Make the most of your coast!
Britons do love to be beside the seaside, and The Wildlife Trusts are urging coast-lovers to do more than dip a toe in the water this summer as they invite the nation to plunge into the possibilities of exploring the UK's undersea world. Our Marine Wildlife: National Marine Week runs for more than two weeks between 27th July and 11th August, offering endless opportunities to day-trippers and holidaymakers alike who wish to savour our shores and discover what lies beneath the waves. All around our coasts, Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers will be sharing their knowledge, helping you to learn more about anything from Velvet Swimming Crabs, Strawberry Anemones and Breadcrumb Sponges right through to seabirds, seals and Minke Whales. There will be events where people can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the sea and learn more about its riches as well.
Kicking off the period is the The Big Watch Weekend — the landmark whale and dolphin data collection event — on 27th–28th July. It is the largest event of its kind to take place along the North Sea coast, as coastal watches take place to collect vital information about whales and dolphins in this area. Experts from wildlife and conservation charities, including North Sea Wildlife Trusts, Sea Watch Foundation, MARINELife and ORCA, will lead these public watches throughout the weekend. Volunteers can set up their own whale watch or join one of the organised watches taking place across the region. This footage of sand eels off Filey Brigg bodes well as, over the last week, up to a dozen Minke Whales, a Sei Whale and White-beaked Dolphin have all been seen.
Several Minke Whales, such as this one above, have been seen off Filey Brigg in recent weeks (Photo: Mark Pearson).
Further activities spread over the event's 16-day duration, aimed to inspire and engage, range from rockpool rambles and seaside strolls along the strandline (the high-water mark where shells, sea creatures and flotsam are left by the tide) to a beach sculpture competition in Devon and a 'snorkelling safari' led by a qualified diver off the coast of Ulster. Even land-locked Surrey gets in on the act with an 'Undersea Explorers' session for 7–11-year-olds where they can jump in a pool "transformed into an underwater environment" at a sports resort near Heathrow Airport to learn more about the amazing wildlife living in the UK's undersea landscapes. The session is hosted, appropriately enough, by Sophie Mariner of Surrey Wildlife Trust.
Last year's National Marine Week saw more than 80 events, all contributing to a greater understanding of the hugely varied habitats to be found under coastal waters and awareness of the wildlife they support.
People watching dolphins off Chanonry Point beach, Highland (Photo: Peter Cairns/2020 Vision).
Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts' Head of Living Seas, said: "We want this year's National Marine Week to be very much a celebration of the wonderfully varied wildlife we have in our seas. We want to inspire people to find more to enjoy, more to learn and more to value in the fantastic marine life around our shores. Many people see the sea simply as a huge expanse of water, but under the surface lie habitats every bit as varied as those on land — kelp forests, seagrass meadows, mud plains, rocky reefs, deep-water corals and more. These richly varied habitats support thousands of plants and animals, from seahorses to Basking Sharks."
"Everyone remembers childhood trips to the seaside, peering into rockpools and picking up seashells. We want to build on that innate enthusiasm. We want to remind people that we need to protect a richly varied natural resource. As well as being a source of wonder, it is also a playground, a food supply, a conduit for our imports and exports and a climate regulator that absorbs vast quantities of greenhouse gases while releasing oxygen we can breathe. We are an island nation and the sea is a vital part of our national identity. But visitors to the coast want to have fun, and our National Marine Week events offer countless opportunities for people to savour the seaside and find out so much more about what our coasts have to offer. Once they know what's out there, we have no doubt that many more people will want to see our marine habitats and wildlife properly protected."
Find out more about National Marine Week on The Wildlife Trusts website.