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Seasearch News

Updated June 28th 2018

Consultation on Marine Conservation Zones

We are currently in the middle of a third and final tranche of designation for Marine Conservation Zones in England. Forty-one sites are included in the designation and you are encouraged to have your say - go to the MCS website which allows you to fill in a simplified form response, and includes a link to the full consultation website. If you feel strongly about this subject and think that more of our marine habitat should be designated as an MCZ and managed for conservation purposes then take this opportunity to have your say.


Forms so far - a slow start to the season

A slow start to the 2018 diving season (at least here in Dorset!) means that so far this year we've received only 230 forms, with a heavy emphasis on observation forms (62% of the total). This figure reflects the large number of courses we've run in 2018 and the enthusiasm of those new Seasearchers. Conditions on the south coast have been stunning for the last couple of months now, with viz into double figures and water temperature now registering at 20 degrees Centigrade (!), so as soon as we manage a break from diving there will no doubt be more forms submitted...

Sea Squirts and Sponges guide published at last!

After a number of years of intensive research and hard work by the authors, we're incredibly proud to announce the publication of the Sea Squirts and Sponges guide. This book will help you get to grips with identifying these beautiful and important groups of animals which can be easily confused. With over 100 species described in detail with in situ photographs (many contributed by Seasearch volunteers), key details to aid underwater recognition, information about the ecology and importantly areas of confusion, this will rapidly become an invaluable addition to your bookshelf! You can buy the book from the online MCS shop, on a Seasearch course or speak to your local co-ordinator and start getting to grips with squirts and sponges.

First underwater sighting of Seasearch flag...

Seasearch Cornwall Co-ordinator Matt Slater was determined to make as much use of his new Seasearch 30th Anniversary flag as possible, seen here on a dive at Perleze Reef just off Harlyn Bay in North Cornwall, within the Padstow Bay and Surrounds MCZ.

The divers recorded crawfish, Palinurus elephas on the dive - this species is a designated feature for this particular MCZ and numbers are increasing rapidly across the South-west. If you spot a crawfish on your dive please tell us about it, either via the online sightings system (you'll be prompted to register first but can upload a photo) or on the recording form. All data goes to inform local IFCA management of this important fishery.


2018 is being celebrated as the 30th anniversary of the first Seasearch survey (at least, the first one officially badged as a 'Seasearch Survey' as opposed to an MCS one) and there are lots of events planned to recognise and commemorate the occasion. Check out the Seasearch Diving page to find out what is happening in your local area... (Our lovely new logo was designed for us by EDGE Design of Weymouth.)

Final numbers on the 2017 survey season

The 2017 forms seem to have finally all trickled in and been entered into the Marine Recorder database (thanks to all those who do battle with this on an annual basis...) and it's turned out to be the best year since 2013 in terms of overall numbers. We received 1588 forms, of which the majority (889, 56%) were the much more detailed Survey forms; this is the highest number of Survey forms ever received. Thirty-nine percent (621) were Observation forms and 3%/2% were contributed by the specific surveys for pink seafans (38 forms) and crawfish (34 forms). This is an amazing result!

Sixty percent of the forms came from England, with Cornwall having set the bar very high for future years with a total of 191 forms, just behind Devon (211 forms). Scotland contributed 19% of the total, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands 5% each, and 3% each from the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Data for the sites recommended for protection as Marine Conservation Zones (in England) and hopefully to be consulted upon later this year were input as the first priority and disseminated via the JNCC public snapshot released in January. Site reports are now available for download from the Seasearch Achievements page. The regional and national summary reports will follow in due course now we have all the data safely entered into Marine Recorder and verified.

