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Marine Life & Conservation

Greenpeace prosecuted over underwater boulder barrier

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Greenpeace in court this week after the Marine Management Organisation decided to prosecute Greenpeace over protecting nature by building an underwater boulder barrier.

The UK government’s Marine Management Organisation [MMO] is prosecuting Greenpeace UK and its Executive Director, John Sauven, over the creation of an underwater boulder barrier to stop destructive bottom trawling in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area (MPA) in February 2021.

In response to Greenpeace’s underwater boulder barriers, the MMO has consulted on introducing bottom trawling restrictions in four protected areas, including the Dogger Bank where Greenpeace’s first underwater boulder barrier was built. They plan to consult on introducing limited bottom trawling restrictions across all 40 offshore English MPAs.

The Offshore Brighton MPA was established in 2016 specifically to protect the seabed, but in 2019 bottom trawlers spent 3,099 hours ploughing and destroying its seabed and another 448 fishing hours last year. The MMO’s prosecution against Greenpeace is for depositing boulders without a license under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Stephen Fry, Ranulph Fiennes, Bonnie Wright and Mya Rose Craig, who all signed their names on to boulders, have penned an open letter to George Eustice, urging him to cease prosecution. Greenpeace’s boulders were signed by celebrities including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Thandiwe Newton, Mark Rylance, Jarvis Cocker, Robert Plant and others.

Inert granite boulders being placed into the English Channel as part of a bottom trawler exclusion zone in the Offshore Brighton Marine Protected Area. 

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said “Our boulder barriers were absolutely necessary in the face of continued inaction from the Marine Management Organisation, which has failed to protect our oceans from industrial fishing. The organisation has ignored the science which clearly shows that fully protected areas at sea have the best ecological results. While we live through a climate and nature emergency, the Marine Management Organisation chooses to move at a snail’s pace and propose half measures to improve the UK’s failing network of protected areas at sea.

“It’s absurd that the Marine Management Organisation, which is supposed to protect our natural environment, is wasting public resources taking us to court for protecting our oceans and doing their job for them. Our boulder barriers have stopped bottom trawlers from further damaging our oceans and worsening the climate emergency. While the Marine Management Organisation continues to fail in its duties, we will do all we can to protect our oceans.”

Greenpeace UK has made representations to the MMO that the prosecution is not in the public interest. The MMO, instead of attacking Greenpeace and draining its resources for responsibly preventing environmental harm, should follow its remit and direct its own resources into doing its job to safeguard the UK’s seas for future generations.

Mr Sauven and Greenpeace UK will plead not guilty. Mr Sauven faces up to two years in jail if found guilty. A date for the full hearing of the case will be fixed by Newcastle Crown Court. The MMO will have an opportunity at the hearing to desist with the prosecution following representations from Greenpeace.

Bottom trawlers spent 68,000 hours ploughing UK protected areas in 2020. This damages habitats, harms biodiversity and disturbs vast stores of blue carbon which would otherwise remain safely in the seabed. Greenpeace, along with the Marine Conservation Society, revealed earlier this year that 26.5 million tonnes of carbon is stored in the seabed in the UK’s offshore protected areas alone.

Greenpeace’s experienced team acted within all necessary safety precautions and immediately notified the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the coordinates of each boulder. Maritime traffic was notified by radio. The natural boulders are made of inert granite and placed at a safe depth. Their impact on the seabed was scientifically assessed in advance and was found to be negligible.

Greenpeace is calling on the UK government to ban destructive industrial fishing vessels, including bottom trawlers, supertrawlers and fly-shooters, from all of the UK’s protected areas as a matter of urgency. Currently there are few restrictions on industrial fishing in the overwhelming majority of the UK’s offshore marine protected areas.

For more information on Greenpeace UK visit their website by clicking here.

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

Stranded dolphin rescued from muddy inlet

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dolphin

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.

dolphin

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.

dolphin

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-dolphinstranding 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.

dolphin

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

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Marine Life & Conservation

Mother of Corals Announces Ambassador Program

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Mother of Corals, a US-based non-profit organization that teaches communities worldwide to rebuild coral reefs, is launching a new Ambassador Program.

Unlock the secrets of coral restoration and become an advocate for marine conservation. This comprehensive program is designed for individuals passionate about protecting our oceans and eager to make a tangible impact on coral reef ecosystems. Participants will delve into the science, techniques, and community engagement aspects of coral restoration, gaining the base knowledge and skills necessary to contribute actively to reef rehabilitation efforts.

Join Mother of Corals in beautiful Bocas del Toro, Panama to learn about coral restoration projects from start to finish. This course is designed for students, environmentalists, divers, soon-to-be-divers and anyone seeking to become a catalyst for positive change in coral reef conservation. Join Mother of Corals on a transformative journey to become a Mother of Corals Ambassador and contribute to the preservation of one of Earth’s most vital ecosystems.

Sessions begin in April 2024! For more information, contact Mother of Corals via their website.

Photo: Avalon.Red

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