It seems the UK summer has finally arrived, at least in parts. Hurrah, just in time for the school holidays! And as it's National Marine Week, it seems the perfect time to talk about our superb seaside.
I have childhood memories of brilliant beach holidays in Cornwall. We would set off late at night to avoid the worst of the traffic - my gran, parents, 3 kids and the dog all in a Hillman Hunter with vinyl seats and no air conditioning. We'd arrive in the dark, and tumble in to bed to catch a few hours sleep. Waking to the glorious sound of gulls and smell of salt in the air, we'd race out of the door straight on to the beach. Two weeks of swimming, jumping the waves, rock-pooling, big flat rocks to sunbathe on, cliff tops covered in thrift, spectacular sunsets, and fish and chips. Bliss!
My favourite pass time was rock pooling. I am to this day fascinated that an apparently empty pool can be hiding such a wealth of wildlife. Blennies perfectly camouflaged against the sand, little colourless shrimps drift along, tiny (and some not so tiny) crabs scuttle about, and the underside of rock ledges can conceal colourful anemones. Our coasts are truly magical. Are you having a great British beach holiday this year? Join our Facebook poll, tell us where you are going and share your photos by tweeting us @natures_voice, or post on our Facebook page
Chapel Porth beach, FreeFoto.comCoastal thrift by Anthony GriffithsPerranporth sunset, FreeFoto.com
By Gareth Cunningham, Marine Policy Officer, Wales
Last Wednesday (25th July) I and other RSPB Cymru staff accompanied the Environment Minister John Griffiths to RSPB Ramsey Island, and on a boat trip around RSPB Grassholm Island. The trip was organised to help raise awareness of marine issues in Wales, and to highlight the need for seabird colonies to have protected areas at sea, where they feed or rest on the sea’s surface.
We presented the Minister with an image of a Manx shearwater made up of the 3000 signatures of those who signed our pledge for better protection of seabirds at sea (shown above). Wales is a critical location for breeding seabirds like the Manx shearwater, with almost 45% of the global population of this species nesting on just five Welsh islands. While RSPB Cymru’s Grassholm Island, supports almost 10% of the world’s population of gannets.
Whilst there are large declines in seabirds across the rest of the UK, we are lucky that in Wales as yet we are not seeing the same level of declines, and most seabird species are currently either stable or increasing. As a result healthy Welsh seabird colonies are becoming increasingly important at a UK and EU level.
However, one Welsh seabird which isn’t faring so well is the kittiwake; last year they had their worst year on record. As a seabird that only feeds close to the surface of the sea, kittiwakes have a much more limited food supply than seabirds that can dive deeper to access alternative sources of prey, and as a result, kittiwakes are often the first to indicate bigger problems below the waters.
Yet despite the importance of Welsh seabirds and the protection of the breeding sites on land, we still lack full protection for seabirds at sea – where the birds actively feed and spend most of their lives.We are calling on the Welsh Government to not only designate additional areas at sea for seabirds and other marine wildlife, but to ensure effective management of the existing sites around Welsh coasts. Better management, resourcing and where necessary, enforcement of activities in the marine environment is needed for the entire network of Marine Protected Areas whether existing or new.
For more information about the RSPB Cymru marine campaign visit www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/sealife/, and to see images from the boat trip, courtesy of our volunteer Anthony Walton visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/ponty_cyclops/7660725804/in/set-72157630756912406
Picture by Anthony Walton: Left-Right John Griffiths, Environment Minister and Gareth Cunningham RSPB Cymru Marine Policy Officer handing over the Manx shearwater image made from 3000 signatures July 2012
By Kate Sugar, Senior Marine Policy Officer
You might have noticed that, over the weekend, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France EVER – great work Bradley! You might also have noticed that this weekend, for a lot of the country (sorry to those bits still waiting for it) the summer sun finally made an appearance – about time!
So with all these historic events going on, and the sporting hype building up to fever pitch, you could be forgiven for not having noticed the latest developments in the ongoing process of Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designation in English waters.
We noticed it though… as after 10 months of patiently waiting we finally have the statutory advice from the Government’s nature conservation advisors (Natural England and the JNCC) on the MCZ network recommended by the regional projects last September. So far, so dry – I can see why a 1,455 page technical document on things like scientific confidence levels might not light your fire. But it’s the implications of this advice that are going to be crucial for the MCZ designation process, as the Minister (Richard Benyon) will use this scientific advice to help make his decision about which MCZs to take forward to designation in 2013.
From a first read – there’s a lot to be positive about. The advice expresses support for the network of 127 sites as a whole, and the regional project process that came up with it. The case for the 6 sites in the recommended network with seabirds as proposed features for protection is examined, and found to be justified (woop! while this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get these sites into the first tranche to be designated, it’s certainly a helpful bit of support from the statutory agencies).
However, the devil will most certainly be in the detail, and in the way that Government react to this advice. So over the next couple of months we’ll be working through the advice, assessing those implications, and most importantly – keeping up the pressure on the Government and the Minister for greater ambition in designating the network next year. Watch this space!
In the meantime, if you want to find out more, you can access all the documents online here
Fantastic Fish on a Bicycle by Daren Greenhow - check out his other amazing work here
By Alec Taylor, Marine Policy Officer
In June, The RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts took members of the marine planning team from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to Flamborough Head and Bempton Cliffs, which are home to more than 200,000 breeding seabirds, as well as seals, orchids, lichens and so much more. It’s a really special place. It’s also on the northern boundary of the first two marine plan areas, which extend offshore from the East of England into the North Sea. These areas are used heavily by Bempton’s seabirds for foraging, including areas which are also important for human activity. We’re working really hard to ensure that marine plans around the UK recognise the value and importance of birds and use the best available evidence on how birds use these areas to guide human activities in a sensible way.
After a fantastic tour of Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve and a boat trip around Flamborough head with one of the local fishing boats, we were all able to see these points in action! If you haven’t been before, now is the time to see all the main species (including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, gannets and fulmars). The gannets will be around until the autumn though and are well worth seeing on their own!
Members of the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and MMO at Bempton Cliffs Reserve (photo: Kirsten Smith, Wildlife Trusts)