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Seasearch News

Updated 6thJuly 2015

Seasearch Data for 2014 on the National Biodiversity Network

One of the principles of Seasearch is that the data that our volunteer divers collect should be available for all to use for conservation and research purposes. Over last winter all of the 2014 data was entered into the Marine Recorder database and we also reviewed and amended some of the older data - particularly improving positioning for shore dives which is now much easier with the advent of web mapping. In that format it has already been circulated to the conservation agencies in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man and to records centres in Ireland and the Channel Islands.

The main access for everybody else is the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) and the species data is now live on that for everybody to access and use. The map shows the spread of MCS surveys from 1977-1990 and of Seasearch surveys from 1995-2014. This is a great resource for dive planning if you want to help fill the gaps. Even at a Britain and Ireland scale you can see that we need more records from the east coasts of Scotland and Ireland and if you zoom in the local gaps are much more obvious to see.

To use the NBN go to https://data.nbn.org.uk/ and search using just the Seasearch records by clicking the Browse Datasets tab and entering Seasearch in the Search box. You'll find there are 8 Seasearch datasets - one each for England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands which contain all the Observation and Survey form records and separate datasets for our Sea Fan and Crawfish survey data. Alternatively you can search by species - but you will have to log in to look at individual records.

These data are a real testimony to the skills and dedication of the hundreds of volunteer divers from all walks of life over the years who make Seasearch what it is.

 

Seasearch working with Dive Clubs

A couple of examples of Seasearch working with local divers in the last week. On Sunday 28th June we held an Observer Course in a fire station for members of Bury and SubSea SACs who are now taking part in a joint club expedition to Northern Ireland. Wendy Northway and Chris Wood ran the training day and the members are linking up with Seasearch NI Coordinator/Tutor Claire Goodwin at Rathlin Island for their training and qualification dives.

On Monday 29th June Seasearchers Sally Sharrock, Keith Hiscock and Chris Wood joined members of Ilfracombe and North Devon SAC to look at unrecorded sites on the North coast of Devon. Thanks to Shaun Galliver, Keith Denby and Mel for looking after us and club member Mags Ashton is seen in the photo filling in her Survey Form after the first dive with guidance from Sally. We were filmed for a series of short films called Boat Stories - hence the fluffy intrusive camera in the picture - and Mags' hidden face! (thanks to Keith for the picture).


Seasearch enjoys working with clubs. Do contact National Coordinator Chris Wood or your local Seasearch Coordinator if you would like to work together on courses, expedition ideas or just suggestions of where data from your club would help us increase the Seasearch data available for conservation.

 

Come on in the diving is lovely!

The diving season is now well underway and we have another 33 surveys planned and listed on the Diving page of the website. There are more in the planning stage too.

This year has proved to be a slow one for bookings and we have had to cancel a number of courses because of low numbers of participants. All the dives have gone ahead where the weather has been kind to us but there are vacant spaces on many of the published dates. The organised surveys are a great way to explore new sites, up your ID skills as there are often very experienced recorders around and have some relaxed diving without the pressure of trainee divers to look after. Dive surveys range from Skye to the Channel Islands and from one-day surveys to a week long liveaboard.

Please help mainain our organisers' sanity by booking early.

As an example a weekend survey out of Plymouth in early June explored two previously un-recorded sites close to Plymouth (well it was a bit breezy offshore) followed the next day by two dives on different parts of the Eddystone reef in flat calm conditions and bright sunshine. The jewel and elegant anemone covered walls (photo right) were at their best and deeper down there were forests of pink sea fans and soft corals. Priority species recorded, apart from sea fans, were sea sea fan anemones and juvenile crawfish turned up again (see item below) on one of the inshore reefs.

All of the sites we dived were in Special Areas of Conservation and the records made will help with ongoing monitoring. There were two spaces free on the boat so two more Seasearchers could have enjoyed British diving at it's best. Interestingly there were no ther dive boats out at the Eddystone on a perfect diving day - what has happened to all the UK divers?

As the corny Seasearch video says at the end "Why not dive in and join us now?"

 

 

Seasearch surveys in the Manacles MCZ

One of the first tranche of MCZs in England designated in 2013 is under threat from a large quarrying operation on the Lizard Peninsula. Dean Quarry operated until about 2008 but has been idle since. Now there is a proposal for a new breakwater and jetties to accomodate barges to export the stone to Swansea for a proposed tidal energy scheme. The area of the new breakwater and jetties is within the the MCZ and vessels travelling would aslo have to pass through it. The Manacles is well known for its stunning underwater pinnacles and rich marine life, as well as its many wrecks and the proposals can only adversely affect it.

