National Marine Week is The Wildlife Trusts’ nationwide celebration of all things marine. Despite the name, it lasts 15 fun-filled days to allow for the variation in tide times & weather around the country. It is predominantly an assortment of events along the shorelines in the UK but, as Scuba Divers, lets take it one step closer and dive right in!
The Wildlife Trust have some handy things you can do yourselves at home and along the shore to get stuck in – check them out!
Dorset Wildlife Trust also have a couple of things at The Chesil Centre to get you stuck in with
If you fancy visiting a local beach yourself to investigate the life along the shore I can highly recommend a few great sites that I love going to for a good browse:
- Lyme Regis – Rockpooling. Great for rockpool inhabitants and fossil finding. Best time to go is low tide – but be careful because the tide comes in quick here! Good for ice cream too 😉
- Osmington Mills – Rockpooling. Another great place for a rummage in the rockpools and there’s fossils around here too. Good at both low and high tide (areas still exposed at high tide but I recommend going at low tide anyway). To finish off there’s a great coastal walk and The Smugglers Inn pub is very close by.
- Kimmeridge Bay – Rockpooling. Great at low tide, there’s also The Marine Foundation Centre onsite that has some small exhibits of the local life inside. If the weather is nice and the water conditions allow there is also a lovely snorkel trail in the bay - pop into the Marine Centre for a guide.
- Chesil Beach – Beachcombing. A great area to explore the strandline. All sorts of stuff gets caught up in the strandline here.
- Hamworthy Lake Pier – Beachcombing. There’s a good strandline here too.
How to Rockpool
Rockpooling is one of my favourite things to do – although I must admit, I haven’t done it for a while! (That's me in the main image enjoying a bit of Rockpooling!) People take buckets and trays to put things in to inspect them closer, but I prefer not to – you never know what harmful bacteria you have on your skin and I wouldn’t want to unknowingly harm anything. So, I just admire from a distance. But you want to get in there and move a few rocks around and look into the crevices (if you move anything put it back, but make sure you don’t squash anything). You’ll find little Crabs, Shrimps, Gobies and Blennies hiding under the rocks and in the crevices. There’s lots of stuff attached to the rocks too – Common Limpets, Barnacles, Anemones, Starfish and Seaweeds (there’ll be things attached to the seaweeds too!). Keep an eye out for Mermaids Purses too. There’s so much more stuff there than I have listed – there are lots of free online guides you can use too, even just typing in a description on Google can bring up the result you want to ID something.
LEFT TO RIGHT:
Limpets (the bigger, rounder shells) and Barnacles
Small Porcelain Crab
The Anemones display their colourful tentacles when they become submerged in water, which helps them collect their food. You can see the blob in the insert - this is what they look like when they are not submerged in water, they're like a small blob of jelly.
Rockpools are a familiar sight along the coasts all around the world and I’m sure many people have memories of a good old rummage at some point in their life, maybe as a child on holiday? It certainly is an interesting habitat – you may not think it but it has to deal with a lot, there’s so many changing factors in the rock pools which make the living environment a very harsh one:
- Water Changes & Salinity.
As the tide comes and goes (this can be up to 4 times a day in some locations) it leaves the rock pools with low water levels or in some cases without any water. Some fish have to wiggle from one place to another just to get back in the water!
The salinity (saltiness) of the water changes frequently too. The sun will also evaporate the water within the pool which leaves the water saltier and when it rains it dilutes the water making it less salty.
All these changes mean that the life within the pool have to be able to deal with the change of the chemistry within the water to deal with the increased and reduced amounts of salt.
When the tide is out and the sun is shining it can get very hot in the rock pools and then at night the water cool. If the wind is blowing it can also get quite chilly.
- Oxygen Levels.
The oxygen levels at night decrease because everything in the pool is using up that Oxygen (even the plants) and the sunlight isn’t out for the plant life to photosynthesis and produce the Oxygen. During the day the water can then get supersaturated with Oxygen so the life within the rock pools have to deal with both high and low levels of Oxygen.
At low tide birds feed off the rock pool inhabitants by plucking them off the rocks and picking them out of the shallow waters where it’s harder to hide. You also get land mammals and fish coming in with the tide that will feed off some of the life. Of course, don’t forget, the rock pool inhabitants feed off each other! For example, Starfish feed on Shellfish, Shrimps eat algae and Crabs are scavengers so will eat almost anything from dead animals to plants and small fish.
Investigating the Strandline.
The Strandline is an area on the beach when debris has accumulated. The water moment of the waves carry debris such as seaweeds, driftwood, shells and sometimes animals (dead or alive). It accumulates along an area of the beach (around the high tide area). You can find all sorts here from Whelk eggs to Permaids Purses and lots of empty shells, melted crab shells, cuttlefish bone and seaweeds. Unfortunately, you also get a lot of litter caught up so don’t forget to take a bag with you to collect any rubbish you come across.
Most recently I found some cetacean vertebrae that I was really excited about along Chesil Beach.
SIDE NOTE: Don’t remove any bones from protected species, such as the vertebrae as it’s illegal to do so without a license. Just take photos like the ones below:
LEFT TO RIGHT:
Mermaids Purse - Thornback Ray eggcase
Cuttlebone - Not actually a bone but an internal shell filled with lots of small gas chambers that control the Cuttelfish's buoyancy.
Mermaids Purse - Small Spotted Catshark eggcase
Whelk Eggs - A sponge like ball
Portugese Man O War - Commonly mistaken for a Jellyfish, but it's actually a Hydrozoan. It's a colony of lots of small individual organisms.
When walking along any beach you’ll always come across something marine related, usually lots of empty shells. But at certain times of the year some of the beaches get stranded Jellyfish, some even get stranded Mammals such as Cetaceans and Seals.
If you do find any eggcases please report them to The Sharks Trust:
If you come across anything that is stranded report it to BDMLR:
If you spot any Jellyfish, Turtles, Basking Sharks or Crawfish report them to The Marine Conservation Society:
I got called out to young, stranded Seal once at Chapmans Pool. As you can see he was quite thin for his age and very thin. We transferred him to a recovery centre and he was released a few weeks later :)
On and Under The Water
There are 2 charities that do surveys on the water.
ORCA do Cetacean surveys and Marine Life do Cetacean and sea bird surveys.
I enjoyed doing many of these before, but unfortunately my lifestyle no longer allows it :( Check out their websites for more information and upcoming training courses:
You can also get involved in underwater surveying while you're diving. Seasearch Observers carry out surveys of the habitats and marine life on a dive site. I've done some myself, but really need to get back into it. If you're a Seasearcher let me know and we'll arrange to go diving some time and if you're not attend a training day and come and do some diving. You can find out more information on their website:
We hope you manage to get out over the next couple of weeks to explore. Don’t forget we’ve got boats running on Monday & Thursday evenings now and are hoping to start some shore diving soon, so keep your eyes peeled on our events page.
Throughout the week we will be posting images and information up about some of the most common Marine Life we get to see while we are diving locally so stay tuned!
Don't forget to share with us on Facebook what you get up to, we'd love to hear all about it.