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Seasearch News

Updated 28th August 2014

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 dea 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 ecover. 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 bein maintained we did not see any signs of recovery.

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

Seasearch records for 2014 top 600

Following a good spell of settled weather in July Seasearch data is now increasing fast. So far we have 613 forms recorded with the majority coming from Dorset (110), North East England (80) and Wales (79). There are certainly many more forms to come and we have very few indeed yet from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some may be with coordinators who have not yet registered them. Please ensure you send us your forms promptly after dives, we are likely to be entering forms as we go along during the year, especially in England where there may be a much earlier deadline than usual. As the pie charts show the majority of the records, as always, come from sites in England and at present the number of Survey Form and Observation Forms are very similar.

There are still places available on many of the survey dives listed on the Diving page of the website. Contact the organiser for each event for further information or to make a booking. Where boat dives are involved we will normally ask for full payment before the dive to ensure we do not lose out as a result of no-shows. If the weather forces cancellation then you'll get you money back.


Scottish Natural Heritage supporting Seasearch 2014-2017

We are very glad to announce that Scottish Natural Heritage has decided to continue to support Seasearch for the next three years. Their support helps with the national organisation of Seasearch and especially with training and surveys in Scotland. The news comes hard on the heels of the declaration of 30 new Marine Protected Areas in Scotland, and Seasearch data was used as part of the backgound justification for many of them.

We will be looking for somebody to help expand and coordinate Seasearch activity in Scotland either on a part time basis or as part of a wider role involving other MCS projects in Scotland. If you would like to receive more information about this role when it is advertised please get in touch with Chris Wood and we will send you the details in due course.


Seasearch Annual Report - your top ten for 2013

The Seasearch Annual Report for 2013 is now completed and can be viewed here Annual Report Everybody on our mailing list will also be receiving a copy by email. If we don't have your current email address please let us know and we will add it to the database.

The Report gives a summary of Seasearch activity in 2013. It shows where the main surveys took place, some of the outcomes, the species commonly recorded and the rarities, and information about training and coordination.

The top ten species recorded by number for 2013 were:

Asterias rubens Common Starfish - 918 records

Cancer pagurus Edible Crab - 884 records

Alcyonium digitatum Dead Men's Fingers - 797 records

Necora puber Velvet Swimming Crab - 763 records

Echinus esculentus Common Sea Urchin - 647 records

Urticina felina Dahlia anemones - 561 records

Labrus bergylta Ballan Wrasse - 535 records

Pomatoceros triqueter/lamarcki keelworms - 510 records

Nemertesia antennina Antenna hydroid - 509 records

Calliostoma zizyphinum Painted topshell - 496 records


Keep looking out for Priority Species

Our organised survey dives typically target gaps in our knowledge and current and proposed marine protected areas of all sorts. However priority species may turn up anywhere and we do like you to tell us about them, even if you were not intending to carry out a Seasearch dive. The latest example is this seahorse recorded at Selsey in Sussex. Luckily Sarah Bignell, who spotted it, was able to take a photo and Seasearch tutor James Lucey was on hand to point her in the right direction. Seasearch diver Emma Christison was recording at the same site so we do have both the priority species record and the habitat information to go with it. It isn't the first seahorse recorded from Selsey but good to know they are still around after the winter storms. Sea horses are a protected species and, if you are lucky enough to see one, should not be disturbed. This includes not taking flash photos. However the site where this one is found is not protected by any of the current designations, despite the presence of another protected species, native oyster, in the same area.


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.


Come on in - the water's lovely

Midsummer's day, blue skies. little or no wind and flat calm seas. What more could you want to get Seasearching? Oh yes visibility and that was about 15m. Seasearch Devon's dives targeted previously unrecorded sites near Hope Cove in perfect diving conditions (did I mention current - no there wasn't any all day it seemed). The deeper site was named Ascidian acres because of the huge fields of Stolonica socialis (orange sea squirt) and Clavelina lepadiformis (light bulb squirt). Hornwrack was being devoured by hundreds of Crimora papillata and finger bryozoans were festooned with Acanthodoris pilosa egg masses. The second site had typical Bigbury Bay inclined shale reefs with red seaweeds and a variety of sessile and animal life, including spotted rays in the gravelly gullies and Okenia elegans in numbers. The picture is of an Okenia laying its eggs.

There is still time to book for Seasearch surveys. A number have spaces available and it is always worth contacting the organiser about last minute spaces which often come up. Get out and get recording!



Seasearch 2013 data now on the NBN

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


Seasearch Training and Qualifications

The programme of Seasearch training courses for 2014 is coming towards its end. We always arrange courses early in the year so that volunteeers can go out and prictice over the summer. Dates for the remaining Observer, and Specialist Courses are on the Training page. There may be more in the planning stage and it is not too late to organise courses particularly whre there is a group from a club or dive centre wanting to get involved.

Please contact the person listed for each course for further information or to make a booking.

During July and August 8 volunteers have completed their Observer Qualification. They are: Sue Meakin (E), Robert Fairweather (W), Sally Gates (W), Sarah Chaddock (E), Dylan Davies (W), Frank McDonagh (IE), Agnes Walsh (IE) and Fiona White (E)..

We have had 3 new Seasearch Surveyors in the same period. They are: Frances O'Sullivan (IE), Paul Chambers (CI) and Kevin McIlwee (CI).

Congratulations to them all.








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