with the place – my first visit being about nine years ago – but the same could equally apply to many of the places I’ve visited – Costa Rica, Jamaica, Turks and Ciacos, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Belize and on and on.

I first heard about Roatan in the late Nineties from a friend who told me of an island paradise where you could happily stay in a little cabana for $5 a night and dive your brains out.

He didn’t lie – Roatan is still a bucolic place with its own sense of time. There is little to do there but dive and lay on the beach. The draw was the sheer amount of wildlife. For me it was a revelation. I’d never anything like this quantity before – anywhere. Rivers of Blue Tang’s, French Angels and Rainbow Parrots everywhere. One of the sites is called “Fish Soup” for the utter profusion of fish there. These days it’s more of a thin broth. The cruise ships began docking in Roatan about five years ago and I’ve been back twice in the interim and each time there was a marked fall-off in the numbers of reef inhabitants. Those rivers of fish are just gone. Spotted Eagles and other rays used to be everywhere – in April I saw one! I know they’re shy to begin with but they were just nowhere to be seen.

I’ve wondered too, about polluting bilge water from those ships. Prior to their arrival the largest boat in the archipelago was the ferry that zips twice a day between Roatan and Utila.

Roatan is known for its healthy corals, but I noticed this last time how much less vibrant they seemed to be – much of the colour seemed to have been drained. Bleaching, which was unknown down there, is now commonplace; but that’s true everywhere I’ve been too. Higher temperatures or no, coral is dying everywhere. The soft corals especially have suffered.

There is a funded reef protection plan – each diver is asked to donate to the upkeep and to fund anti-poaching patrols, but these are easily evaded by local fishermen who have found that there is plenty of demand for fish now that the cruise ship passengers flood the West End during peak season.

Many passengers disembark looking to do a day’s diving and I can’t help but feel that much of the damage to the reefs comes from them – they arrive, dive shops have little or no knowledge of their abilities, they dive, then leave. So often I’ve witnessed “divers” who have no buoyancy skills whatsoever in sixty feet of water, trashing the coral and it just makes me furious. Diving itself is becoming deleterious to the very environment we’re down there to enjoy. If you cannot control your altitude you shouldn’t be anywhere near coral – period.

I don’t want to get into a screed about Diving Clubs and their lack of focus on oceanic health but something is clearly wrong with the model that pushes divers very rapidly through training courses before they’re ready. To me every certifying agency needs to have environmental concerns way up front and woven into their very fabric – otherwise we’re going to kill the very thing we all love.

I’m down there trying to make friends (I’ve had so many pranks played on me by fish so don’t tell me they’re stupid and don’t have a sense of humour) and I fear that may not be possible too much longer.

SM

For further reading on the Cruise Ship issue try http://WWW.responsibletravel.Com/copy/how-responsible-are-cruise-liners

Marine Life & Conservation

Join us in supporting Dive Project Cornwall Crowdfunder Project

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Do you have a moment to help protect our oceans?

We’re on a mission and have partnered with DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL to help protect our oceans for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL is a unique EDUCATION and EXPERIENCE initiative, reaching over 3,000 schools with their Ocean Education Programme, inspiring the next generation to protect our oceans for everyone to cherish and enjoy.

At the heart of the project is a competition for 400 lucky teenagers to win the EXPERIENCE of a lifetime. They will take the learning from the classroom straight to the shores of Porthkerris on a 6-day, life changing trip where they will learn to scuba dive and be taught the importance of marine conservation. They will become ‘Ocean Influencers’ for the future.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL needs our help.

Can you join us with a gift to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL?

Whether it’s £5 or £50, a gift from you to the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL Crowdfunder Project will help their vision of protecting our oceans through the innovative experience designed for school children.

Will you join us and pledge to support 400 lucky teenagers learn from and EXPERIENCE the ocean like never before and give them an EDUCATION they can use to inspire others, not forgetting the memories that will last a lifetime?

For more information, you can read the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL story HERE.

Help us create the next generation of Ocean Influencers with a donation to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL and ensure our oceans (and planet) are protected for the future.

WWW.CROWDFUNDER.CO.UK/P/DIVE-PROJECT-CORNWALL

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Marine Life & Conservation

Spring jellyfish blooms bring turtles to UK shores

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Marine Conservation Society’s wildlife sightings project asks beachgoers to share their discoveries and contribute to research

The Marine Conservation Society’s long-running wildlife sightings project focuses on two key species which arrive on UK shores: jellyfish and, as a result, turtles. Both species are vital in supporting ocean biodiversity and are indicators of climate change while being at risk from its impacts.

The charity is asking beach and seagoers to share when they spot either of these marine animals to support ongoing research.

During spring and summer, jellyfish arrive in the UK’s warming waters to feed on plankton blooms or, in fact, anything small enough to get caught. To that extent, jellyfish feed not only on plankton, but also the array of eggs and larvae of fish, crustaceans, starfish and molluscs which rely on plankton as a stage of reproduction.

With healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity, jellyfish quickly become part of an effective food chain. Everything from tuna to turtles will feed on jellyfish of various sizes, so the population is well controlled. Supported by a rich and diverse ocean ecosystem, jellyfish link the microscopic world of plankton to larger marine animals and the ocean around them.

Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species have been spotted in UK seas as a result of jellyfish blooms in spring and summer.

The largest sea turtle, and the most common in UK seas, is the leatherback which has a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status. Reporting sightings of these incredible creatures will support the Marine Conservation Society and others in understanding their movements, potential threats and how to better protect them.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“For more than 17 years, beachgoers across the UK have been contributing to scientific research by sharing their wildlife sightings with us. It’s a key part of our work and plays a vital role in better understanding and protecting our ocean.”

In 2014, with partners from the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society published the first paper from the survey data, confirming key information about UK jellyfish and including the first distribution maps of the surveyed species.

Since the 2014 paper, the wildlife sightings project has recorded notable events such as massive and extensive annual blooms of barrel jellyfish and several summers of Portuguese Man o’ War mass strandings.

The charity continues to run its wildlife sightings project to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms over time. The data will help to explore any links jellyfish blooms have with big-picture factors such as climate change.

Jellyfish can be spotted year-round in UK seas, but larger blooms are more likely to appear in spring, lasting through until autumn. Jellyfish sighting records from 2021 suggest that compass jellyfish are the most common around UK shores, making up 36% of reported sightings.

Jellyfish species Percentage of sightings reported
Compass jellyfish 36%
Moon jellyfish 17%
Lion’s mane jellyfish 15%
Barrel jellyfish 14%
Blue jellyfish 9%
Portuguese Man o’ War 6%
Mauve stinger 2%
By the wind sailor 1%

For more information on how to identify jellyfish and turtles, and to report a sighting, please visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

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