2017 courses and qualifiers

2017 was also a good year for courses (though 2018 is shaping up to be even better, in our 30th anniversary year) - we ran 32 entry-level Observer courses, 4 higher-level Surveyor courses and 4 specialist courses, training nearly 300 participants in marine recording and species recognition. Of the existing volunteers, 31 gained their Observer qualification and 10 the Surveyor qualification - they are listed below. So far this year we've run 3 Observer courses, with 13 more available to book (contact/booking details on the Seasearch Training page), there are two Surveyor courses scheduled (Plymouth and the North-East), 11 specialist courses and 3 more 'recorder workshops', organised by popular demand to give ongoing help, support and feedback for your recording efforts.

2017 Observer qualifiers: Jane St. Pierre (E), Anya Keatley (E), Annabelle Lowe (E), Linda Ritson (E), Paul Ritson (E), Emma Coombe (E), Veronika Chesworth-Kruse (E), Denise Major (E), Keith Major (E), Jack Willans (W), Mark Parry (E), Mick Baross (W), Matt Walters (E), Aithne Atkinson (E), William Hughes (E), Roger Parratt (E), Sean Dixon (E), James Wright (E), Tom Daguerre (E), Jes Hirons (E), Loreta Prieto Cacabelos (E), Louise De Lisle (E), Philip McAleenan (NI), Alice Hall (E), Hoi Ki Leung (E), Richard Bloore (NI), Doug Walker (E), Leon Smith (E), Mary Jones (E), Liz Lumb (E) and Peter Martin (E).

2017 Surveyor qualifiers: James Lynott (S), Kerry Rennie (E), Michael Southwood (E), Simon Loveday (E), Matt Ferguson (E/NI) Catherine Gras (W), William Hughes (E), Vanessa Charles (S), Matt Slater (E), Fiona White (E) and Rik Girdler (E).

Seasearch honoured with data award by National Biodiversity Network

Last week at the annual National Biodiversity Network conference, held this year in the beautiful surroundings of the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, Seasearch was honoured to receive the John Sawyer Open Data award in recognition that all the Seasearch data held on the NBN is freely and publicly available to all under a CC-BY licence. A majority of volunteers who responded to a poll in 2013 said that Seasearch data should have this status, so anyone and everyone can appreciate our efforts and records.

In the same ceremony, the Seasearch North-East Co-ordinator Paula Lightfoot was awarded the David Robertson adult award for marine and coastal recording, recognising her outstanding work as an amateur naturalist (including but not limited to Seasearch, the Yorkshire Naturalists Union and the Conchological Society), and great work by everyone in the north-east with the Durham Heritage Coast partnership to document and highlight the recovery of that historical industrial coastline. Fabulous work to Paula and everyone involved in Seasearch data gathering!

Southern nudibranchs invade Cornwall!

Reports of unexpected purple nudibranchs were received in the late summer from various sites in Cornwall, including this photo from Colin Gray sent in to the Marine Conservation Society for identification where it ended up on my desk. The animals were identified by experts in the Seasearch Identifications and NE Atlantic Nudibranchs Facebook groups, and a special shout-out to Bee Gadsby who made the effort to fill in a Seasearch form to get the pin on the map...

Courses and Qualifiers

All of the 2017 courses have now been completed and it's been a long year - for courses starting on February 25th with an Observer course for Flintshire SAC and ending on November 19th with an Observer course at Plymouth University. We've run 38 courses in total: 30 Observer courses, 4 Surveyor courses and 4 specialist courses/workshops, involving almost 300 people in the training. Six more of our volunteers have become Observers since the last update (Louise De Lisle (E), Philip McAleenan (NI), Alice Hall (E), Hoi Ki Leung (E), Richard Bloore (NI) and Leon Smith (E)) while Matt Ferguson (E/NI) has successfully completed the higher-level Surveyor qualification (and there are 8 more people currently going through the final verification stages for Surveyor qualification). Well done all!

