Keeping you up to date with Project Seagrass news and views with a mixture of field notes and commentary on seagrass and marine conservation topics.
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|Posted on April 1, 2020 at 11:30 AM|
© Joseph Gray / WWF
By Evie Furness
You are not alone! We are all having to take a pause from our chaotic lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must support our health care services and the incredible frontline workers by staying at home.
Our ocean optimism and motivation to protect our planet does not stop for a lockdown. There are plenty of things that you can do from the safety of your home. Here are just a few ideas!
Perhaps you have some books, clothes or games you don’t want anymore? Staying at home is the perfect opportunity to have a big clear out. Once you’ve decluttered sell it at a car boot sale (when it’s safe to do so!). The money could then be used to catch a train to explore your nearest seagrass meadow or donate it to a conservation project, such as Project Seagrass. With the critical economic situation arising from COVID-19, it’s likely that many companies will have to take large budget cuts reducing what they can donate to small charities. Include your car in the clean-up- a lighter car uses less fuel!
An Eco Makeover!
Whilst having a spring clean try and identify products that could be switched for more eco-friendly ones- anything that goes down your drain or is chucked away will influence nature! Maybe switching cleaning products or try making your own?! How about making your own cosmetics such as shampoo bars or deodorant? Instead of buying new, maybe there’s an upcycling project you’ve always meant to do or get creative with handmade birthday presents. Why not try making eco-bricks or turning down the temperature of your washing machine?
Take the extra time on your hands as an opportunity to go back through old holiday and beach snaps, there maybe some seagrass ones that could be uploaded to Seagrass Spotter to help build a global map of seagrass meadows. Encourage others to do the same!
There are lots more citizen science projects you can get involved with like counting seabirds from your sofa.
For most working from home involves heavy internet use, so switch your search engine to ecosia and you’ll replant a forest in no time! Although Ecosia has had to reduce its tree planting during the pandemic, it plans to make up for lost time once safe to do so.
We have plenty of educational resources on the Project Seagrass website and shall be releasing more throughout social distancing. Check out our YouTube channel or our activities book. Maybe whilst you’re creating a rainbow coloured crab, you’ll have an eureka moment on other ways to Save Seagrass!
This is also a chance to get artsy- maybe pick up those long forgotten paints for an underwater scene? Or work on those graphic design skills to make a seagrass awareness poster! Maybe you fancy yourself as a nature inspired poet or author?
Eat for our seas!
Enjoy having the time to try new things in the kitchen! Cutting down on your meat consumption is an easy way to help our earth. With less demand for meat comes less intensive farming, reducing the amount of excess nutrients from animal waste running in to our sea. The nutrients cause algal blooms which smother the seagrass, stopping sunlight reaching it for photosynthesis. Veggie grub also has a much lower carbon footprint.
One of our favourite quick and easy comfort foods is roasted sweet potato and cauliflower tacos, you could even do a virtual taco night with friends! This recipe can easily be adapted to whatever’s left in the fridge- some peppers, onions or broccoli, maybe even mix in some leftovers from previous meals. Reducing food waste saves you money, takes pressure off our supply chains and helps protect our oceans- it’s a win all round!
We’d love to hear of other ways people are keeping green, pop us a message and stay in touch whilst we’re all keeping distant.
|Posted on September 20, 2019 at 2:45 AM|
Oceans Festival was a day to celebrate work being carried out by scientists, educators, volunteers, artists and many more. There was a variety of stands all sharing the same passion for our oceans. With stalls selling sustainable and plastic free items to beautiful artwork of marine mammals as well as yummy vegan food there was something for everyone.
There was a variety of stands all sharing the same passion for our oceans.
Matt Brierley started the talks off on his new documentary he has been filming on the shark trade in the UK. It was shocking to find out that spiny dogfish which is critically endangered in the northern Atlantic is majority eaten in our fish and chip shops. These female sharks take 12 years to reach sexual maturity and has one of the longest gestation periods of any vertebrate, up to 2 years! Aside from this, illegal species are being brought into London fish markets, such as a juvenile scalloped hammerhead which is critically endangered and listed on CITES. It was terrifying to find out this happening in the UK. To move forward Matt wants “shark” to be labelled in fish and chips shops rather than the many other names it is given. This will make people more aware on what they are actually eating!
