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Marine Life & Conservation

Feeding Time at the Aquarium

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One of the most important, fun and talked about tasks here at Blue Planet Aquarium is feeding our animals. It’s potentially the task we spend the second most amount of time on after cleaning, this comes as no surprise due to the sheer amount of animals that we have to feed and the ways that they need to be fed. When you have a large diversity of animals to maintain, you also must have a diversity of ways to feed them and so we’ve basically divided our feeding methods into four main categories to help make it easier. These methods are in water hand feeding, in water target feeding, surface target feeding and Scatter Feeds.

In theory all our animals are target fed as we must go around the tank and target individual animals but the term target feed at Blue Planet basically translates to the fact we use a long pole or Target to feed them, this is done so that the animals in question learn to associate the target or pole with food rather than our hands.

So firstly lets talk about Target feeding with a pole or Target from the surface, this is how the large Sand Tiger Sharks are fed and we feed them with a 9ft pole from the surface, we have a much better field of vision when feeding them this way and it makes it easier to see who’s coming in for food, who may be hungry and to also monitor their behaviour during the breeding season as we have to monitor their changes in behaviour for our records. We feed our Sand Tiger Sharks on a fish-based diet and they get fed fish such as Trevally, Whiting, Mackerel and Saury.

We also feed our Blacktip Reef Sharks from the surface but with a slightly different method and reasons, Blacktip Reef Sharks are renowned for being a little skittish and although ours are more used to divers than those in the wild, they are still scared of the way we look, the noise we create and of course the bubbles so its always easier to feed them from the surface as there’s nothing to scare them off. For our Blacktips we use a Blue circle attached to the end of the pole with the food clip attached to the centre of the circle, we do this as its been shown that although Sharks are colour-blind they tend to respond to Red/Blue colours. This method has proven to be incredibly successful for our Blacktips and they tend to react within seconds of the target entering the water.

We also use shorter poles at around 3ft, underwater for our Goliath Grouper, Wobbegong Sharks and our Zebra Shark Pup Deborah. As mentioned earlier we do this to stop them from associating our hands with food.

The next method is in water Handfeeding and this is how we feed our Stingrays, Nurse Sharks, adult Zebra Sharks, Bamboo Sharks, Guitarfish, Moray Eels and Zebra Bullhead Shark. All food being fed either by a target or by hand, and is all kept in a yellow bucket until its time to be dished out, this makes it easier to control the food, so it doesn’t all just float away. Our Zebra Sharks and Nurse Sharks are fed underwater by hand and this means that we get very close to them which makes these feeds heavily sought after as we get some of our closest encounters, during these feeds we have to handle our animals in some way, whether that be to move them away to give us room in the case of the Zebra Sharks or to keep them calm and under control in the case of the Nurse Sharks.

Our Nurse Sharks tend to get a little over excited and try and get their head in the food bucket. Nurse Sharks have the suction power of seven Dyson hoovers so if they got their head in the food bucket they would inevitably suck all of the food out of the bucket so we have to push their heads down and even give them a little head scratch to keep them calm and controlled. It’s also an amazing chance to see these amazing animals up close and personal and really take in how amazing they are, we also use this opportunity to health-check them and to also show our guests how Sharks really are. Our Nurse and Zebra Sharks are fed on Mackerel, Whiting with Razor Clams.

We also use the method of handfeeding to further train our Stingrays which we feed against the main Aquatheatre or tunnel to show our guests how a stingray feeds, due to the fact that their mouths are underneath it would otherwise be difficult to demonstrate this, so by doing it against the viewing windows it gives the guests an amazing view of stingrays feeding. Using this method also makes it a lot easier to monitor who’s eating and how much each one’s eating.

The last method is possibly the most simple: it’s called a scatter feed and this is where we simply either throw a mixture of food into the water off one of the platforms that run over the main tank or we have a food mixture which we squeeze from a bottle for the many fish that live in the tank at the end of the shows. We can also use this method to throw large chunks of fish at our larger fish such as our Tarpon and Jackfish, and this helps mimic a hunting behaviour so also serves as a type of enrichment. The food mixtures for a scatter feed usually include Chunks of fish like Mackerel and Whiting along with Squid, Sprat, Sand Eel and Krill.

So as you can see there’s a lot of feeding that must be done to keep all of our animals fit and healthy but this is probably the most fun part of the job and whenever we get new members of staff it’s the part of the job that they can’t wait to get started on and it is definitely worth the wait.

For more information about Blue Planet Aquarium please visit their website by clicking here.

Donovan is a Divemaster who currently works as a Shark Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium based in Ellesmere Port. Donovan’s passion lies with Elasmobranch’s (Sharks & Rays) and this passion has led him to work in South Africa with White Sharks for a short period. He also believes that education through exposure is the best way to re-educate people about Sharks. Follow Donovan at www.instagram.com/donovans_reefs

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netlix documentary: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough’s latest and arguably most important documentary to date is now showing on Netflix.  It is, in his own words, his “witness statement” of a unique life exploring and documenting the wonders of the natural world.

Attenborough looks back and realizes that the previously gradual changes he witnessed (animal species becoming harder to find and fewer wild spaces) have now become vastly more widespread and noticeable. As the human population increased, so has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the amount of wilderness has decreased.  His conclusion: human activity and man-made climate change have accelerated the pace of biodiversity loss.  This not only imperils the majority of natural habitats and creatures on Earth, but also the very future of humankind.