Record proportion of survey forms received

We've received 1349 forms for 2017 (as of November 22nd), with a split 55:40 survey:observation forms (plus 3% seafan forms and 2% crawfish forms). Given the much higher level of data collected on survey forms this represents a really important step forward for our data collection efforts. Many of the survey dives this year concentrated on gathering evidence to inform the forthcoming (exact date tbc) consultation on the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England, though Seasearch data has been proving invaluable in other areas too. An emergency ncMPA (nature conservation marine protected area) was declared in Scotland after local divers (including some Seasearchers) documented and made public dredging damage to an inshore flame shell bed, while the States of Jersey declared an additional 62.5km2 of area around Les Écréhous and Les Minquiers protected from trawling and dredging with Seasearch again providing a wealth of data to support the decision.

The majority of the forms are (not unexpectedly) from England, given the MCZ tranche 3 focus, and within the English regions the traditional diving hotspots of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall are showing strongly. The bare statistics hide some great work being carried out in the face of unhelpful weather so don't just take the numbers at face value... Great work everyone - keep those forms coming...! Data entry is underway and co-ordinators are chivvying to round up those last few forms (mine included, ahem!)

Seasearch Observers and Surveyors

The course season is coming to a close with just this weekend's Surveyor course and an Observer course in Ireland at the start of September to go. Eight more volunteers have become Observers since the last update in June: Aithne Atkinson (E), Bill Hughes (E), Roger Parratt (E), Sean Dixon (E), James Wright (E), Tom Daguerre (E), Jes Hirons (E) and Lorena Prieto Cacabelos (E). Congratulations to everyone!

2001-2015 Manacles Report released

A new report collating 15 years of survey data from the area around the Manacles Rocks on the eastern side of the Lizard Peninsula in South Cornwall has just been released and is now available for download from the Seasearch website. The report will be launched tomorrow by the report author and former National Co-ordinator Chris Wood at the 3rd Annual Marine Ecology and Conservation Network meeting hosted by the University of Exeter at their Penryn campus near Falmouth. The theme of the meeting is #OceanOptimism.

Dives earlier this year found thriving healthy seafans and a charismatic crawfish, which seem to be making a comeback in the southwest. Please let us know if you spot them on your dives!

2017 dive map

We've received 294 forms for 2017 (as of June 12th), 148 being Observation forms, 127 Survey forms and 19 seafan forms (from a BSAC First Class Diver expedition to Devon). 59% of these are from England. Bad weather had postponed the diving on the East Coast but a decent summer should see more points appearing on the map - keep those forms coming...!

New Seasearch Observers and Surveyors

It's been a busy year for courses - 22 Observer courses, 3 Surveyor courses and 1 specialist workshop (with more planned). Thirteen of our volunteers have become Observers so far this year: Jane St. Pierre (E), Anya Keatley (E), Annabelle Lowe (E), Linda Ritson (E), Paul Ritson (E), Emma Coombe (E), Veronika Chesworth-Kruse (E), Denise Major (E), Keith Major (E), Jack Willans (W), Mark Parry (E), Mick Baross (W) and Matt Walters (E), while four people have successfully completed the higher-level Surveyor qualification - Michael Southwood (E), Simon Loveday (E), Kerry Rennie (E) and James Lynott (S). Congratulations to everyone!

Seasearch North Wales fundraising evening

Join Seasearch North Wales on Thursday February 23rd for an evening of talks, photos and films about underwater life in the UK. All proceeds will be split between Seasearch North Wales and the North Wales Wildlife Trust so please go along, have a fun and educational evening and support Seasearch at the same time!

2016 Data - final call for forms!

Most of the 2016 forms have now been received and are being entered into the Marine Recorder database. If you still have some lurking on your desk now is the time to get them finished off and sent in so they can be included in the dataset! 1453 forms have been sent in so far, with slightly more Survey forms (51%, 732) than Observation forms (49%, 713). 56% of the data (816 forms) comes from England, with 19% (270 forms) from Scotland, 12% (180 forms) from Wales, 7% (108 forms) from the Channel Islands, 4% (52 forms) from Northern Ireland and 1% each (17 forms and 10 forms) from the Republic of Ireland and Isle of Man respectively

New Seasearch Observers and Surveyors

We ran nearly 40 courses in 2016, of which 27 were the introductory Observer course, 4 were the more detailed Surveyor course and there were also specialist courses in seaweeds and general marine life ID.

