MARINE LIFE NEWS 2011

Reports of marine wildlife from all around the British Isles, with pollution incidents and conservation initiatives as they affect the fauna and flora of the NE Atlantic Ocean

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Summer 2011

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EVENTS:

Welcome to WhaleFest 2011
5-6 November 2011
 

The first and largest event of its kind in Europe, WhaleFest– a celebration of the public’s passion for whales and dolphins – will open for the weekend of 5th and 6th November 2011 in Brighton, UK.

The festival, which launches with a star-studded VIP evening on Friday 4th November, will be opened to the public the following morning at the Hove Centre, where the Mayor of Brighton and Hove will be amongst the attendees. 
Each day, visitors will dive in to a packed programme of unique events. Only here can you go eye to eye with a life-sized Blue Whale, step inside a whale’s stomach, take a ‘virtual’ dolphin watching trip, and be inspired by the world’s whale and dolphin experts and wildlife celebrities.
 

WhaleFest is organised by Planet Whale, the world’s largest online search engine for whale and dolphin watching trips. WhaleFest represents Planet Whale’s vision; to provide whale and dolphin conservation organisations and sustainable whale watching businesses with a free platform to promote their work to the widest possible audience. 

How to book

Go to Whale Fest web page
(click on this text)


LATEST NEWS: 

Summer 2011
Seasearch divers surveying the lengthy chalk reefs off the Norfolk coast discovered many species not recorded before in the North Sea as well as encrusting sponge of the genus Hymedesmia new to science and not yet formally identified with a species name. This colourful sponge adopts the shape of whatever it covers, typically flint cobbles. Sponges are simple animals but tricky to identify. The find was confirmed by sponge expert Dr Claire Goodwin (National Museums Northern Ireland). 


September 2011
A rare accidental capture of a Slipper Lobster,Scyllarus arctus, was made by St. Mawes fisherman John Hayse,  checking his crab pots six miles off Falmouth. Newquay fisherman Dan Gilbert gave the Newquay Blue Reef Aquarium a rarely reported small Gibb's Spider CrabPisa armata, one of three that he caught during this month.

BMLSS Intertidal Crabs

23 September 2011
Another whale was spotted washed up in the Humber estuary near Skeffling on the Holderness coast, a regular stranding point and estuary in which whales can be washed ashore. This 15 metre long whale was still alive and was seen struggling in the mud. It was at first thought to be a Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalis, but after it died the identification was revised to the rarer Sei Whale, Balaenoptera borealis. Previous Humber Whale Stranding

17 September 2011
An alive Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, was spotted and photographed by Calum MacAskill and his wife in the Sound of Raasay, off the Isle of Skye, the first time one has been spotted off the Scottish island in three years. 

BMLSS Cetaceans
 

9 September 2011
A record angling capture of a Couch's Sea-Bream, Pagrus pagrus, weighing 4205 grams (9 lb 4 oz 5 drams) was landed on the west coast of Guernsey. Couch's Sea-Bream turned up in Guernsey waters in 1993 after a very long absence. Dr Jonathan Couch recorded one three miles off Polperro in 1842. It is also known as the Common Sea-Bream. It is principally a southern European fish that has been moving north. They grow to a size approaching 8 kg.

Link to a Photograph by Richard Lord
BMLSS Sparidae
BMLSS Pagrus

8 September 2011
Protection for key nature sites in UK seas has come a step closer with the unveiling of proposals to create over 100 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). 
The zones range from tiny stretches of coastline to large tracts of sea floor. The proposals were included in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and cover seas abutting the English coast and waters around Wales more than 12 miles from the coast. They will be assessed by an expert panel before the government makes its final decision. 
"The thousands of species of sea life and habitats that live hidden under our waters need just as much protection as those that we can see on land," said Richard Benyon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
"We will scrutinise the recommendations carefully," vowed Peter Ryder, chairman of the Marine Protected Area Science Advisory Panel


6 September 2011
The latest whale to get stranded on the Humber estuary mud flats at Immingham was an immature 9 metre long 
Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalis. The stranded whale showed signs of life which prompted a difficult but successful rescue effort to dig a channel in the mud to enable the whale to reach deeper water when the tide came in. The whale quickly disappeared under water on the rising tide and was believed to be swimming out to the North Sea in the afternoon.


Unfortunately the Fin Whale was found dead on the shore two days later and washed up on a sandbank at Cleethorpes.

