WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue Launch UK Marine Life Map for World Oceans Day
Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF have teamed up to produce a new, interactive map centred around the UK's aquatic wildlife for World Oceans Day 2021.
New research has shown that British Citizens are often unaware of the marine species and habitats located in UK waters. According to the study, eight out of ten Brits are unaware that orcas can be found around the UK and more than half did not know sharks were also present.
However, the research also shows that more than 75 per cent of the population wants the UK government to do more to protect the UK's seas. Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF launched the new map as part of their Ocean Hero campaign – to help raise awareness of the local marine life and its range of habitats, and to help combat the threats they are currently facing by becoming an 'Ocean Hero'. To date, 250,000 people have signed up for the programme.
A petition was also launched as part of the campaign, asking the UK government to publicly commit to a holistic UK Ocean Recovery Strategy, building upon the current Marine Strategy, to 'set our seas on the path to health ahead of COP26, and restore our seas by 2030.' The petition received 214,935 signatures before it closed, and was delivered to parliament by explorer, TV presenter and Ocean Hero Ambassador, Steve Backshall.
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF, said: 'The UK’s coasts and seas are an unsung hero in the world’s fight against climate change and play home to a great variety of marine life – from dolphins, whales, sharks, seals, puffins and seahorses to cold-water coral, seagrass and salt marshes. But right now, our seas are in trouble. Over-fishing, pollution, coastal development and rising temperatures, combined with increasing acidification, is putting enormous pressure on marine ecosystems.
'Over 12 years ago, the UK government committed to healthy seas by the end of 2020,' said Steele, 'yet today, less than 1 per cent are properly protected. With nature in freefall, it’s vital we do all we can to stop the threats to our ocean and marine life. We can all play our part, by becoming an Ocean Hero, signing the petition and writing to our MPs to let them know we care about our ocean.'
Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF’s new interactive map will help to inform the public about locations where some of the UK's least well-known marine life is located and - hopefully - spotted. The map includes orcas, seagrass, saltwater marshes, seals, whales, dolphins and more, and also illustrates how their habitats are under threat, and what people can do to help preserve them.
'The map we’ve designed shows the best places around the UK to spot marine life – from basking sharks in Scotland to common bottlenose dolphins in Cornwall,' said Steele. 'It also provides details on how to be responsible when spotting marine life, and what you can do to help protect and restore their habitats, including reducing single-use plastic, being more energy efficient at home, cleaning up at the beach and becoming one of our Ocean Heroes.'
'We all cherish the incredible marine life and beauty of the UK coastline, but we know it is under threat,' said Jeremy Darroch, Executive Chairman at Sky and WWF-UK Ambassador. 'The health of our oceans and climate change are inextricably linked and we need urgent action to restore and protect them. At Sky, we’ve set our own ambition to be net-zero carbon by 2030 and want to inspire others to #GoZero with us. That’s why we’re calling on the UK public to become Ocean Heroes; to play their part in restoring the health of our seas to benefit climate, nature and people.'
10 Marine Species and Habitats Found in UK Seas and Where to Spot Them:
1. Sunfish – all Scottish coasts, the Irish Sea and off the south and west coasts of England from June to September. Keep your distance if you view them and don’t cause any unnecessary stress, such as trying to catch them.
2. Leatherback turtle – rare sightings all along the south and west coasts of England from May to September. If you see one, please maintain a respectful distance in the water and on beaches.
3. Thornback ray – found around all UK coasts. Avoid unnecessary disturbance of habitats. Please avoid trying to catch them.
4. Long-snouted seahorse – found in shallow waters, especially amongst algae and seagrasses, along the south coast of England and south-west coast of Wales from January to December. Avoid unnecessary disturbance of habitats.
5. Orcas – rare but thrilling sightings on the north and west coasts of Scotland and Shetland and Orkney Islands from January to December. Try and view from dry land if possible, as it reduces the likelihood of the orca being disturbed.
6. Basking sharks – predominantly Scotland, Northern Ireland and north-west England from May to September. Again, try and view from dry land if possible to reduce the risk of disturbing them.
7. Seagrass – west coast of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Islands, north and east coasts of Northern Ireland, north and south-west coasts of Wales, north-west and south-west coasts of England. Avoid littering and unnecessary disturbance and trampling of seagrass meadows.
8. Common bottlenose dolphin – all around the UK with pods commonly sighted off Cornwall, Wales and eastern Scotland from January to December. Try and view from dry land if possible, as it reduces the likelihood of them being disturbed.
9. Atlantic puffin – high grassy clifftops across the UK, including the east coast of Scotland, north-east coast of England and south-west coast of Wales. Join an eco-responsible tour of puffin colonies where possible, to view them in the safest and most well-informed way.
10. Common seal – along the coasts of the UK, except for regions with extensive cliffs. Keep your distance, keep dogs on a lead and don’t get between a seal and its pup.