From images of lush green landscapes we journey with him over time to revisit these places, now wastelands. One of the most haunting is the contrast between early footage of orangutans swinging through the rainforest, to recent images of an orangutan clinging onto a lone tree devoid of all but one branch in the wreckage of a deforested site. Attenborough then makes a statement that has stuck with me since watching “A Life On This Planet”: that though we undoubtably have an obligation to care for the natural world, it’s not just about saving other species.  It is about saving ourselves.  His drive and determination to advocate and spread this message as much as possible at the age of 94 is both impressive and humbling, yet Attenborough manages to make this serious subject an unexpectedly positive learning experience.

In the final chapter of the movie Attenborough turns from the bleak reality of the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and offers a lifeline of hope and positivity. We can, he tells us, reverse the damage we have caused, we can save our species and the wonders of the natural world, and it can be done with just a few conceptually simple actions.  It’s enough to enthuse even the most jaded and pessimistic of conservationists!  Attenborough has an amazing ability to awaken our love of the natural world and now he shows us our future is in our hands. It’s time to act.  But we must start now and it must be a united effort.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to be impressed with the eloquence of David Attenborough’s words, or his powerful yet simple message. We are self-confessed Attenborough super fans, but I don’t think anyone could contest that this is a stunning 1 hour and 20 minutes of hard hitting brilliance. The film closes with the comment, “Who else needs to see it?” The answer is all of us.  We highly recommend this documentary to everyone. Put simply if you watch no other documentary this year, watch this one.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Join Reef-World’s sustainability webinar at the first ever Scuba.Digital

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Reef-WorldJoin Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world.

 The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is pleased to invite its supporters to its Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020 (3pm BST on Friday 23 October 2020). At this virtual Q&A, members of the public will hear from industry leaders about the steps they’re taking towards sustainability, particularly in light of the current pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed plans and caused uncertainty across the dive industry: not least when it comes to sustainability. It has also led to a surge in the volume of plastic waste – particularly from single-use and hard-to-recycle products – with masks and gloves being found washed up on beaches. So, what now for green tourism? In this session, attendees will discover the unexpected environmental challenges that have been caused by the pandemic, how sustainability leaders are overcoming those obstacles and the simple changes YOU can make to protect coral reefs for future generations.

Reef-World and the United Nations Environment Programme will host a lively virtual discussion with PADI, Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Fleet, Scuba.Digital, Paralenz, ZuBlu and Bubbles Dive Centre. Together, they will talk about how the sustainability of the diving industry has been impacted by Covid-19 and predictions for the future of green tourism. Attendees will learn:

  • Why is coral so important and how they can be protected through sustainable diving practices
  • What sustainability leaders across the industry are doing to protect coral reefs
  • And how they’ve adjusted their plans in light of the current pandemic
  • What the future of sustainable tourism might look like, according to the expert panel
  • & the simple changes YOU can make to protect coral reefs for future generations.

The panel discussion will be available to watch on the Scuba.Digital main stage at 3-3.30pm and 4-4.30pm BST (with a short break in between the two sessions) on Friday 23 October 2020. Attendees will be able to submit their own questions to the panel too.

Chloe Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “Reef-World’s sustainable diving events have been gaining momentum in previous years so we’re delighted to be able to host this exciting panel event despite current travel restrictions. While the pandemic is causing challenges across the industry, it also offers the opportunity for us to pause, regroup and plan to build back better with a more sustainable tourism industry. We must act now to protect our coral reefs – the very asset upon which our industry depends – and we must work together. So, we’re thrilled to be shining a light on the future of sustainability and help both recreational and professional divers around the world understand how they can support the cause.”

Natalie Harms, Marine Litter Focal Point, COBSEA Secretariat, UNEP – who will be chairing the event – said: “This crisis is hitting marine tourism and the people who depend on it hard. It has showed us once more that our health and the health of our ecosystems are inextricably linked. There is no silver lining for nature – now more than ever the diving community can lead by example and join hands for a sound environmental response to the crisis.”

The 2020 panel represent a range of companies who are innovating when it comes to sustainability:

Reef-World – the leader in marine tourism sustainability – aims to make sustainable diving and snorkelling the social norm.

The UN Environment Programme – the leading authority setting the global environmental agenda, which provides technical advice, support and funding for Reef-World’s Green Fins programme

Scuba.Digital – run by the team at ScubaClick Ltd – was created to help the diving industry network, collaborate and innovate in a way that won’t be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

PADI – The world’s largest diving organisation made a proclamation for the planet in 2019: shifting its brand tagline to “Seek Adventure. Save the Ocean” in order to expand its mission to include a deeper commitment to taking action to protect people and planet.

Explorer Ventures Liveaboard Fleet – is enhancing environmental operations through a customised management strategy, starting with its Caribbean vessels. It is also helping The Reef-World Foundation establish targeted liveaboard protocols as part of the Green Fins initiative with the hope of improving dive operator and liveaboard policies worldwide.

ZuBlu – is a travel platform helping scuba divers and marine enthusiasts discover and book their next underwater adventure in Asia

Paralenz – has developed a camera that enable divers to capture and share the state and life of the Ocean as a seamless part of the dive

Bubbles Dive Centre – in Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia, is one of the global Top 10 Green Fins members.

This online panel event is relevant to representatives from all segments of the diving industry: recreational divers, dive professionals, dive operators, liveaboards, resorts, travel providers, diver training organisations, manufacturers, photographers, the media and more.

Jason Haiselden, Marketing & Sales Director at ScubaClick Ltd and Scuba.Digital, said: “It is great that Reef-World has grabbed the opportunity that Scuba.Digital presents to tell the industry and the diving and snorkelling public how they can make what we do more sustainable. Covid is forcing change upon us so why not take the opportunity to make sustainable changes.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org / www.greenfins.net or come and meet The Reef-World Foundation team at Scuba.Digital.

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