Seasearch is working with Porthkerris Divers and the University of Exeter to provide more data on the areas likely to be impacted by the proposals. Of course much of the data available for the Manacles as a whole comes from Seasearch surveys over the years and this will be used - supplemented by this year's data.

So far we have looked just at the areas of seabed that would be destroyed by the new works and areas up and down current that could suffer from sedimentation. We have found a huge numbers of pink sea fans, as well as sea fan anemones, crawfish and maerl - all of which are priority species/habitats for conservation. Other interesting sightings are of octopus snd gurnard as well as millions of jewel anemones.

If you would like to help look on the Diving page for future survey dates.

 

Rare anemone sighting in Argyll

Arachnanthus sarsi is very rarely recorded and is a priority species in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is one of the tube dwelling anemones and lives in muddy sand. It's numbers are thought to have been badly affected by prawn trawling in much of its inshore range.

This rare anemone was recently photographed by Seasearcher Lonn Landis in Crinan, Argyll. Looking at the National Biodiversity Network website there are only 18 records, most of which are south of Rathlin in Northern Ireland. I saw it some years ago in the Firth of Lorn near when Lonn's record comes from but am ashamed to say it never got onto the NBN (pre Seasearch days). These days it is much easier to record those rare sightings but remember posting it on Facebook for your mates to see it doesn't record it for posterity!

Lonn recognised the anemone from the Seasearch Guide which just goes to show how useful these guides are when you see something you haven't come across before.

 

 

Are Crawfish making a comeback?

Early records from Devon and Cornwall this year suggest there may be more crawfish in southern England than in previous years. Records from the Manacles are the first reported to Seasearch for the area since 2005, and they have also appeared off Plymouth.

Crawfish are a priority species because populations declined dramatically as a result of tangle netting and probably diver predation too. In recent years most records have come from Ireland, where recreational diver collection is banned and West Wales where Seasearch has run a recording programme in North Pembrokeshire.

Be on the lookout for crawfish this year and please report any you find. They can be included on a Seasearch form or, if you only have time to record just the crawfish it can be done online. You can go to our online recording site at: Crawfish and Seafan Recording.

The image comes from one of this year's records from Plymouth.

 

New Seasearch Tutors for 2015

We now have four new Seasearch Tutors this year following courses in Cork, Plymouth, Truro and Manchester (Atherton). Tim Butter (seen one in from the left in the group of divers after a dive in Ireland's first Marine Nature Reserve at Lough Hyne) is the Irish Underwater Council Scientific Officer and an active Seasearcher in ireland. Chris Webb (teaching on the Plymouth course, below right) is our Devon Seasearch Coordinator and took us away with the fairies to go diving the following day. The third new tutor is Trudy Russell from Cornwall. Following her course we dived from the Silver Steps in Falmouth - not quite as glamorous as it sounds, but there was a lumpsucker guarding eggs in the shallows. Finally Wendy Northway, our NW England Coordinator has become a tutor after a day at a fire station where we were the guests of local clubs Bury and SubSea who are about to go to Northern Ireland. Congratulations to all our new tutors. They bring the total number of active tutors to 34 so we are ready to run training for divers pretty much anywhere in Britain and Ireland on demand.

 

Seasearch Courses and Qualifications 2015

The programme of Seasearch Courses for 2015 has been running since the early spring. Remaining courses can be found on the Training page of the the website. Most divers new to Seasearch start with the Observer Course and courses and these have already taken place from Edinburgh to Cork and Kent to County Down. Remaining courses are in Jersey, Aberdeen, Holyhead and Skye and there may be others that are still in the planning stage.

There are no more Surveyor Courses currently planned but more can be arranged if there is the demand.

Please book up early for our courses, in some cases there are minimum numbers we need to make sure a course goes ahead.

Since April four of our volunteers have completed their Seasearch Qualifications. They are:

Seasearch Observers - John Yarrow (England), Hugh Waite (England) and Patricia Finlay-Hanratty (Ireland).

Seasearch Surveyors - Emma Collins (England) and Rory O'Callaghan (Ireland).

Congratulations to them all.

 

2015 Data starting to arrive

Meanwhile records for 2015 are starting to come in. So far we have 240 forms recorded, the majority from England (59%). We also have 19% from Scotland, 15% from Wales and smaller numbers from the Isle of Man (4%) and Ireland (3%). There are certainly more to come that local coordinators have not yet been able to list. Please send your forms off as soon as possible so we can work on them as they come in and not all in a big lump.

 

 

     

   

 


 

 

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