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Marine Life & Conservation

MCS call for better protection of UK’s Marine Parks

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On the 14th May the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) announced a consultation on byelaws to protect and manage 13 offshore MPAs. This follows the banning of bottom-towed fishing gear from four offshore MPAs, including Dogger Bank.

These first four byelaws – effective from 13th June 2022 – are a win for the Marine Conservation Society’s ongoing Marine UnProtected Areas campaign.

The campaign is calling for protection, at long last, of England’s offshore MPAs designated to protect the seabed which is vital for absorbing and storing carbon, buffering the effects of climate change, and supporting biodiversity.

When damaging fishing gear like bottom trawls and dredges are permitted to fish in these MPAs, the health of the planet is compromised; preventing the recovery of ecosystems already lost to decades of exploitation and limiting the seabed’s ability to store carbon and combat the effects of the climate crisis.

Today, the Marine Conservation Society is releasing new research, outlining 16 ‘critically important’ sites for protection. Half of the 16 critically important MPAs experienced disturbance (seabed trawling) on over 90% of the total ‘protected’ area.

Just 5 of the 13 proposed byelaws from the MMO are sites deemed ‘critically important’ in the Marine Conservation Society’s newest analysis.

By analysing fishing data, carbon storage potential, habitat sensitivity and MPA conservation objectives, the charity has ranked the remaining offshore sites in need of legislation from ‘critically important’ to ‘important’.

Of the sites identified as ‘critically important’, the South-West Deeps (East) Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) received the highest score of all sites, making it the most critical for protection. This site – approximately 190 km southwest of the Land’s End peninsula – has not been included in the latest consultation.

The area is vital for carbon storage and is a biodiversity hot spot, experiencing a summer plankton bloom each year bringing wildlife to the area. The Marine Conservation Society’s analysis found that, on average, the area experiences over 5,000 hours of bottom trawling each year. The site has the potential to store up to 1.7 million tonnes of organic carbon; the same amount of carbon as that emitted by over 1 million return flights from London to Sydney.

Frith Dunkley, MPA Researcher at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“Many of the sites of critical importance for protection were not initially designated for their carbon storage potential. However, this added element makes ocean protection even more vital. The huge volumes of carbon which can, and should, be stored by these vast Marine Protected Areas could be put at risk by countless hours of fishing, where vessels indiscriminately drag nets along the seabed. As we face twin climate and biodiversity crises, it’s of the utmost importance that we allow these sites to recover.”

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MPA Specialist at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Our new analysis represents a clear path for the Government to take in protecting our seas. We’ve found 16 sites of critical importance. It’s disappointing to see that just 5 of the 13 proposed byelaws being consulted on now are those we’ve identified as critically important. The four byelaws, due to be in place from 13th June, are a step in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go to achieve protection of 40 sites with management measures as promised by UK Government by 2024.

Join the charity’s call for government action by signing the Marine UnProtected Areas petition, pushing for a further 16 byelaws to be put in place.

For more information, and to read the charity’s Marine UnProtected Areas report from January 2021, please visit www.mcsuk.org.

Marine Life & Conservation

Big Seaweed Search Returns!

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From 23rd – 31st July 2022, the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum will be asking people across the UK to head to the coast and spot seaweed as part of community science project, Big Seaweed Search Week.

Seaweed is one of the world’s great unsung heroes, playing a crucial role in marine ecosystems and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. The UK, with over 650 species of seaweed, is home to a diverse range of species.

The Big Seaweed Search Week asks beachgoers to search for, and record, 14 of the most common seaweed species. This vital information helps the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum to map the distribution of specific species and collect long-term data that enables them to determine, as a result of seaweeds found, the impact of environmental changes in the ocean.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“It’s easy for anyone to get involved in Big Seaweed Search Week – you don’t need to be a seaweed expert or live near the sea, just one visit to the coast will do. Studying seaweeds can tell us a lot about wider ocean and environmental conditions and the information supports real scientific research.

“Seaweed is a real ocean superstar, helping to buffer the effects of climate change, absorbing and storing carbon and protecting our coasts from waves and storm damage. The more data we gather with our Big Seaweed Searchers, the more knowledge and influence we have to protect our ocean, and seaweeds, for the future.”

As well as providing vital habitats for other species, seaweeds play a major part in marine food chains and are a rich source of nutrients for animals such as crabs and sea urchins.

Seaweed plays a critical role in combating the climate crisis. These fast-growing algae produce oxygen – more than land plants – with phytoplankton (like seaweed) providing at least half of the oxygen we breathe.  Seaweed absorbs carbon more effectively than trees, storing an estimated 175 million tonnes each year – equal to 10% of the world’s car emissions.

However, populations of kelp – large brown seaweeds that are a vital ‘blue carbon’ store – are reported to be declining around the world, limiting ocean ecosystems’ abilities to absorb carbon and combat the climate crisis.

The Big Seaweed Search gathers information on species, such as kelp, which have the potential to be affected by rising sea temperatures, the arrival of non-native species and ocean acidification – environmental changes affecting the ocean and the health of marine ecosystems.

A young lumpsucker: Alex Mustard

Data gathered by volunteers helps build a picture of what our shores are like, how they’re changing and informs scientists and decision-makers how best to protect them.

Juliet Brodie, Merit Researcher at the National History Museum, said:“It’s inspiring to see how the Big Seaweed Search is developing.  We’re using the data submitted for our scientific research to build distribution maps which means we can track seaweed species as they respond to environmental changes over time. We’ve also been able to use over 1,000 submitted records in our work on a Red Data List of British seaweeds – which evaluates indigenous species and how endangered they are.”

It’s easy to get involved in Big Seaweed Search Week, and anyone can take part. Training videos and downloadable resources are available, including a guide which helps beachgoers to identify the seaweed species they’re likely to spot and explains what they need to do.

The survey can be carried out as an individual or in groups, and be completed on a mobile, tablet or computer.

To get involved simply:

  1. Register to take part and download your guide and recording form at bigseaweedsearch.org
  2. Choose your 5 metres[AB1]  of coastline to survey
  3. Fill in your survey form
  4. Take LOTS of clear, close-up photographs for your survey to be accepted
  5. Submit your survey through bigseaweedsearch.org

You can visit the Marine Conservation Society for all the information you’ll need to get started.

Header Image: Paul Naylor

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Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Andy Forster of Dive Project Cornwall

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Gemma and Ian chat to Andy Forster.  Andy is the Project Director at Dive Project Cornwall.  He tells us about his own passion for diving as well as how Dive Project Cornwall is going to educate and inspire many youngsters over the coming year.

Have a listen here:

Find out more at www.diveprojectcornwall.co.uk


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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