Recording of Marine Life
Reply and Answer
British Marine Life Study Society
Shorewatch Biological Recording Facilities

For the attention of Andy Horton

Dear Andy,

Just a query you may be able to help with. I am involved with a small society called the Southampton Natural History Society. Every year we produce a small report of wildlife sightings collected by members and others. I am currently trying to get such records passed on to relevant recording societies and individual recorders as it seems a waste that local records stop at our report.

Since many records involve coastal/wildlife wildlife, does the BMLSS accept national records or know of a national recording scheme where our records would be of some conservation benefit? If so I'd be very interested to hear about such a scheme? At present, individual recorders seem to phase in and out of existence and its very difficult to keep track!

I have also just sent for one of your newsletters as I am myself a keen naturalist interested in marine life- particularly in fish & cetaceans, molluscs and algae.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,
John Poland


Hello John,

Shorewatch Biological Recording 2000

I am glad to have received your message. It gives me the opportunity to summarise the British Marine Life Study Society methods of recording wildlife discoveries.

The first thing to say is that they are designed to supplement official recording schemes like the largely terrestrial national scheme using Recorder 2000 & the marine version MARLIN. Web site URLs and contact details are included at the bottom of this message.

These national schemes are not quite ready for input as far as I know. Our schemes may be able to integrate with the national recording, but I am not sure how easy this will be until they publish the details.

Exceptional Discoveries of all British marine life

There are two ways of notifying isolated exceptional discoveries.
The first is a very simple method of sending an EMail to Shorewatch Biological Recording at:
The records then undergo a few checks to make sure they are authentic and if they are of sufficient interest they will be posted on the Marine Life news web page at:
new2000w.htm (for the year 2000)
and will also be included in the monthly electronic bulletin called TORPEDO.
For details of how to subscribe to the free bulletin, please go to:
The records are also likely to be published in our paper publications, the Shorewatch newsletter and the journal Glaucus.

Some details of the records we like to receive and hints on information can be found at:

The information asked for is optional and with notable discoveries we usually cannot get too many details. Important information includes, the date of the record, prevalence, how identified, and the name of the recorder and how to contact him or her for more information.

There is another method, which enables the recorder to publish the record without any editing by myself.

This is the facility on the
Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group
Group Home:
List-Post: <>

By joining the group and full details of how to do this are at:

you are then permitted to post messages of any discoveries, whether notable or not, and any other queries, for the interest of other group members. The group contains members with varying degrees of expertise in marine wildlife and they may be able to help with tricky identifications. It is even possible to post pictures if you are a full member of the Smart Group. These can help with identifications.

The following shark was identified within 2 hours (an then it only took so long because I was off-form with an unfamiliar and rare deep water species) with the picture at:

The picture was circulated for identification purposes and we quickly came up with the correct answer. Many of the correct replies came from abroad.

The same thing happened to identify a nemertean (ribbon-) worm. However, in this case it was a Spanish enquiry resolved by an English expert.

There is also a Document Vault with a list of further information sources on the Internet.

Notable records, and lists from Field Trips etc.

The British Marine Life Study Society also provide facilities for recording and filing for general access, records of habitats and the organisms found there with a concentration on intertidal life. These are the most important records and the ones I find more interesting.

Our Report Forms can be found at:

There is another group Seasearch not under our auspices for subtidal recording by divers. And the Sea Watch Foundation for cetacean reports. Also a new group ORCA for sea mammals.

Sending in these records be dealt with in the second message to follow in a day or two.

Further Information Sources

I think there is a plethora of information sources, and these have been selected because they are the official recording schemes, and /or particularly interesting:

MARLIN (Marine Life Information Network)

Official Marine Nature Conservation Review (JNCC) Report Forms

Biomar Information Page (with links to their web page)
This is the BMLSS web page, but it links to the BIOMAR page.

Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database

Recorder 2000

The last page, I have not had a look at yet. It all seems a bit complicated. I hope this reply is not too complex.

Basically, if you send us the records, we can put them on our files and make them available to the public through the British Marine Life Study Society web site and the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group (eforum). The eforum has a search facility, which means it needs the scientific names to be spelt correctly.

With the British Marine Life Study Society web site you have to search by phyla, or major taxa and then scan down through the links to find what you want. However, the following search engine can help:
The British Marine Life Study Society web site will be listed with the major search engines, and any records submitted can be extracted this way (hopefully) by scientific names, location, etc.
The British Marine Life Study Society Index page:
can also be used.

The Glaucus journal (before the Internet) also has an index system.

The TORPEDO Bulletin contains important Links, and even more are included on the GATEWAY (LINKS) pages of the British Marine Life Study Society web site.


Andy Horton
British Marine Life Study Society
(EMail messages are not monitored by third parties.)

Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group (commenced 1 August 2000)
Group Home:


Notable records, and lists from Field Trips etc.

The British Marine Life Study Society also provide facilities for recording and filing for general access, records of habitats and the organisms found there with a concentration on intertidal life. These are the most important records and the ones I find more interesting.

Our Shorewatch Biological Recording Report Forms can be found at:

These are very much for optional use and were designed for both completion for paper storage and they can be filled in electronically using Netscape Composer or Microsoft Front Page Express (both free) or any web design program.

The paper storage is a bit of a problem and is not advised at the moment. I do not like to turn Reports down, so if you send them,  keep a copy for yourself, and if you have a choice, fill the form in electronically, or compile the records on a spreadsheet.

Best way to Compile the Records on a Spreadsheet

It still worth looking at the forms as they should give some idea of the information required. The most important information to include for an individual organism is:

Common Name or Organism (optional)
Prevalence (numbers or ACFOR system)
Scientific Name  (essential)
Location (including 6 figure grid reference)
Name of Recorder (essential)
EMail or other contact details of the Recorder (essential)

However, you should also keep your own further records in case you receive any queries. Sometimes, the recorder will be asked by a researcher what source he used to identify a particular organism.

Guidance File:

For an example of how the finished records will appear on Smart Groups Database, go to:

Shorewatch Biological Recording
Fishes & Sharks
Common Name/FrequencySort Order Ascending Scientific Name Location Date Recorder EMail
3-Spined Stickleback (abundant)  Gasterosteus aculeatus  Widewater Lagoon (TQ 202 043)  All year  Andy Horton (Shoreham-by-Sea)
Bonito (one)  Sarda sarda  Winchelsea, East Sussex  16 August 2000  Andy Horton on behalf of Jimper Sutton
Electric Ray (one)  Torpedo nobiliana  8 miles north of Lossiemouth in the Moray Firth (Scotland) at a depth of 100 metres  17 July 2000  Andy Horton on behalf of Witek Mojsiewicz
Guinean Amberjack (one)  Seriola carpenteri  East of Herm Island at a fishing mark called Noir Pute about 1.5 miles from Belvoir bay  7 September 2000 (amended 19 September 2000)  Richard Lord (entered by Andy Horton) on behalf of angler George Staples
Red Band Fish (one)  Cepola rubescens  Angle Bay area of Milford Haven near Thorne Island, Pembrokeshire  August 2000  Andy Horton (from the Fishing Board Forum)
Saddled Bream (one)  Oblada melanura  St Austell Bay, Cornwall (angler)  16 August 2000  Len Nevell Sea Angling Reports  113650,
Sunfish (one)  Mola mola  Off Trevose Head, Cornwall  6 August 2000  Andy Horton on behalf of Dr Kim Prochazka
Worm Pipefish (one)  Nerophis lumbriciformis  Worthing Pier; West Sussex  29 August 2000  Andy Horton (Shoreham-by-Sea

In order to view this file you will have to be a member of the

Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group
Group Home:

If the system is working properly it should be possible for Group Members to go to the web page Database and to enter their own records individually. If the taxa has not been included under the Shorewatch Biological database files, it is actually possible to create a new folder yourself and even specify the field names. However, it is probably best to send a message in first to the Group Manager (which happens to be me at the moment) at:

Entering Bulk Records

If you look at the file above you will see it is in a spreadsheet format. This means if you can match the field names on your own spreadsheet it is possible to upload bulk records straight into the existing files. Please enquire for technical specifications of how to do it. It requires converting to a *.csv (comma delimited) which means that it is best to avoid using commas in your spreadsheet to save some tedious work converting the files.

Recording by Habitats

As far as the Shorewatch Recording Scheme is concerned, this mean intertidal sites, or areas of vegetated shingle above the high water mark.

The full method is still under development, but should be available before next spring.

An experimental file has been created in the Smart Groups Document Vault at:

Kingston Beach  Rockpooling Report

Rockpooling on Kingston Beach
30 (Eve.)/31 (Morn.) August 2000

Wind Force 1, Wind Direction 30th South, 31st north changing to south. Sunny.

