Tuesday, 11 October 2011

One at a time - Isle of Man's first marine nature reserve

More great news today - Ramsey Bay in the Isle of Man has been announced as the island's first Marine Nature Reserve after a three year consultation with the community and support from organisation Friends of the Earth.
The designation means that the bay will be protected from a number of activities that damage ocean ecosystems including aggregate extraction, gillnetting and dumping dredging materials. Fisheries will also be safeguarded (angling activities / events will be strictly 'catch and release') and it will be a centre for marine research. Any applications for development in the area will have to be approved by DEFA and are subject to an EIA.
The brilliant news means that Ramsey Bay can begin to restore damaged ecosystems and boost the numbers of many marine populations, such as eelgrass and pink maerl beds. Previous underwater studies had revealed the bay as a highly complex and diverse biotope. In August, scientists from the Fisheries Directorate of DEFA carried out surveys using seabed mapping equipment and cameras on underwater sledges to help produce detailed diagrams of the species and habitats there.
Now, the area will be subject to regular dives to monitor populations and the seabed.
Let's hope this is one MNR announcement of many to come...

Monday, 10 October 2011

A Great Discovery

A new species of sea sponge (yet to be named) has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk - by amateur divers no less!
The divers were carrying out a survey on the world's longest underwater chalk reef (20 miles long) when the discovery was made. The Seaweed East survey explored eleven locations from Essex to Northumberland between 1st and 10th August 2011. Not one, but hundreds of bright purple sponges were present and the surveyers understandably presumed that they were a similar Mediterranean species and had migrated to Britain. But after being inspected in detail, the sponge was identified as a distinct species by Dr Claire Goodwin from National Museums Northern Ireland.
Many details about the new organism have yet to be found out, but we do know that it feeds on water particles and lives half a mile from the shore of Sheringham. It is also thought that the unusual colouring may be due to the increasingly polluted marine environment.
Kudos also goes to the divers, who in the course of their six month survey identified 250 different marine species. It is now hoped that at least a portion of the reef will become a Marine Protected Area or a protected reserve under European law (this has been opposed by local fishermen however).
It makes me even more eager to start those diving lessons!