Marine Conservation Society

Marine Conservation Society

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Marina’s chosen charity of 2017, the Marine Conservation Society works to ensure that the sea’s rich wildlife can be restored, fish stocks grow more plentiful and our beaches and seawater become cleaner


As an island nation we have a deep historical connection with the sea. No-one in the UK lives more than about 70 miles from the coast, but many people are oblivious to the open space off our coastline and unaware of the amazing native wildlife in our seas.

Nature abounds above and below the waves. Our small corner of the North-East Atlantic hosts a third of the global population of grey seals, the most northerly population of bottlenose dolphin and, believe it or not, 23 species of whale, from humpback and sperm whale to the majestic orca.

To the west of the country – from south of the Scillies and around Land’s End up to the Hebrides – you can marvel at the enormous silhouette of basking sharks. As they cruise close to your boat, they are hoovering up vast amounts of plankton through their gaping mouths.

East-coast sailing can be equally spectacular. Seabirds such as skuas, gannets and auks (bright-billed puffins and razorbills) nest around North Sea coasts and islands. The Moray Firth is possibly the best area for finding bottlenose dolphins.

As well as sharks and dolphins, it is perhaps more surprising to know that there are also turtles near our shores. Of the seven species of marine turtle in the world, five have been recorded in UK waters. The most commonly found in the UK is the leatherback turtle, which can survive in temperatures lower than 5°C. The largest specimen ever recorded anywhere in the world washed up dead in Harlech, North Wales in 1988, measuring 2.91m and weighing 916kg!

Under the sea

The reflective surface of the ocean hides a myriad of life just out of view – beneath the waves we have some of the finest marine habitats in Europe. Our seas are so productive that well over 7,000 species are known to jostle for space in every nook and cranny on the seabed around us, and among each cubic centimetre of water column. Rocky reefs covered in soft corals, brightly coloured seafans and sponges, shallow beds of delicate maerl, seagrass, flameshell and horsemussel – we really do have it all.

Good boating practice

If you want to get up close and personal with our local wildlife, sailing boats are probably the quietest, least obtrusive vessels for animal encounters. Playful dolphins and porpoises seem to genuinely enjoy riding the waves around the bow. But motorboats, RIBS and, frankly, any other craft – from a passenger ferry to a bulk freight carrier – can provide rewarding natural sights at any time. Whatever your choice of craft, there are ways of avoiding harm to wildlife, and making sure we don’t leave a legacy of grime in our wake.

If you come across whales, dolphins, basking sharks or other large animals, follow the WiSe (‘Wildlife Safe’) Scheme recommendations…

  • Keep a steady speed of six knots or less when anywhere within a kilometre proximity of wildlife.
  • Don’t approach closer than 100m, nor chase or drive directly towards animals. If you’re lucky, you might find they approach you.
  • Take care when leaving the scene, making sure you know where each animal is before moving off.
  • Find out more at wisescheme.org

Eyesore on the seashore

While too many fish are being taken out of our oceans thanks to over-fishing, far too much rubbish is being put in. Harbours and bays gather rubbish that’s discarded onshore and out to sea; it piles up on beaches and gets tangled between pontoons and harbour walls.

As seagoers, it’s crucial we take every bit of our waste to land, whether it needs to be pumped out and paid for or simply dropped in a bin. Rules on sewage disposal are surprisingly lacking for smaller boats, but the responsible thing to do is to fit a holding system and dispose back in port. And there’s really no excuse to throw waste overboard, even in race conditions.

When maintaining your yacht, it’s a good idea to keep free of algae and more persistent encrusting life off surfaces below the waterline. Most can be physically removed with a regular scrub, which is best done in the dry, preferably in enclosed facilities onshore. For anti fouls, try some of the new generation of boat hull coatings that contain few hazardous additives – the RYA Green Blue’s directory (thegreenblue.org.uk) publishes a comprehensive list of environmentally friendly products and services.

At home and on board, use cleaning products that are designed to be environmentally sensitive, avoiding chlorine and other bleaching liquids that are toxic to aquatic flora and fauna wildlife. This applies to everyday washing and cleaning tasks, as well as for seasonal maintenance jobs.

If you’re interested in becoming a better boater, look out for our series over the coming issues of Marina. With the help of the experts at the Marine Conservation Society we’ll be explaining how you can minimise your impact on the aquatic environment while also maximising the pleasure you get from it!

The Good Fish Guide

There’s nothing better than fish and shellfish for a hearty and healthy meal. But we’re in danger of exhausting the populations of some of our favourite edible fish. Common skate are now rare, and even the ubiquitous bass is on the decline.

Ever wondered where the fish you eat comes from? Or whether you’re opting for sustainable species? The MCS Good Fish Guide (goodfishguide.org) is the definitive guide to sustainable seafood for all consumers who want to make a responsible choice, whether shopping at the supermarket fish counter or eating out in a top seafood restaurant. Available in print, online, and as an app for your mobile or tablet, it enables you to search by common fish name, delivering information about the sustainability of the various methods of capture and capture areas.

The Good Fish Guide app explains the MCS traffic light ratings systems so you know exactly what you should and shouldn’t eat, and the fish that you should eat only occasionally. It also features seasonal recipes, and lists restaurants where you can find sustainable fish on the menu.

Download the MCS Good Fish Guide App for FREE now from the Apple App store and Google play store.

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