BMLSS Cetaceans

1 September 2011
Austin Taylor captured a series of excellent photographs of a Sei Whale, Balaenoptera borealis, at Firths Voe, Mossbank, in the Shetland Isles
Images at Austin Taylor Photography
Sea Watch Foundation on  facebook

This fresh fish was discovered on sale at Plymouth Fish Market. It was probably captured in the south-western approaches (SW of Cornwall). Its length was estimated at 28 cm. However, it identity is a bit of a puzzle and has provoked discussion amongst the experts. It is definitely species of Drumfish in the family Sciaenidae as evidenced by two dorsal fins with the lateral line reaching all the way to its caudal (tail) fin. However, none of the four European species of Drumfish are normally found in British seas and its appearance does not match any of them exactly. The identity of this fish is still under enquiry.

A species of Drumfish
Photograph by Nick Eggar

Richard Lord makes a compelling case for this fish to be the Atlantic Croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, from a comparative photograph he took at Fulton Fish Market (New York). This species inhabits the shallow seas of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic west coast of the United States of America from Florida to Maine. This seems to be only the third record of this alien fish in European seas as a previous record of two juvenile specimens has been discovered in Belgian waters (Southern Bight of the North Sea): one in August 1998 as a by-catch of the commercial shrimp fishery in coastal waters, another in October 2001 on a tidal flat in the brackish part of the Scheldt Estuary

Pharyngeal Teeth of Drumfish

An alternative possible species is the Chi Drumfish, Umbrina cirrosa. This species is found in the Bay of Biscay.  Another candidate is the Corb, Sciaena umbra

Please Email any ID suggestions.
 

31 August 2011
At the annual Jersey Open Shore Angling Festival, a British record breaking specimen of the White Sea Bream, or Sargo, Diplodus sargus, excited everyone including the angler Brian Swain. The fish took a Garfish bait and weighed in at  2 lb  6 oz 12 drams or 1.099 kg. This fish is a rare capture in British seas and the only known occurrences are recent appearances of shoals of these fish around the Channel Islands. Mature adults seem to be confined to shallow seas in the sheltered corner of  the Gulf Normano-Breton. Starting life as males, some White Bream become females in later life. The first youngsters found locally were collected in 1991 from the old hot water outlet at La Collette Power Station on the western boundary of the South-east Coast of Jersey Ramsar Site. Since then they have grown on, apparently to establish a viable population: divers report frequent sightings and a small shoal can often be seen in the Queen Elizabeth II Marina, St Helier

BMLSS Sparidae: White Bream
BMLSS Sargo

27 August 2011
A Peacock Blenny, Salaria pavo (Risso, 1810), was seen on the Brittany coast, northern France: "It was found on the shore in the Golfe du Morbihan (a large natural harbour) in south Brittany. They were the commonest fish on the shore, under rocks from mid-shore down." 
I also found a male and female Marbled Rock Crab, Pachygrapsus marmoratus, on an offshore reef at Port St Jaques near Morbihan.

Peacock Blenny
Report and Photograph by David Wilson on the Porcupine MNHS Facebook page.

The Peacock Blenny, Salaria pavo has recently has been found in considerable numbers in the Morbihan and near Concarneau, more towards the western tip of Brittany. 

This the most northerly occurrence of this Mediterranean blenny recorded. 
BMLSS Blennies
BMLSS Intertidal Crabs

18 August 2011
A Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, was stranded on a beach in Dungarvan, County Waterford and died the following day. The whale had been sighted swimming close to shore and was tracked for 100 miles along the coast before beaching itself. The 11 metre adult male appeared distressed and in poor health. Experts from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) speculated that the whale may have suffered from disease or starvation.


15 August 2011
One of the rarer deep water whales found around the British coast, a Sowerby's Beaked Whale, Mesoplodon bidens, washed up near Thornham on the Norfolk coast. Unfortunately, the whale was was both washed up high on the salt marshes and was in such a poor condition out of the water it had to be euthanised. 


9 August 2011
An 18 metre long Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalis, was washed ashore dead, with a large chunk out of its rear fin, at Lynmouth in north Devon. 

Fin Whales in the Irish Sea
BMLSS Cetaceans

5 August 2011
I discovered two Giant Gobies, Gobius cobitus. at Roskilley, south of Newlyn, Cornwall; in a small middleshore pool, 100 cm x 100 cm (open space), no green algae cover, but there was a very deep crevice under a large rock. On watching them I was amazed at how rapidly they can change colour from dark brown to olive green depending on the bottom / from shade to light. They were both easily teased out their hole with a little mackerel flake.