 Common Name  Scientific Name  Frequency  Comments
 Beadlet Anemone  Actinia equina  Frequent
No large specimens were seen.
 Snakelocks Anemone  Anemonia viridis  One The same specimen as seen before, but by the 31st it had disappeared.
 Eel  Anguilla anguilla  One Under boulder. About 35 cm. 
 Edible Crab  Cancer pagurus  Occasional
 (about 5)
Undersized, c. 50 mm broad crabs buried in sand under rocks. 
 Shore Crab  Carcinus maenas  Common
Large ones  (20+) but only the small ones made the numbers up.
 5-Bearded Rockling  Ciliata mustela  One Large one, at least 25 cm long under a boulder. 
 Corkwing Wrasse (juv.)  Crenilabrus melops  Frequent
 (20 +)
Usually common at this time of year. Small to 35 mm. 
 Spider Crab
 Eurynome aspera  One Occasionally found, not always present and never more than frequent.
 Squat Lobster  Galathea squamifera  Very frequent
Only very small ones under rocks.
 Rock Goby
 Gobius paganellus  Very Common
In shallow pools and under rocks. Frequently 2 year old specimens (approaching full size).
 Netted Dogwhelk  Hinia reticulata  Common
Only two noticed, but it is inconceivable that there were not hundreds under the sand.
 Ballan Wrasse (juv.)  Labrus bergylta  One Green specimen, about 40 mm.
 Lipophrys pholis  Very frequent
Surprisingly few after they were very common earlier this year. 
 Spider Crab
 Macropodia rostrata  Common
At and below Chart Datum
 Plumose Anemone  Metridium senile  Absent Usually only found in spring on this beach. 
 Dogwhelk  NucelLapillus  Not known Not searched for. Certainly not common.
Only started to reappear in the last  3 years. 
 Oyster  Ostrea edulis  Very frequent
Only started to reappear intertidally in the last 5 years, apart from the occasional one. Small as the large ones are usually removed.
 Hermit Crab  Pagurus bernhardus  Very Frequent
In Periwinkle shells mostly, at least 70% of them, the others in Netted Dogwhelk shells.
 Prawn  Palaemon serratus  Abundant
First net full got supper second provided breakfast the following day. Thousands of small ones as well. 
Palaemon elegans probably present as well. 
 Butterfish  Pholis gunnellus  Two Probably more, as I did not look in their habitats, under rocks at mid-tide level. Juveniles to about 80 mm are usual so a specimen under a boulder at about 160 mm was unusual.
 Hairy Crab  Pilumnus hirtellus  Occasional
 (about 5 seen)
Sometimes absent altogether on this beach. 
 Porcelain Crab
 Pisidia longicornis  Common
Underside of rocks and boulders
 Common Goby  Pomatoschistus microps  Abundant
Most were juveniles
 Porcelain Crab 
 Porcellana platycheles  Occasional None seen, but I did not look for them. 
 Sea Anemone  Sagartia troglodytes  Frequent
 (25 +)
Deposited sand obscured this species. 
 (Alternative local name: Clobberhead)
 Taurulus bubalis  Very frequent
Always frequently to be found on this shore on the low springs, but it can be common and less numbers than expected.

The table of macro-species on this page has been created in Microsoft Excel and exported to a hypertext file.
Ideally the page should include a scale map and photographs of the habitats, with grid references and other useful information. The best bet it is to upload these pages to your own web site. Then you can put the link in on the Smart Groups Document Vault, which will have several effects:
1)  Enable Group Members &/or visitors (optional) to find the site
2)  Inform Group Members (optional) that the page exists
3)  If (2) option to inform Group members is taken up, the Search Messages function will be able the researcher to find the message.

This is creative biological recording and ideally, all British rockpool locations could be linked from the master rockpooling page:
Rockpool.htm#Rockpooling Venues
or a new page (under construction) at:

Another idea (ideas are easy, it is implementing them that is hard) is just to record the club's observations on a web page as they occur. e.g.
Adur Valley Nature Notes 2000:

or for rockpool notes at:

If it becomes popular, you can even start your own Smart Group for your own local wildlife or news.
The Smart Groups  ADUR VALLEY eFORUM  is at:

This is the first draft of my thoughts. It may not be as clearly written as I would like. Please send a personal message for any clarifications to:

What has prompted a few tentative methods of storing information is that we had lots of biological records on bits of paper waiting to get lost, or waiting for the official recording schemes, and I thought it useful to devise some sort of filing system to put them in, until somebody comes up with a national recording scheme that works, and is simple to input.

Very Simple Way

A very simple way to store biological records is just to make a computer electronic file (hypertext or spreadsheet) and upload it to a web site. Make a Homepage and an index and if the records include marine records I can put the links in from my web site. Then inform the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group of its location. The explanation of its location should include sufficient keywords for the Search Messages will enable visitors to locate the file.

Publishing is our main Occupation

Realising we have not got the resources to implement and maintain a biological recording scheme, the main work of the British Marine Life Study Society is publication of Glaucus, Shorewatch, Torpedo, the web site, the CD-ROM (not out yet), and managing the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Smart Group.

Still, Shorewatch Biological Recording by habitat and location is an idea I would like to see developed nationally.

There is another group Seasearch not under our auspices for subtidal recording by divers.
I do not have the contact details at present.

And the Sea Watch Foundation <> for cetacean reports. Also a new group ORCA  for sea mammals  <>.


Andy Horton
British Marine Life Study Society
(EMail messages are not monitored by third parties.)

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