You don't have to go abroad to find amazing marine life
Throughout the seas around Britain there is amazing life living under the waves. Just under the surface is a whole ecosystem full of incredible animals. Skip to the end for a list of some of our favorite Marine Conservation Charities.
Invertebrates come in all shapes and sizes, from worms and snails to crabs and anemones. Invertebrates are found in every marine environment around the UK and play an important role at the base of the food chain typically feeding on microscopic plankton, algae and waste; they are then consumed by animals like larger invertebrates, fish, rays and seals.
The largest european lobster was caught in Cornwall in 1931 and measured 1.26m long
A single oyster can filter 150 liters of seawater a day.
Many studies into the impact of sunscreens have used invertebrates to identify and measure the effects. Because of this research we know that ingredients in sunscreens can act as endocrine disruptors, changing hormone systems, altering their behaviour, and even leading to the production of female gonads in male invertebrates.
A single Oyster can filter 150 Liters of seawater a day, as filter feeders remove nutrients and small particles from the water they are also exposed to chemicals, toxic bacteria and plastics. Organic chemicals in sunscreen, like oxybenzone, build up in tissues and bioaccumulate at higher levels in larger marine animals like dolphins.
Sharks & Rays
There are more that 40 species of sharks found around the UK. 21 species live here all year round, although you are unlikely to see them on your trip to the beach, you might find Catshark or Nursehound egg cases washed up on the shore. There are also 11 species of deep sea shark found in british and Irish Waters. We even have evidence of deep-sea shark nurseries.
There are 21 species of Skate and Ray found in the UK including the Giant Devil Ray, Common Eagle Ray and Thornback Ray.
50% of shark and rays found in British waters are listed as Threatened or Near Threatened. They are affected by habitat loss, pollution and overfishing. Many sharks take a long time to mature and only give birth to small number of pups. The impact of sunscreen on sharks and rays is unknown.
Check out the Shark Trust for more information about sharks and their conservation.
The common Skate has a wing span up to 3m wide.
There are more than 15 species of Marine Mammal in the UK, including Bottle Nose Dolphins, Sperm Whales and Grey Seals.
There are 2 species of seal in the UK, the Common/Harbour Seal, and the Grey Seal. Ironically the Common Seal is less common than the Grey Seal... Seals feed on Fish, Squid, Whelks, Crabs and Mussels and then wobble onto land to digest everything.
Common Seals are found around the East Coast of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they typically have their pups in the summer.
Grey Seals have their pups in September - December, and are found all around the UK. We have over 120,000 Grey seals, which is 40% of the global population!
Seals are easily spooked, so if you see them along the beach make sure you keep at least 100m away and keep your dog on lead. They are vulnerable to entanglement in discarded fishing gear and other waste, if you see any seals in trouble please call your local wildlife trust or marine mammal stranding unit.
Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet. Different pods even speak different languages.
Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales are found around the UK. Some of the most commonly sighted dolphins are the Bottle Nose Dolphin, the White Beaked Dolphin and the Common Dolphin, but there are many more species in the UK.
Dolphins live in maternal pods and can choose travel long distances, or stay in an area. Their diets change depending on their location; they eat anything from fish to squid and crustaceans.
Bottle Nose dolphins are the most commonly sighted in the UK, they can grow up to 4m long. There is a resident population near Cardigan Bay in Cornwall.
Common Dolphins live in large groups, they tend to stay a long way offshore and then come in to feed. They can live to 35yrs old and reach 2.7m long.
White-beaked dolphins are easily identified, they can be found across the Atlantic and are often sighted around Lyme Bay, the Hebridies and North East England.
Most Marine mammals migrate long distances and are exposed to a range of threats, including entanglement, ship strikes, pollution, hunting and captivity.
For more information on how you can help visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Trust.
Research in Hawaii has found traces of sunscreen ingredients in the tissues, blood and breast milk of dolphins which are then passed onto their young. When sun cream washes off it can create an 'oil slick' layer on the surface of the water, dolphins are also exposed to the chemicals through the food chain. The effects of this on dolphin populations are still being investigated.
Muddy habitats are often found on the interface between salt and freshwater. Across the UK they cover just 27,000 Hectares, about 7/10th the size of the Isle of Wight.
Whilst mud flats might look empty when the tide is out, they are actually full of burrowing invertebrates like anemones, worms and brittle stars.
Mud flats are particularly vulnerable to dredging, pollutants and nutrient run off.
Sand & Gravel
Sand and gravel makes up 90% of the seabed around the UK. Formed by erosion, they are often in high energy environments. At some areas around the Isle of Wight researchers have found more than 400 species. Sand and gravel beds are home to Fish, Worms, Sand Eels, Cuttlefish and Rays.
This habitat is vulnerable to aggregate dredging, more that 20 million tonnes is dredged each year.
Rocky shores are in exposed, high wave energy environments, so everything that lives there tends to be pretty tough. This includes Crabs, Barnacles, Limpets and Anemones.
Rocky shores are under threat from development and fishing. Whilst coastal protection projects put in hard materials like concrete, they are not easy for species to re-colonise and thrive in.
Coastal ecosystems sequester 20x more carbon than terrestrial forests.
Sea Grasses are marine flowering plants, they grow in shallow areas, less than 4m, with clear water. They are areas of high biodiversity, hosting rare species like Seahorses, as well as being vital nursery grounds for commercial fish.
Globally Seagrass meadows cover less than 0.1% of the sea floor, but are responsible for capturing 15% of global carbon emissions.
Seagrass meadows are under threat from pollution, dredging, sewage run off and anchoring. 18% of Seagrass has been lost in the last 20 years.
Kelps are types of large brown seaweed, in the UK we have 7/14 species. Kelp forests create complex habitats for different species to use at all life stages, from laying their eggs, to finding shelter and hunting for food. The complexity and structure of Kelp also helps to act as coastal wave protection.
Kelp forests cover 25% of the worlds coastline. It has been estimated that macroalgae, including kelp, can sequester 200 million tonnes of carbon/yr.
The Deep Sea contains a range of habitats from Cold Water Coral Reefs, to Mussel beds, Seamounts and hydrothermal vents.
Cold water corals are found from 40 - 3000 meters deep. They grow incredibly slowly, around 1 cm/yr. Cold water coral reef are incredibly diverse, with thousands of species. They are vital nursery grounds for many commercially important fish species.
The high biodiversity of Cold Water Coral Reefs makes them vulnerable to commercial fishing and trawling, because of their depth and location they are also under threat from oil and gas exploration and underwater cables. As with all habitats, the deep sea is also under threat from pollution and climate change.
You don't have to spend time volunteering to help the oceans. Conservation starts at home, making sustainable choices every day.
~50% of plastic waste in the ocean is fishing nets.