A shocking fact I learnt at Scotland basking shark talk was that these sharks are consuming 440g of plastic every hour!
There was a huge range of talks given from Lizzie Daly, Blue Ventures, Manta Trust and the Wave Project. This charity helps children who have had difficulties in their life and teaches them how to surf as a form of therapy. This massively helps build their confidence people, even changes the lives of these young people. This charity emphases how our oceans are used for a huge variety of purposes.
To end the talks Andy Reid from Fins attached shared his involved with the charity and shared the legacy of Rob Stewart. This really touched me as when I was so inspired by Rob and his team growing up and how motivated he was to do everything he possibly can to save sharks and raise awareness of what is happening in the shark finning industry. His legacy carries on and with a new research vessel called Sharkwater which is traveling the globe to collect valuable marine data.
On the stand it was great to hear such positive feedback from people about the project and to educate people about the importance of these incredible underwater plants. As well as seeing people wanting to get involved with the work being carried out by Project Seagrass. Overall there was a great sense of ocean optimism that spread across the festival, with people who are making a difference and to save our blue planet.
Hopefully there will be more brilliant events like these. Thank you Oceans Festival 2019 for having us, and to everyone who volunteered. It was very fulfilling and enjoyable day!
Thank you for reading.
|Posted on September 12, 2019 at 10:20 AM|
By Issy Inman
I am Issy, a new intern at Project Seagrass. I just wanted to share with you a quick update with what I have been involved in so far!
My first day started at Porthcawl beach, with two groups of excited primary school children. Here, in small groups, marine animals were built using natural material found along the beach. It was great to see how enthusiastic and engaged the kids were, some who rarely get to go to the beach.
Inspiring the next generation is a vital for both raising awareness of the importance of our oceans, and for creating a passion and love for our oceans.
We were showing a group of volunteer SCUBA divers what the seeds looked like, and how to collect them.
It was a very enjoyable experience and I met some lovely people. It was also my first time snorkelling in seagrass meadows, I was taken back on how beautiful the Cornish coast is, and how and clear the water in seagrass meadows can be! The meadows I snorkelled in were huge and it felt like you could get lost in them.
Shortly after Cornwall I joined the rest of the team in north Wales where the main picking was being held. Alex and I would go snorkelling collecting the seeds while the rest of the team went scuba diving. We would spend up to an hour and half in the water, I found it was peaceful and very therapeutic collecting the seeds, it was like being an underwater gardener! As seagrass being a nursey ground there was a range of fish species present including a greater pipefish.
During our time in North Wales we were lucky to have teams from our partners Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF come and film the work being carried out here. This was a thrilling experience, and nice to see a buzz about the project from the public. It is vital to raise awareness of seagrass and its importance to the ecosystem as part of the issue conservation has not gone ahead is the lack of knowledge and understanding to the general public.
Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF have been amazing at shinning the spotlight on seagrass. This will hopefully encourage more projects like these to go ahead in the future.
Immediately after our trip to north Wales, Alex and I went back to Falmouth for a shore dive so more volunteer divers could get involved with the picking. There was also a BBQ to raise money DDRC Health in Plymouth as well as baby lobsters being released into the seagrass meadows from national lobster hatchery. It was great to see so many people involved and from a variety of ages, all willing to give up there Sunday afternoons to help with this project.
Finally, another trip back to North wales for Seagrass-Watch. This is a scheme to monitor meadows across the globe to check the health and early signs for any degradation. Waking up at 3am in order to work with the low tide is fairly typical start time for a marine biologist, and watching the sunrise was magical - completely worth the early start!
Over the couple of months it has been nonstop, I have met so many wonderful people and I have loved getting a hands on experience with the field work on such an important project. It has opened my eyes to how these restoration projects across the globe requires so much effort and hard work from many volunteers and workers but how fulfilling and worthwhile it is. I am looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store.
I would like to give and big thank you to everyone who has helped with this project so far.
Thank you for reading.
|Posted on June 28, 2019 at 4:55 AM|
Every year, as a charitable organisation, we have to write a report highlighting the previous 12 months activities. In our early days as a charity these seemed fairly straightforward, but as I sit here to write this, I find it very difficult to decided what to include. A good sign for seagrass!
Anyway, this is my take on our work for the 12 months from April 2018 to March 2019.