Report and Photograph by David Fenwick Snr. (Aphotomarine)

The Giant Goby, Gobius cobitus, is a protected species under Schedule 5, Protection for wild animals of the Wildlife and Countryside Act

BMLSS Giant Gobies

28 July 2011
A female Porbeagle Shark, Lamna nasus, with a reported weight of nearly 300 lb (136 kg) was caught by Don McCloskey on rod and line off Fanad Head, Donegal, Northern Ireland. (No measurements of the shark were included in the report.)

BMLSS Porbeagle Sharks
 

23 July 2011
The grim predictions turned out to be accurate as 25 Long-finned Pilot Whales, Globicephala melas, died over night, 15 stranded at low tide on the sandbanks at Kyle of Durness,. A further 44 survived, a few of them successfully rescued by the efforts of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, rescuers fromthe Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and other helpers in this remote location. 44 of the Pilot Whales successfully swam out to deeper water and away from danger. 

Rounding up the whales and coaxing them into deeper water

Rescuing the Stranded Pilot Whales
Photographs by Donald Mitchell, Ranger (Highland Council)
Highland Council on  flickr
Durness Tourist Information Centre

Report by Colin Bird (Link)
Video Recording (Link)
 

Stranded Pilot Whales
Photographs © by Wendy Sutherland (Thrumster, Caithness)

22 July 2011
Up to 15 out of a large school of sixty plus Long-finned Pilot Whales, Globicephala melas, were spotted at high tide in 3.5 metres water in the narrow Kyle of Durness, on the remote northern Scottish mainland coast. There were concerns for their safety as at low tide the water in the shallow inlet is only 1.5 metres deep and contains numerous sandbanks. (Report entered two hours before low tide.) 


 

Stranded Pilot Whales
Photographs © by Alan Airey
Whales & Dolphins Gallery (by Alan Airey)

Update: Three whales, including a calf, had already stranded as the water in the estuary dropped.
Low Tide Update 8:00 pmFrom the original group of whales that entered the Kyle of Durness earlier in the day, thirty stranded live on a sandbank, with two having died. The original four animals that stranded earlier were still being cared for by trained medics and around twenty animals were still in the shallow water.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue
BMLSS Cetaceans

Several Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, were spotted and at least one was captured off the Dorset coast.

BMLSS Tunnies & Mackerel

14 July 2011
Young rockpooler Henry Hyndman discovered a small colony of breeding Cushion Stars, Asterina, in a rockpool on Fair Isle (midway between the Shetland Isles and the Orkney Isles). This was a newsworthy discovery because this is a southern species usually found off the coast of Cornwall and south Wales.

BMLSS Echinoderms

Crystal Jelly, (Photograph © by Penny Martin, Orkney)12 July 2011
A Crystal Jelly, Aequorea species was discovered in the surface waters around Birsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

Report & Photograph© by Penny Martin (Orkney)
The prevalence of this seldom recorded genus of hydromedusan is not known. 

Featured Species: Aequorea
Another Report
BMLSS Jellyfish & related Medusa
Stranding Report 2009

11 July 2011
A Sei WhaleBalaenoptera borealis, was spotted and photographer by Danny Kerr in the Air Ambulance between Islay and Gigha in south-west Scotland. This deep water whale is rarely seen in the shallower seas around the British Isles. 

Sei Whale off Cornwall (2000)

9 July 2011
For the second successive year a Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, was spotted off the south coast of Devon near Brixham

Previous 2010 Report
BMLSS Cetaceans
 

The giant fossilised jaws of a Pliosaur went on display at the County Museum, Dorchester. The 2.4 metre long skull was discovered on the nearby Jurassic Coast at Weymouth Bay. It is 95% complete as a result of a careful recovery by amateur collector Kevan Sheehan

Previous News Report

3 July 2011
Portsmouth fishermen Sam Moor caught an American Blue CrabCallinectes sapidus, off the Hampshire coast, England, and brought into Portsmouth Blue Reef Aquarium. This edible crab inhabits the east coast of America and was thought to have been accidentally transported over the Atlantic by ship transport, perhaps in ballast water. 

BMLSS Intertidal Crabs
 


 

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