Since the last update in August 2016 23 more of our volunteers have completed their Observer qualification. They are: Lucy Johnson (E), Bryonie King (E), Emma Theobald (E), Rebecca Lynam (E), Tim Watson (E), Barry Holmes (W), Ellen Last (E), Phil Wilkinson (NI), Sue Rosser (E), James Norman (NI), Melanie Chilvers (E), Rob Jackson (E), Vanessa Mann (E), Niina Bastaki (E), Penny Withers (E; Observer #700!), Sally Nelson (NI), Karen Patterson (NI), Eddie Rickard (W), Will Kay (W), Chris James (E), Graham Yurner (E), Sandra Turner (E) and Chris Read (E). Five more volunteers have gone on to complete the higher-level Surveyor qualification - Maggs Ashton (E), Keith Wilson (E), Natalie Hirst (S), Jessica Mead (E) and Mark Harrison (E). Very well done to everyone!

First Red Blenny record for Wales

The Red or Portuguese Blenny, Parablennius ruber, was first recorded by Seasearch divers in Scotland in 2002 and there are earlier records as far back as 1982. It is a southerly species and its habitat preference seems to be for slightly deeper and much more exposed rocky reefs than its close relative, the much more common Tompot Blenny. It has been recorded from exposed sites off the west coast of Scotland, Northern and Western Ireland, the Isles of Scilly and south coasts of Cornwall and Devon but until now had never been seen in Wales.

A recent Seasearch dive in West Wales managed to get to The Smalls, off Pembrokeshire, which is one of the most wave exposed reefs in Wales and Kerry Lewis recorded and photographed the fish there. Another first for Seasearch!


New Seasearch Observers and Surveyors

Our programme of 2016 courses got off to a flying start and there have been 25 Seasearch Courses so far this year. There is one more Observer Course currently planned, in Dorset, though there may be others arranged at short notice to meet demand.

Now we are concentrating on survey diving and since April this year 18 of our volunteers have completed their Observer qualification. They are: Elaine LeClaire (CI), Zoe Masters (E), Alec Routledge (E), Rick Allbrook, (E), Kat Berry (E), Holger Schumann (E), Terry Ozanne (CI), Chantelle de Gruchy (CI), Jake Davies (W), Sue Foster (E), Yvonne Oates (E), Patricia Mole (E), James Nash (W), Katrina Dick (S), Kevin Lee (E), Catherine Gras (W), Liz Spiby (E) and Ged McKenna (E).

Data is also coming in from the survey dives. So far we have 466 forms registered. Many of these are from training dives as is usual for this time of year and thus 62% are Observation Forms and 38% Survey Forms. 49% of the data (227 forms) comes from England, with 17% (80 forms) from Scotland, 17% (78 forms) from Wales, 12% (58 forms) from the Channel Islands, 4% (17 forms) from Northern Ireland and 1% (6 forms) from the Isle of Man.


Seasearch explores Brownsea Island Peacock Worm beds

Dorset Seasearch had a fabulous and very successful weekend on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in mid June surveying the Sabella pavonina beds identified on Southern IFCA video transects.
Thanks to everyone involved - the volunteer divers (Dawn Watson, Richard Yorke, Nick Owen, Cathryn Quick, Hugh Waite, Jean-Luc Solandt), the boat drivers (John Humphreys, Richard Girdler and Nick Owen), the surface support (Polly Whyte), Dorset Wildlife Trust (Chris Thain) for accommodation and transport around the island, The National Trust for use of their Brownsea Seahorse, Southern IFCA for their Sabella data and Natural England for some funding. Special thanks to organisers Lin Baldock and Charlotte Bolton for helping to make it all happen!


