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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches new guidelines for underwater photographers

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The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – has launched the newly updated Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Underwater Photographers poster with new guidelines.

These guidelines help dive and snorkel operators encourage their guests to follow environmental best practices while taking photos underwater in order to protect the marine ecosystems they are photographing.

Underwater photography is becoming increasingly popular as cameras and underwater housings become more accessible, coupled with the prevalence of sharing these sightings on social media. However, using a camera on a dive can be distracting and can lead to changes in buoyancy and body positioning that may cause damage to the marine environment. Additionally, moving or manipulating marine life and coral in order to get the perfect shot is common – a practice that causes stress to marine life and can erode the ecosystem’s health.

The latest global survey of reef health, The Sixth Status of Corals of the World: 2020 Report,  found the critical need to reduce local pressures on coral reefs in order to maintain their resilience while global threats posed by climate change are addressed. This includes the negative impacts from marine tourism. The Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Underwater Photographers’ poster aims to help marine tourism professionals promote environmental best practices to underwater photographers and prevent practices that are harmful to the coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

The guidance includes a wide range of recommendations, from improving buoyancy skills to not fixating over a particular species. These recommendations are consolidated from dive professionals and professional underwater photographers with years of experience working in the industry.

Samantha Craven, Programmes Manager at Reef-World, said: “Underwater photography is a powerful conservation tool that can bring the delights of the ocean to the surface and foster connection with the marine environment. However, if poorly managed, it can damage the very animals we love to photograph. Our research showed that divers holding a camera (either compact or SLR) accounted for 52.7% of observed diver contacts with the reef*. These guidelines will help everyone – from operators to photographers themselves — reduce their impact and protect future photography subjects!”

The Green Fins Environmental Best Practice for Underwater Photographers poster is available for free on the Green Fins website. Anyone can download the poster here.

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or www.greenfins.net. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up to Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Beach litter going down, but plastic still polluting UK shores

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  • Marine Conservation Society reveals results of 2021 Great British Beach Clean
  • On average, litter found on UK beaches dropping year on year
  • 75% of beach litter made of plastic or polystyrene
  • An average of just 3 single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches

The Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean, which took place from 17th – 26th September this year, saw 6,176 volunteers head outside to clear litter from their local streets, parks and over 55,000 metres of UK beaches.

A total of 5064.8kg of litter was collected and recorded over the week by dedicated volunteers and the results are in.

In positive news, the average litter recorded per 100 metres is dropping year on year across the UK. This year, an average of 385 items were found, dropping from averages of 425 in 2020, and 558 in 2019.

Cotton bud sticks moved out of the UK’s top ten most common rubbish items this year, with the number of plastic cotton bud sticks collected being the lowest in the Great British Beach Clean’s 28-year history. This year, an average of 6 plastic cotton bud sticks were found, dropping from 15 in 2020. These decreasing figures are a positive indication that policies are working.

Scotland was the first UK country to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton bud sticks in October 2019. England followed suit last year, introducing a ban on single-use plastic straws, cotton bud sticks and stirrers. It’s likely that the drop in numbers found on beaches is, at least in part, as a result of these policies over the last couple of years. The Welsh Government is yet to introduce a ban on plastic cotton bud sticks.

Numbers of single-use plastic bags on beaches have continued to drop, from a high of 13 on average in 2013, down to just 3 in 2021.

Plastic pieces remain the most prevalent form of litter on UK beaches, with 75% of all litter collected being plastic or polystyrene, with an average of 112 pieces found for every 100 metres of UK beach surveyed.

Top five most common litter items on UK beaches (average per 100m)

  1. Plastic and polystyrene pieces (111.7)
  2. Cigarette stubs (27.8)
  3. Crisp and sweet packets, lolly sticks etc (25.9)
  4. Plastic caps and lids (15.5)
  5. String/cord (15.3)

With so much beach litter being made from plastic, the Marine Conservation Society is continuing to campaign for ambitious single-use plastics policies which would phase out the manufacture and sale of plastic products in the UK.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “UK governments’ current piecemeal approach to single-use plastics policy just won’t cut it anymore. While we’re seeing a downward trend in litter on beaches, we’re still seeing huge volumes of plastic washing up on our shores.

“A shocking 75% of all the litter we collected from UK beaches this year was made of plastic or polystyrene, so it’s clear what we need to focus our attention on. Comprehensive and ambitious single-use plastics policies which reduce the manufacture and sale of items is the quickest way of phasing out plastic from our environment.”

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Manager at the Marine Conservation Society: The ongoing downward trend we’re seeing in litter levels on UK beaches is a positive sign that the actions we’re taking at a personal, local and national level are working. But we can’t sit back and relax, now is the time for even more ambitious action.”

The Marine Conservation Society included PPE items on its survey form for the first time this year*, providing a baseline from which to understand the impact and presence of face masks and gloves in the future. Levels of PPE found this year were similar to 2020, when masks were made mandatory across the UK. 32% of UK beaches cleaned found PPE litter though masks ranked  59 out of 121 for most common litter items.  Inland, for the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest, 80% of litter picks found PPE in 2021, in comparison to 69% found in 2020.

Read more about the Great British Beach Clean, and the Marine Conservation Society’s year-round Beachwatch programme on the charity’s website: www.mcsuk.org.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Endangered Mako Sharks win vital protection

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The Shark Trust are celebrating this week. After many years of hard work with their Shark League Colleagues, the team has been successful in securing protection for the North Atlantic Short Fin Mako Sharks. This hard-fought ban on the catching of North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks was adopted this week by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). It is a giant step toward in reversing the decline of this seriously over-fished population.

“At long last, we have the basis for a game-changing rebuilding plan, but it won’t be successful if we take our eyes off the EU and their egregious intent to resume fishing a decade before rebuilding is predicted to begin,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “In this moment, however, we focus on the overwhelming chorus of concern that helped us reach this critical breakthrough. We’re deeply grateful for the ‘voices for makos’ – the continuous calls from conservationists, divers, scientists, aquarists, retailers, and elected representatives to protect this beleaguered shark.”

While the ban in initially in place for two years, this move shifts the emphasis of the debate and parties will now have to justify the reopening of the fishery of an Endangered shark.  The Shark Trust will be keeping a close eye on future discussions.

Makos are exceptionally vulnerable to over-fishing. These oceanic species are classified by the IUCN as globally Endangered and so this new ban on fishing them will help populations recover. Whilst the Shark Trust are delighted at this positive result, they will not be standing still and will both continue to safeguard Makos and fight for all the other endangered shark species.

The dive community, assisted by Shark League partner PADI AWARE Foundation, played their part in achieving this win, putting their many voices behind the Voice for Makos campaign. Together the Shark Trust and the dive community will raise awareness and share their love of sharks in the ongoing fight to protect them.

For further information on the work of the Shark Trust: www.sharktrust.org

For further information on the Shark League: www.sharkleague.org


Header Image: Jacob Brunetti

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