April 2018 seems like a long time ago now, but our financials year kicked off with Laura attending “A new post-2020 biodiversity agenda – the communications challenge” at the University of Cambridge. Part of this was the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s Panel Discussion on Setting a new post-2020 biodiversity agenda. The 2-hour lecture/interactive question and answer session focused on what scientists and the world needs to do ahead of the 2020 Beijing Biodiversity Conference (which many hope will have the same impact on biodiversity as the Paris agreement has had on climate change).
In May Richard and Leanne, in collaboration with Dr Lina Mtwana Nordlund of Stockholm University, published the first quantitative global evidence on the significant roles that seagrasses play in world fisheries. This was an timely study that made explicit the link between global fisheries production and seagrass meadows, with the paper getting some good coverage on the BBC and leading to a subsequent letter that was sent to the European Union and British Government.
May was also when the Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd (National Museum Cardiff) hosted Project Seagrass as we celebrated the ‘Year Of The Sea’ in Wales! Many seahorses, cod, cuttlefish and crabs were coloured in with Evie and Leanne manning the stands for the event.
Evie and Leanne at the National Museum, Cardiff celebrating Wales “Year of the Sea”
The International Seagrass Biology Workshop series is the biennial lead event of the World Seagrass Association. In June 2018, the 13th ISBW was held in at the National University of Singapore, Singapore. “Translating Science into Action” was the overarching theme for ISBW13 (a theme I think we can all get behind), with this year’s theme motivated by the ever-important need for effective communication of seagrass science amongst scientists, managers and practitioners.
Ben (who had literally just move to Stockholm to undertake his PhD at Stockholm University) joined Richard and Leanne at the Indo-Pacific Seagrass Network workshop which focussed on assessing the value of seagrass meadows for supporting livelihoods and food security across the Indo-Pacific.
Benjamin Jones showing how Baited Remote Underwater Video can be used to record species abundance and diversity.
We left the conference feeling that the immediate challenge is to better develop and implement science-based seagrass conservation and restoration policies and protocols that will help put new science into practice.
Immediately following ISBW13 was IMCC5.
The 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Sarawak 24-29 June, 2018 was a brilliant conference. With over 700 marine conservation professionals and students in attendance. In my opinion, IMCC is the most important international event for anyone involved in marine conservation. This year’s event was the beautiful city of Kuching in Sarawak, and the conference brought together marine conservationists from many walks of life including but not limited to marine conservation scientists, practitioners, teachers, policy makers, and journalists.
As I have to pick a highlight for Project Seagrass, it would have to be our workshop at the first International Marine Kids Congress, organized and led by qualified science instructors, IMKC ran along IMCC5 and engaged 30 school-aged children (ages 7 through 14) in science education, marine biology, environmental conservation, and experiential learning! For our part we enjoyed creating a seagrass meadow (see picture) and sharing with these young minds, all of the fantastic animals that live or rely on seagrass meadows!
A fantastic group of kids learning about the wonders of seagrass at IMCC5.
The next IMCC event (IMCC6) is in Kiel, Germany in August 2020. So, join us all in the heart of Europe as we come together to help "Make Marine Science Matter!"
After an exceptionally busy June, the month of July was a comparatively quiet for the Project Seagrass team! That said, we recorded another great podcast with Andrew Lewin for the fantastic Speak Up For Blue.
In Scotland myself and Lauren Clayton attend the ‘Round The Pier Day’ Harbour Celebrations in Ullapool for some further seagrass awareness raising activities and in England and Wales a big focus for the month was our response to the consultation on the third tranche of MCZ designations. Finally, the 29th of July was our 5th Birthday, a significant milestone for us.
Our work in August celebrates the contributions to Project Seagrass of Oliver Dalby. Oliver’s project investigated the motivations, benefits, barriers and changes in knowledge associated with taking part in seagrass citizen science projects, specifically SeagrassSpotter and Seagrass-Watch, which he followed up with a popular blog post ‘Seagrass citizen science: investigations into a potential seagrass saviour’
Equally, in September a highlight was hearing about the work of intern Isadora Sinha. Isadora’s project concentrated on analysis of the demographics of current SeagrassSpotter users, which has never been investigated before. The demographics of users are of particular importance as we want to ensure that SeagrassSpotter is used by citizens of all ages and professions, not solely by researchers. Her work helped us to think about how best to make SeagrassSpotter accessible and known to the wider public and has led to changes in the app which are currently being implemented. Isadora wrote a blog on her Project Seagrass experience.
