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Marine Life & Conservation

Wales Best of the West – Episode 2 – Porthdinllaen

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Wales Best of the West (Cymru Gorau’r Gorllewin) is a bilingual online series that takes viewers on a journey from North to South Wales to discover four favourite shore dives.

In this episode, we explore Porthdinllaen.

Heading East from Porth Ysgaden along Pen Llŷn we discover what’s found amongst the seagrass (Zostera marina) meadow in-front of the beach within the small historical fishing town of Porthdinllaen. Amongst the meadow , we share the many benefits that seagrass provide known as ecosystem services. Services include their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide, production of oxygen, coastal protection and their importance as a nursery area for many fish of which many are commercially important such as cod (Gadus morhua) and plaice (Pleurnectess platessa). For the episode we linked messaging to the Seagrass charity ‘Project Seagrass’ which is the only charity dedicated to advancing the conservation of seagrass through education, influence, research and action. To uncover more secrets of seagrass we dived the site with some neew techniques that provided a whole new view of the habitat.

Link to Welsh version: https://youtu.be/GGcKix63dl8

Jake grew up on Pen Llŷn, North Wales and from a young age, the underwater world and marine life have played a major role in his life. He's a marine biologist and an underwater videographer who aims to share the range of marine life and habitats found beneath the waves. Giovana trained as a professional dancer/actress/singer in London. She is also a personal trainer, scuba diver and L1 skydiver. Currently training to become a Stunt / SPACT performer within the film industry. Jake and Giovana enjoy traveling and being in the water where they share the trips and experiences on their YouTube channel: Scuba Bucket List.

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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Marine Life & Conservation

Nurse Shark with rare skin pigmentation recorded in Honduras

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One of the defining features of nurse sharks is a brown coloration that is present over their entire body. However, earlier this year, recreational divers in Utila, Honduras stumbled upon a unique individual with a rare condition that completely alters the typical pigmentation pattern in the skin.

The finding was recently published in a new study, “Observations of hypomelanosis in the nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum,” in the Journal of Fish Biology, led by researchers at Beneath The Waves (BTW). Working with members of the Caribbean Shark Coalition, the team at BTW saw this reported finding as an opportunity to emphasize the value of citizen science for shark and ray conservation. The diverse, non-traditional author list of this publication demonstrates that science can and should be made accessible to those beyond the scientific community in order to add to the scientific database of sharks, marine life, and marine habitats.

This sighting became the first documented account of a nurse shark with piebaldism, a rare skin condition that results in a partial loss of body pigmentation, with eyes remaining as their regular coloration. The unique coloring made this nurse shark easily identifiable, and the divers saw it on two different dives in two different locations.

Piebaldism is part of a larger suite of pigmentation deficiencies called hypomelanosis. This includes albinism, which results in a complete loss of pigmentation in the skin and iris, and leucism which causes total or partial loss of body pigment and a blue coloration to the iris and body.

Hypomelanosis is incredibly rare in the animal kingdom, particularly in sharks, skates, and rays. Only about 5% of these species have been documented with these conditions, one being a tawny nurse shark with albinism, and another being a nurse shark with leucism.

In nature, if an animal relies on camouflage to hunt or avoid predation, unusual skin conditions could affect its ability to do this successfully, ultimately impacting its chance of survival. With the rarity of these conditions in sharks, little is known about their effects.

This particular individual was about an average size for the species, at approximately 6 feet in length. Because of this size, we can assume that it has been able to hunt and avoid predators successfully to reach maturity. Since nurse sharks have a generalist lifestyle where they eat a wide range of foods and can survive in a variety of conditions, this was somewhat expected. Even so, this rare observation calls for more research on the potential consequences of hypomelanosis on the survivability of sharks, skates, and rays. This is only the second time this species has been scientifically documented to have a skin condition that can affect their pigmentation.

Photos: Ellie Hopgood.

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