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Seasearch News

Updated 17th November 2014


Seasearch proposed Marine Conservation Zones in Northern Ireland accepted

The Northern Ireland government is currently working on a programme for designating new Marine Conservation Zones to add to the growing network of MCZs (England) and MPAs (Scotland).
Seasearch has been represented at two stakeholder workshops and Seasearch data has been used to help formulate the proposals. Eight ‘Areas of Search’ have been identified by DOENI including Native Oyster beds in Lough Foyle, deep mixed sediments north of Rathlin Island and horse mussel beds on the Outer Ards. Seasearch has been adding data by planning dives in 3 of the 8 areas, Outer Belfast Lough, Outer Ards and Carlingford Lough.
We believed there were significant gaps in the proposals and Seasearch proposed two additional areas of search based on our own records. These were seagrass beds in Red Bay, County Antrim which we believe to be the largest in Northern Ireland and unique subtidal gullies and sea caves at Ardglass, County Down.

We have now heard that our proposals for Red Bay have been accepted for inclusion in the 2nd tranche of NI MCZs and the features of interest for the Strangford Lough MCZ will be extended to encompass the sea caves and gullies around Guns Island.

The picture shows a diver in one of the Ardglass gullies.



Seasearch Survey Forms exceed Observation Forms for the first time

As the number of Seasearch Forms this year exceeds 1,250, for the first time we have received more Survey Forms (626) than Observation Forms (612). This is a measure of how the quality of the records we receive has increased as Survey Forms typically provide three times as much information than Observation Forms.

However, at present, the number of all records is still well down on the final figure for previous years. Some more surveys will take place, though the main programme is now completed, and there may be some forms not yet logged by coordinators. However If you have forms you have not yet sent in please do so as soon as possible as we are now starting our annual update. We are especially keen to receive outstanding data from England where we need it to inform the second tranche MCZ consultation in early 2015.

Of the forms received 63% come from sites in England, the majority from, Dorset (160), Cornwall (149) and East Anglia (136). Outside of England most records are from Wales (168), Ireland (93) and the Channel Islands (83).

A map has been created showing all of the sites recorded this year so far. You can download the file here and open it in Google Earth.



Seasearch Training and Qualifications

The programme of Seasearch training courses for 2014 is now completed. We always arrange courses early in the year so that volunteers can go out and practice over the summer. We are now starting to plan courses for 2015 so now is the time to contact either the National or your Local Coordinator to express interest in a course next year, especially if you are part of a group from a club or dive centre wanting to get involved.

During September, October and so far in November 7 volunteers have completed their Observer Qualification. They are: Paul Roland (IE), Paul Mills (E), Mark Taylor (E), Adam Stevens (E), Alex and Geoff Marquis (W) and Emma Christison (E).

We have had 4 new Seasearch Surveyors in the same period. They are: Tim Butter (IE), Tom Stamp (W), Tim Parmley (E) and John Lampett (E).

Congratulations to them all.


Seasearch 2013 data on the National Biodiversity Network

The Seasearch data for 2013 has been added to the huge Seasearch dataset on the National Biodiversity Network. The dataset now contains 455,145 records and 2,831 species. The NBN now displays the whole dataset for the first time (previously the Channel Islands data was not shown) and the map (right) shows the amazing geographical spread of Seasearch records.

Click here to see the Seasearch dataset. You will need to log in to see individual records.

We have commenced ata entry of the 2014 records..


Seasearch underway in Guernsey

On 30th-31st August we ran a Seasearch course in Guernsey hosted by the Societe Guernsaise and Blue Dolphins Sub Aqua Club and involving 11 volunteers. The weekend started with a talk about Seasearch with a focus on the Channel Islands and was followed by the Observer course on the Saturday and two dives for all of the participants on the Sunday. There are plans for regular dives on the island and it will be good to get more data from Guernsey which has lagged behind the other Channel Islands in terms of Seasearch surveys in the past.





Lundy surveys

On Saturday 16th August a Seasearch team carried out two dives in Lundy within the no take zone on the eastern side of the island. We had hoped to return on the Sunday but the weather had different ideas with strong north-westerly winds.

Our targets were to record priority species and the condition of pink sea fan colonies which we have been looking at on a regular basis since the sea fan disease hit in the early 2000s. Sunset corals were recorded at the Knoll Pins, a long known site for this species, and a crawfish was also recorded in the no take zone as well as lobsters and noticeably large edible crabs.

On the pink sea fan front there were no surprises. Most of the colonies have dead areas, mostly at the centre where they were affected by the disease. The new growths at the edges are healthy but the dead part will never recover. There are also significant numbers of dead fans, mostly providing a suitable habitat for hydroids and bryozoans, especially Cellaria sp.

Sadly there is little evidence of new settlement either of sunset corals or pink sea fans with none of the little 'sticks' that are commonly seen off the south coast of Devon and Cornwall. Thus while the population of both species is probably being maintained we did not see any signs of recovery.

The pictures show one of the survey sites, Gannet's Rock, and sunset corals.


Manacles Sea Fans looking healthy

Detailed records of sea fan populations were made at two sites on the Manacles in Cornwall on 5th July. We feared the sea fan population here might have been damaged by the winter storms which badly affected other south-east facing sites in Southern England. We were delighted to find that the population remains both dense and healthy at this hotspot site for sea fans. A few of the sea fans at Vase Rock are pictured below. We would like more records from other locations to complete the picture so if you are diving in areas with many sea fans it would be especially helpful if you could measure and record the condition of the population using our sea fan recording forms and guidelines which can be downloaded from the Sea Fan page of the website.

A subsequent dive on the Plymouth Drop Off on 23rd July, another sea fan forest hotspot, confirms at the fans there too are in good condition.








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