Beyond our annual Autumn Survey in Porthdinllaen (this time we were out at 03:30am in the snow wind and hail!) October was a relatively quiet month. We survey the seagrass meadow at Portdinllaen four times a year (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) using standard Seagrass-Watch methods.
In November Richard and Leanne wrote with colleagues a challenging piece of The Conversation suggesting that Tropical marine conservation needs to change as coral reefs decline. The article highlights that with a heavy heart we are now at a marine conservation crossroads with all paths looking precarious at best.
We kicked off December with our annual advent seagrass campaign and December 2018 was the year of our ‘#DearSanta’ campaign. This year we asked #TeamSeagrass what they would like to ask for from Santa this year, using the hashtag #DearSanta to collate a list for him!
In December the Marine Conservation Society (UK) also published in their quarterly magazine an article by RJ entitled “Seagrass Meadows, Our Secret Gardens”, enabling us to promote SeagrassSpotter to new audiences! Thank you!
In January we had fantastic news that we (Project Seagrass, Cardiff University and Swansea University) had sign off on a partnership with Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF on the UKs first full-scale seagrass restoration project - Seagrass Ocean Rescue.
This proposed project will have the following aims:
1) Commence a programme of activities to create the UK first major seagrass restoration project.
2) Undertake a programme of stakeholder mapping and stakeholder engagement in order to establish a means to ensure local scale success of the seagrass restoration project.
3) Conduct extensive pre-restoration discussions with key regulatory stakeholders Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Government, Milford Haven Port Authority and the Crown Estate.
4) Obtain approval for project from Natural Resources Wales, Milford Haven Port Authority and the Crown Estate.
5) Create the first full scale seagrass restoration project in the UK at Dale in Milford Haven.
6) Undertake extensive communication and outreach activities to enhance the understanding and uptake of the project.
7) Propose locations for further Sky Ocean Rescue seagrass restoration sites.
We envisage a busy year ahead! Please follow our progress on social media via the hashtag #SeagrassOceanRescue
Are you feeling the February climate blues? Richard wrote an article on some simple things YOU can do to make a change whilst RJ attended Scotland’s International Marine Conference 2019 (which was held in Glasgow on the 20th and 21st February). The conference focused on Scotland’s current national and international actions to protect the marine environment:
“I do want to highlight three specific issues – marine protected areas, blue carbon, and marine litter. All of them are of great relevance to this event, and all of them are areas where Scotland is trying to show international leadership.”
- Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister -
Scotland's vision is for clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas that are managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people. However, this is only achievable through strong national action and international cooperation. As we look forward to Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020 we can expect a real push in these 3 areas which is great news for seagrass!
Around the world March is always a busy month for #TeamSeagrass. March 1st is now celebrated as ‘World Seagrass Day’ and a campaign, that originated in Florida, runs for the whole month - ‘Seagrass Awareness Month’. The first “Seagrass Awareness Month” was declared in 1999 by the ‘Seagrass Outreach Partnership’, an informal group of citizens, educators, law enforcement officers and marine resource managers. Two years later, in March 2001, the then Governor issued the first seagrass awareness proclamation on behalf of the state of Florida.
We celebrated Seagrass Awareness Month is style, with our Welsh Seagrass Restoration project being showcased at the World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi.
Alongside our normal activities this year we partnered with The Maldives Resilient Reefs Project, the Blue Marine Foundation, and the Maldives Underwater Initiative to #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass. The campaign is aiming to raise awareness about the importance and value of seagrass in the Maldives. We are asking resorts across the country to pledge to protect a minimum of 80% of the seagrass around their island for the benefit of the environment, tourism, fisheries and the people who depend on them for jobs and income.
RJ wrote an article for the Scotland: The Big Picture highlighting the need for #Rewilding in our seas;
“Over the next 12 months Project Seagrass are calling on individuals in Scotland to engage with our citizen science program at SeagrassSpotter.org as we seek to expand the number of contributors. From fishers and scuba divers to people on holiday at the beach, we want to create a more comprehensive picture of seagrass meadows around Scotland. Once we have ‘the big picture’, then we can choose the most appropriate sites for our seagrass gardening efforts to begin.”
