A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Marbled Rock Crab: a new colonist?

In July 2015, while torching some rock pools at night east of Lizard Point, I noticed a crab that was unfamiliar, but also familiar. I secured a record shot with the help of Luke Marsh, which was essential for the next steps, and released the crab.

Marbled Rock Crab-Tony Blunden
As I started to research the identity its familiarity dawned on me as a rock crab species, a family that I, and anybody who has visited the area, will be familiar with as being found on the Atlantic Islands.  The Red Rock Crab is a large and obvious species there, along with the smaller Marbled Rock Crab. I checked over the features and sent in the record for verification.

Marine life at The Manacles

In November 2013 I wrote an article for the Lizard website entitled “Marine life at The Manacles recommended for protection”. Now, over three years later, there are thirteen designated features of The Manacles Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) covering a diverse range of species and habitats, from the pink sea fan and sea fan anemone, to sedimentary habitats and rocky reef. In May this year, Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) completed a drop down video survey within the MCZ. The images taken during this survey capture beautifully the diversity of habitats within this relatively small site and I have included a few of my favourites for this article. Thanks to Colin Trundle and CIFCA for the images.

CIFCA Manacles 2016 pink sea fan

CIFCA Manacles 2016 pink sea fan

Mooching on the mud at low tide

Helford Passage and walking out towards the bar, through warm shallow pools of water, over firm sand and mud, it bubbles and erupts with life. Shallow pool Half a dozen people were out taking advantage of the low tide to find a little bait for angling and food for the pot. Curiosity got the better of me and I approached a man with his carrier bag of Razor shells for bait to take his young son out angling in the days to come. We fell to musing about the how we could quantify the amount of Razor shells actually present per square metre, there is sure to be an answer somewhere out there! Then I went to talk to two young men who had no English (or pretended not to!)

Pacific Oyster Monitoring and Removal

Some of you may have seen a group of Helford Marine Conservation Group Volunteers out and about on the river doing something that at first sight may not seem to be conservation minded! This is the removal of the non-native and invasive Pacific Oyster Magallana gigas.

Left to their own devices these Oysters can change the character of our mudflats, shingle beaches and rocky shores if they become established. Natural England have set up a monitoring and removal project for the Fal and Helford Special Area of Conservation and has provided us with equipment to remove as many as we can over the winter months, with permission from The Duchy of Cornwall. Most importantly we have set up four transects in different parts of the Helford to monitor any re-settlement, so we can judge how effective we are in trying to reduce the population. It is thought that if we can reduce numbers as much as possible they will not be able to establish as they have in other parts of the country and mainland Europe.

In recent years it has been possible to spot many new species on our shores, and indeed they are by no means all a problem and those that are tend only to be an issue for marine commerce like the Slipper Limpet Crepidula fornicata that is a nuisance in our Fal and Helford oyster beds.

Recent sightings of two ocean giants.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen increasing local records of two ocean giants.

Humpback Whale

Ongoing conservation work to reduce whaling (still a few persistent countries!) appears to be at last making a difference for the Humpback Whale. Increasing numbers in the Western Atlantic (US) populations seems to be leading to an increasing population in the Mid Atlantic (Canaries / Azores), and perhaps re-colonisation of the historic Eastern Atlantic migration route.  There seems to be a very small but increasing trend, with two to three mobile animals wintering off the Cornish coast. A whale sighting in Mounts Bay looked interesting, so keep a look out and hope this trend continues this winter.

Tuna

Long-term restrictions on fishing for North Atlantic Giant Bluefin Tuna also seem to be having an effect, with an increase in Tuna sightings. This is especially so over the last few years, when there have been more regular sightings.

Respecting Cornwall Sea Life This Summer

Since the start of recent good weather in 2017, the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group have had several reports of marine and coastal wildlife disturbance around our county.

Jet skis and seals photo by Cornwall Seal Group and Research Trust

 Activities both at sea and on the coast can have considerable impact on marine wildlife; it can cause distress and make the animal change its natural behaviour, and in the worst case it can lead to serious injuries, amputations and even death due to propeller strike. Chasing dolphins from their feeding grounds, flushing seals into the sea, or scaring birds from their roost in the summer may seem harmless, but the cumulative effects can be devastating.

Responsible Wildlife Watching with the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group

The internationally rare basking shark, a resident in our Cornish waters, photo by JP TrenqueBasking sharkThe Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group are tackling the issue of marine and coastal wildlife disturbance county-wide, and are calling on the public to help us monitor and manage this important issue.

This winter seems never ending. Rain and high winds have been forecasted once again for this weekend, and rather than do our weekend trip to the beach we think about huddling away by fires and cooking roast dinners with friends and families.

Seal pupping season 2016/17 is now underway in Cornwall!

Logo-Cornwall Seal Group Research TrustThe first mainland pup rescue of the season took place just one day later than last year! Well done to British Divers Marine Life Rescue Coordinator Dave Jarvis and his team of Marine Mammal Medics for a highly successful rescue of a five day old white coated pup from Portreath. This seal pup is now in the safe hands of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek where it will be looked after until it is big and fat enough to be released back into the wild.