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Marine Life & Conservation

Top-spotted jellyfish in UK revealed in new MCS report

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To mark World Jellyfish Day on the 3rd November last week, the Marine Conservation Society released its first Wildlife Sightings report, publishing last year’s findings from its long-running citizen science project.

The project asks the public to report jellyfish and marine turtle sightings in and around the UK and Ireland’s shores. The charity collects and analyses reports of these species to identify trends in their distribution around the UK. Changes in when and where marine wildlife are spotted can help understand how the ocean is changing in response to environmental factors, like climate change.

Photo: Jonathan Smith

Between 1st October 2021 and 30th September 2022, there were a total of 1,315 jellyfish sightings reported to the Marine Conservation Society. The charity regularly records sightings of eight jellyfish species which are found around the UK and Ireland. More uncommon visitors were also spotted in our waters, with 11 species in total reported in the past year.

The compass jellyfish (pictured) was the most reported species, making up almost a quarter (23%) of total sightings. This was followed closely by moon jellyfish (also 23%), which were often seen in smacks (groups of jellyfish) of over 100.

Storms in October 2021 and February 2022 led to an increase in Portuguese Man O’ War sightings, which were up by 2% from the previous year. Although they have a bad reputation, these jellyfish-like creatures don’t normally occur in UK waters, preferring instead to drift in the open ocean.

Photo: Joanna Clegg – MCS

Sightings of these unusual visitors were primarily along the Southwest coast and the west coast of Scotland, with westerly winds carrying them across the Atlantic to our shores. Sometimes stranding at the same time was the violet sea snail, which floats on the surface in bubble rafts, feeding on Portuguese Man O’ Wars.

The charity saw an increase in ‘other’ species reported, up from 5% to 9% this year. Among these were the bioluminescent crystal jellyfish, which made up 3% of total sightings and sea gooseberries at 1% – the highest percentages reported to date.

Photo: Peter Bardsley – MCS

Tracking reports of ‘other’ species, like these, could show how changes in temperatures might be impacting jellyfish diversity in the UK.

Crystal jellyfish are usually found in the Pacific Ocean, rarely spotted in UK waters, suggesting that warmer temperatures may be impacting jellyfish diversity in the UK.

Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles, which visit UK waters in the summer months to feed on them. 11 turtles were also reported, six of which were live leatherback turtles, spotted on the coast of Scotland. Leatherbacks are the largest turtle species with a diet mainly consisting of jellyfish.

Photo: Peter Bardsley – MCS

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“We use these sightings, alongside scientists, to spot trends in the distribution of jellyfish and marine turtles around the UK. Investigating the relationships between species can help us to discover more about our amazing underwater world and how it might be changing in response to things like climate change. A huge thank you to everyone who reported their sightings – with more reports we’re able to understand even more about our ocean.” 

The charity’s Wildlife Sightings report includes a map of all reported jellyfish and turtle sightings, a breakdown of each jellyfish species reported, a map of Portuguese Man O’ War sightings, and the number of sightings reported each month.

The Wildlife Sightings turtle data will contribute to the Turtle Implementation Group’s annual ‘British & Irish Marine Turtle Strandings Report‘, of which the Marine Conservation Society is a lead partner, which will be released in March 2023.

The Marine Conservation Society continues to run its wildlife sightings project to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms over time and will be celebrating its 20th year of the national jellyfish survey in 2023.

The charity is encouraging the public to continue to report any species they see, with some visiting our shores in winter months. The data will help to explore any links jellyfish blooms have with big-picture factors such as climate change. Long-term datasets, like this one, can also help predict where jellyfish blooms may occur to ease the problems large blooms cause the marine industries.

For more information on the Wildlife Sightings project including the full report and to report a jellyfish or turtle sighting, please visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website: www.mcsuk.org.

Header image: Kirsty Andrews – MCS

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Marine Life & Conservation

The Big Shark Pledge: Shark Trust’s new campaign kicks off with a call for support

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With the ink still drying on last week’s landmark listing of nearly 100 species of sharks on Appendix II of CITES, the Shark Trust insists that this is not the time for shark conservation to take a break. The UK-based NGO this week launches its biggest-ever concerted campaign to tackle the overfishing of oceanic sharks. They are calling on people across the world to join the call for stricter controls on high seas fisheries.

The Big Shark Pledge is at the heart of an ambitious set of campaign actions. Working to secure science-based catch limits on all sharks and rays affected by the international high seas fishing fleet. The pledge will build the largest campaigning community in shark and ray conservation history to support a raft of policy actions over the vital years ahead.

Many of our best known and much-loved sharks make their home on the high seas. In our shared ocean, these oceanic sharks and rays face a very real threat from a huge international fleet of industrial-scale fishing vessels. Research published in early 2021 confirmed that over three-quarters of oceanic sharks and rays are now at risk of extinction due to the destructive impact of overfishing. They have declined by 71% over the last 50 years.

The Shark Trust is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and has a long history of securing positive changes for sharks, skates and rays. The Big Shark Pledge will build on the success of their NoLimits? campaign which underpinned landmark catch limits on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako in the North Atlantic.

While the listing of so many species on the CITES trade agreement is certainly a positive step, there remains a huge challenge in ensuring that sustainable practices are embedded in international fisheries.” says Shark Trust Director of conservation, Ali Hood. “Sharks on the high seas face extraordinary pressure from excessive fishing practices. This has to be addressed through international agreements such as those secured for Blues and makos.”

There is hope and a feeling of momentum in the shark conservation community. Just last week, in addition to the new CITES listings, the Shark Trust, working with partners in the Shark League, secured the first-ever international quota for South Atlantic Mako at ICCAT meeting in Portugal. The new campaign from the Shark Trust aims to push forwards from here, engaging a wave of support through the Big Shark Pledge to bolster policy action.

This will be a long-term international and collaborative effort. Forging a pathway to rebuild populations of high-seas sharks and rays. By putting science at the heart of shark conservation and fisheries management. And making the vital changes needed to set populations on the road to recovery.

Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox says of the Big Shark Pledge “It’s designed to give everyone who cares about the future of sharks the chance to add their voice to effective and proven conservation action. By adding their name to the Pledge, supporters will be given opportunities to apply pressure at key moments to influence change.

Click here to sign the Big Shark Pledge

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Gear News

Fourth Element X Sea Shepherd

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This year on Black Friday, fourth element announced their new partnership with Sea Shepherd, encouraging people to move away from mindless purchasing and to opt-in to supporting something powerful.

For 40 years Sea Shepherd, a leading non-profit organisation, has been patrolling the high seas with the sole mission to protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. They work to defend all marine wildlife, from whales and dolphins, to sharks and rays, to fish and krill, without exception.

Inspired by Sea Shepherd’s mission, fourth element have created a collection of fourth element X Sea Shepherd limited edition products for ocean lovers and protectors, with 15% of every sale going to the Sea Shepherd fund to help continue to drive conservation efforts globally.

“Working with Sea Shepherd gives fourth element the opportunity to join forces with one of the largest active conservation organisations in the world to try to catalyse change in people’s attitudes and behaviour. Fourth Element’s products are designed, developed and packaged with the intention of minimising our impact on the ocean environment, and with this partnership, we will be supporting the work of Sea Shepherd, in particular in their work on dealing with the twin threats of Ghost fishing nets and plastic pollution.”

Jim Standing fourth element co-founder

Read fourth element’s Sea Shepherd Opinion Piece HERE

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