Finally, to round off the year, Rich and RJ wrote an article in Nature Research Ecology and Evolution entitled Sowing the seeds of ocean recovery requires a phase shift in marine restoration. They argue that the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is a fantastic opportunity for a phase shift in marine restoration, but this now needs governments and all involved with the exploitation and management of our oceans to stand up and take responsibility for making this happen.
Let’s hope that for our 2019-2020 blog we can look back at the start of a successful Seagrass Ocean Rescue journey!
|Posted on April 25, 2019 at 1:15 PM|
The weather in Scotland has been beautiful recently making the start of my Spring fieldwork very enjoyable - although surface water temperatures of 7 or 8℃ was a swift reminder that winter has only just left us!
Last week I was very lucky to be shown around the Taynish peninsula (Loch Sween, Linne Mhuirich and the Sound of Jura) by members of the community group ‘Friends of the Sound of Jura.’ The Sound of Jura is home to some of the most fascinating and diverse marine life in Scotland and this community group seeks to protect the Sound from threats to the area’s wildlife, whilst championing the development of a local sustainable economy.
The Friends of the Sound of Jura are an active member of the Coastal Communities Network, Scotland of which Project Seagrass is an Associated Organisation, and so this is not the first time I have had the pleasure of their company.
The Sound of Jura and Loch Sween contain some of the most fascinating and diverse marine life in Scotland. The Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area was established to protect the extraordinary flapper skate (Dipturus intermedia) that lives there. The Friends of the Sound of Jura are keen to point out that:
“The International Union for the Conservation of Nature designates flapper skate as 'critically endangered', an unenviable category they share with the Sumatran rhino and mountain gorilla, meaning that the skate are among the rarest animals in the world, threatened with a high risk of extinction because of their rate of decline.”
The first seagrass site we visited was Carsaig Bay (main blog photo) where there are two meadows of eelgrass (Zostera marina). The first in relatively continuous and extends broadly the width of the buoys within the bay. The second is a smaller patch which can be found towards the north of the bay. In the summer months these meadows are reportedly full of life, and I would suggest definitely worth a snorkel if it’s safe to do so – the beach is very accessible.
Sandeels in Carsaig Bay seagrass meadow July 2017. Photo taken by Sound of Jura Seaweeds.
The second site we visited was Linne Mhuirich. Here there are meadows of both Eelgrass (Zostera marina), and Dwarf eelgrass (Zostera noltii). The Dwarf eelgrass is especially prevalent in the small basin at the south of Linne Mhuirich and is known to play an important part in the winter diet of the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), the mute swan (Cygnus olor), the brent goose (Branta bernicla) and the wigeon (Anas penelope).
An eelgrass meadows in Linne Mhuirich in March 2016. Photo taken by Sound of Jura Seaweeds.
The final seagrass site is where the water enters/exits in the south of Linne Mhurich (where it joins Loch Sween). Here there are also eelgrass meadows around the Ulva Islands and Taynish Island.
The seagrass meadow at Taynish Island in Loch Sween June 2017. Photo taken by Sound of Jura Seaweeds.
Mapping our seagrass meadows is a priority for Project Seagrass in Scotland as we move towards a national celebration of our seas next year (2020 has been designated Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters). 2020 is a year that will spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy our beautiful coasts and waters and at Project Seagrass we want to make sure that seagrass meadows are front and centre of that conversation - so that we can identifiy and engage with meaningful restoration work in areas where it is needed.
The work of community organisations such as the Friends of the Sound of Jura are central to this effort, indeed as an organisation we couldn’t do half of what we do without the tireless efforts of individuals and communities on the ground (and in the water) who want to make a positive difference for their marine environment.
So thanks again to my hosts last week for sharing their extensive Local Ecological Knowledge with me, I’ll be back to see you soon!
PS - YOU can help contribute to seagrass conservation by spotting seagrass in your area. Download the app at SeagrassSpotter.org
Project Seagrass is an marine conservation charity dedicated to ensuring that seagrass meadows are protected globally, for the biodiversity and people that depend on them.
Registered Charity in England and Wales No. 1162824 and in Scotland No. SC046788
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