Seasearch surveys Falmouth maerl

Maerl beds in the Falmouth estuary are the most extensive and densest in England. There is currently a proposal to dredge the channel into Falmouth Docks to accommodate larger vessels, including cruise liners. Seasearch has been concerned about the potential impact of the dredging not only on the channel itself but also the sedimentation effects on the maerl beds as a whole. Seasearch dives in June were organised by Marine Conservation Society to add more data from areas to the south of the dredge channel and on the main maerl bed at St Mawes Bank. Further surveys are planned for September.

The picture shows two typical inhabitants of the maerl bed, a Reticulated Dragonet and an Eyelash Worm.


Seasearch explores new sites in the Channel Islands

A team of Seasearch Surveyors carried out a week long survey in the Channel Islands in May. Based on the liveaboard MV Salutay our aim was to dive new sites which have no previous records. Perfect conditions at the beginning of the week took us to two sites on the Casquets, isolated and exposed rocks nine miles west of Alderney seen in the picture and two other new sites on Alderney itself. We then moved on to two more new sites off the south coast of Guernsey, and after a day in port due to high winds to another new site off Jethou and finally an old favourite in Sark. In search of quieter conditions saw us recording from harbours in Guernsey and Alderney as well.



Highlights were the 'yellow reefs' festooned with branching and massive yellow sponges, cluster anemones and Stolonica sea squirts, crawfish (including a monster at the Casquests and 8 on one dive in Sark where there is a complete ban on their capture). Alderney has many scarlet and gold cup-corals (scarce in England and Wales) and another intriguing cup coral shown top right in the picture below. Bigger than scarlet and gold but smaller than sunsets - is it a large pale Devonshire cup coral or a pale sunset? As always the more we look the more questions we have.

It was a successful week for us all and valuable additions were made to the range of sites and species we have recorded in the Channel Islands. In June the focus of surveying there will move to Jersey where a week-long dayboat based survey is planned, which will include the most southerly dive site in British waters, Les Sauvages.


Seasearch Courses and Dives for 2016 well underway

25 Seasearch courses have already taken place in 2016 but there are Observer and Surveyor Courses and 1 Marine Life Course still to come.

Many survey dives have already taken place and there are another 20 planned. These range from single shore dives, through evening dives to weekends and a couple of week-long ones. Hopefully there is something for everyone and of course more dates are being added as extra surveys are arranged.

One of the Observer courses pictured here was in Plymouth on 7th-8th May with 14 eager new (and not quite so new) Seasearchers followed by 20 people diving on the Sunday, with much form filling afterwards (note the product placement in the picture!). The plankton bloom had just arrived and visibility was well down over recent weeks, but since then it has cleared again and many species can be seen at their summertime best.

For the latest information on forthcoming courses and survey dives go to the Training or Diving pages of this site or contact your local Coordinator.


The Crawfish are back

One of the Seasearch targets in recent years has been to record the ups and downs of the crawish (or crayfish or spiny lobster) population. It is a priority species for conservation in the UK because of the decline in recent years due to overfishing. Seasearch records show a dramatic increase in sightings in south-west England in 2014 and 2015 and we have contined to see them regularly in 2016. This picture is by Bee Nuttall from Hand Deeps which we dived in beautiful pre-bloom visibility on 23rd April.

We want your records of crawfish sightings wherever you see them. They can be included on your Seasearch form of course, but if you aren't intending to complete a full observation or survey form for the dive you can record just the crawfish on a separate form downloaded from the recording page, or even just send in your photo(s) with a note of the position (lat/long) and dive info. All these records are helping us to build up a better picture of the recovering population.



Seasearch Responds to Northern Ireland MCZ Consultation

Seasearch and MCS have responded to the Northern Ireland MCZ consultation. We have welcomed the proposed sites but do not feel they, together with existing MPAs, make up an ecologically coherent network. The 4 sites are Rathlin (where we have carried out many Seasearch Surveys), Waterfoot (where Seasearch proposed the MCZ to protect the largest seagrass bed in Northern Ireland), Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough. We have offered Seasearch volunteer expertise to assist with the suveillance of the sites. Thanks to Claire Goodwin for preparing the response which you can see on the Achievements page.






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