Hosting an event in Montreal to highlight the value of properly managed Marine Protected Areas at COP15 Ocean Action Day, the Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation issued a joint call for the UK to pick up the pace on delivery of ocean protection at home.
On the final day of COP15, promising steps were made, with agreement that 30% of sea, in addition to 30% of land, must be fully protected by 2030. This is touted as being the biodiversity equivalent of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The UK Government claims that 38% of our seas around the UK are in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The reality is very different, as most of these sites are little more than lines on a map – with even the most damaging activities, like bottom-trawling, allowed. So far, bans have been implemented for just 4 out of the 40 offshore English MPAs. The UK Government has a long way to go in delivering on a ban on bottom-towed gear in England’s offshore MPAs by the end of 2024.
Anna Gelderd, Head of Strategic Advocacy at the Marine Conservation Society said: “This week, nearly 200 countries committed to protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. This is an important moment. A rallying cry for global ambition. Now, the global community has eight years to deliver. Focus must turn from quantity to quality – and to delivery at home. Meaningfully managed Marine Protected Areas are one of the most effective tools we have to fix the current nature crisis and reverse biodiversity loss.”
Last week, the Marine Conservation Society released research showing there has been a 98% decrease in bottom-towed fishing in the English Dogger Bank MPA since June this year, when a byelaw to ban this fishing practice was introduced demonstrating the effectiveness of byelaws.
Charles Clover, co-founder and executive director of Blue Marine Foundation said:“The world did not have an agreement to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 before, but it does now. That is very much to be welcomed. On a global stage there are countries who will be under serious pressure now as the 30% of their waters for some is a standing start. In the UK, it will make sure that 30% protection, which actually conserves species and habitats, is achieved.
“However, this is not a legally binding document. Delivery will rely on countries at the forefront of ocean protection to bring others along with them, highlighting the social and economic benefits of protection – which are considerable – to ultimately carry the day.”
However, it’s not just fishing activity that is hampering the recovery of Marine Protected Areas. Pollution of our seas is playing an increasing role in biodiversity loss. From plastics, to microplastics, raw sewage and ‘forever chemicals’, all building up over time an creating a toxic soup. In 2018, Defra set out to publish a Chemicals Strategy to curb pollution but nearly 5 years on, no strategy has been published.
Ed Goodall, Green Whale manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “Chemical pollution is devastating marine life in UK waters including the west coast population of orca in Scotland, which is now down to around just eight individuals. At the same time, we know that whales bring climate and biodiversity benefits, so restoring their populations by eliminating threats takes on additional urgency.”
The Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation are hoping that momentum from COP15 will encourage the UK Government to act urgently on their promises at home in order to achieve what was signed in Montreal.
Only time will tell if the Government follow through with their promises on MPAs, but with the climate and nature crisis intensifying, it is of paramount importance that the biodiversity of our seas is truly protected.
Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida
Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.
The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.
The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”
The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.
Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
Stranded dolphin rescued from muddy inlet
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.
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.
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-stranding 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.
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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