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Marine Life & Conservation

The Marine Conservation Society wins charity award for work with Marks & Spencer



The Marine Conservation Society has won a prestigious charity award for it’s partnership with UK High Street giant, Marks & Spencer.

The charity’s part in the ‘Forever Fish’ campaign won the ‘Corporate National Partnership of the Year with a Retailer’ award in the 2013 Charity Times Awards.

The partnership, part of the retailers eco and ethical programme Plan A, is aimed at highlighting the issues facing UK seas to M&S staff and customers, and focused on engaging people in beach cleaning activities whilst also focussing on the importance of eating more sustainable seafood.

The partnership allowed MCS to create a national volunteering programme called ‘Sea Champions’ which, in the last two years, has mobilised almost 300 people to help highlight marine issues within their local communities and added a second national beach cleaning event to the MCS calendar – The Big Beach Clean-up – which involved thousands of M&S staff and customers cleaning hundreds of beaches. 107 of the cleans were led by M&S store staff, bringing a real community feel to the event which also highlighted the huge problems litter on beaches poses to both marine life and visitors to the seaside.

Vicki Cockburn, Corporate Fundraiser for MCS, says the partnership has brought marine issues to a wide and new audience: “Collectively, it has almost doubled MCS’ volunteer network from around 10,000 to well over 19,000 people and increased our outreach capacity and ability to engage with people at a local level in the UK. We are thrilled that the partnership has been recognised by the Charity Times. It’s fantastic that an environmental initiative has won and a clear sign that issues like marine conservation is of huge interest to the public.”

MCS says the ‘Forever Fish’ partnership, largely funded by M&S introducing a 5p charge for single use carrier bags in their food halls which led to a drop in the number being used in store by 78%, has been a success because of the hard work put in by staff from both organsiations. “The enthusiasm that we have experienced from people who were completely new to our work, especially the M&S store employees, has been overwhelming,” says Vicki Cockburn.

M&S Retail Plan A Manager Rachel Jane Barton says she’s delighted that their partnership with MCS has been recognised this way. “In our first two years we’ve had 15,000 people collecting over 28,000kg of litter from 113 beaches. At the same time we’ve engaged our customers in the importance of clean beaches and what that means for the health of our marine life and the future of the UK’s fish stocks. Next year will be bigger and better and MCS will continue to play an important role in our Plan A programme.”

MCS says the M&S investment in the Sea Champion volunteer scheme will leave a lasting legacy and the charity hopes the award will show that businesses and charities can work together to improve the state of the UK’s seas and beaches.


The life of a Great White Shark



Great White Shark

The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.

Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.

Great White Shark

As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.

Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.

Great White Shark

Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.

Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.

Great White Shark

However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.

Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.

Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website:


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Marine Life & Conservation

Book Review: Sea Mammals



Sea Mammals: The Past and Present Lives of Our Oceans’ Cornerstone Species by Annalisa Berta

This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.

Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.

I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.

There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.

What the publisher says:

From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.

The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.

About the Author:

Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press


Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691236643

Published: 26th September, 2023

Pages: 224

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