Thursday, 21 June 2018

Making Plymouth Sound the UK's first national marine park

An exciting report in today's national press: 

A kayaking family filmed a rare sighting of a killer whale off the coast of Devon

Orca in Plymouth Sound (Photo: Eileen Wright)

Josh Barrie
Thursday June 21st 2018

A large dolphin believed to be an orca has been spotted swimming off the coast of Devon in an extremely rare sighting. The huge orca, which while commonly known as a ‘killer whale’ is in fact a species of dolphin, was filmed by Eileen Wright in Plymouth Sound.

Orcas are sometimes seen in British waters, but not usually in great numbers, and are usually found in northerly areas of Scotland. This is the first orca sighting in Plymouth, which happened four years ago – and was then believed to be the first recorded.

This month, the Wright family were kayaking in Plymouth Sound when they saw the telltale killer whale fin in the water. The mammals can grow up to 30ft long.

Kayaker Neil Wright, from Plympton, said: “It was much larger than anything I had seen on previous trips out around the Sound, probably at least twice the length of the two-metre grey seals I have seen. The height of the dorsal fin is what really stood out but sadly the encounter was over almost before we had a chance to really think about what we might have just witnessed. It was much larger than anything I had seen on previous trips out around the Sound, probably at least twice the length of the two-metre grey seals I have seen”

Staff at the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth said they were hugely excited to be sent the footage. Experts said all the characteristics of the animal suggest it was an orca (Orcinus orca).

Mark Parry, conservation project manager, said to i: “It’s a really wonderful sighting. It’s an amazing sight to see.”

An NMA spokesperson added: “As a charity dedicated to connecting us with our oceans, and having just held a national meeting on the future of marine parks around the UK, it was almost perfect timing for an unusual sighting in the area of water just in front of the aquarium.”

Kayaking family filmed rare sighting of killer whale off coast of Devon

This has highlighted the importance of Plymouth Sound - and the promise of it forming part of a 'blue belt':
'Blue Belt' plan for Devon coast - Devon Live

This is part of the UK government's plans:
World-leading 'Blue Belt’ expands as new marine protections revealed - GOV.UK
Britain's 'blue belt' haven protecting marine life will increase by 50%, Theresa May announces - Telegraph

Which were announced on World Ocean Day earlier this month:
Futures Forum: "This week marked World Environment day and World Ocean day, both of which highlighted plastic global pollution as the most urgent problem facing our planet."

And part of that is the promise of a 'national marine park': 

Minister gives thumbs up to plans for new Plymouth national marine park

This new blue belt will mean that harmful economic activity isn’t allowed

Keith Rossiter
8 JUN 2018

Plymouth's hopes of becoming a new national marine park have won backing at the highest level.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who visited the Westcountry today, said he likes the imaginative plans to create the park. Mr Gove was speaking on the day he announced a third wave of marine conservation zones (MCZs), including 16 in the Westcountry and three near Plymouth. He has also commissioned a review which will look at extending Britain's national parks.

An international conference in the city this week brought together scores of supporters in a campaign to set up a new marine park that embraces the diverse range of protected coastal habitats in Plymouth Sound and the surrounding area.

Asked if the Plymouth campaign to create a new national marine park as part of the expansion of national parks was worth considering, Mr Gove said: “Yes it is. We are in the market of for imaginative ideas for making sure our marine environment as well as our landscapes can be better protected.

“Of course, each scheme has to be considered on its own merits, and we need to consider what the consequences might be for existing businesses. But yes, it’s an attractive idea, and we want to look very closely to see whether it’s a runner.”

Mr Gove also announced a third wave of 41 new marine conservation zones, including proposals for the Erme, Avon and Dart estuaries near Plymouth.

“We’re fortunate to have some of the healthiest and most productive seas in the world, but we need to do more,” he said. “We need to make sure our marine environment is protected for the next generation. This new blue belt will mean that harmful economic activity isn’t allowed in those parts of our seas, and we can see fish stocks grow.”

He said the MCZs had been designed to ensure that we “have the best possible prospects for our fishermen”, that fish stocks are protected and grown and that they have an opportunity in the future to fish even more so that coastal communities, which suffered while we’ve been in the EU, have the chance to revive.”

Consultation opened yesterday on the new MCZs, which will safeguard almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and mark the most significant expansion of the UK’s “Blue Belt” to date. The proposed protections – announced on World Oceans Day – will cover an area almost eight times the size of Greater London.

No new activities deemed damaging – such as dredging, or significant coastal or offshore development – will be allowed to take place in these areas. Existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time.

A marine parks conference was held at the National Marine Aquarium (Image: Keith Rossiter)

Rare or threatened marine habitats and species which will be protected include the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.

At the same time, the Prime Minister will be making a call for urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics and other harmful waste. Speaking at the G7 summit in Canada, she will implore other world leaders to follow the UK lead in working with business, industry and non-governmental organisations to find innovative and effective solutions to this issue.

Some 50 MCZs have already been designated around England, including the first tranche of 27 designated in 2013, followed by 23 sites in 2016. This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of the consultation, which will last for six weeks. It will cover approximately 11,700 square km, bringing the total area of protection to more than 32,000 square kilometres.

Marine Conservation Zones are just one type of the many Marine Protected Areas in place around the UK to conserve rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species for future generations. Marine Protected Areas cover a total of 209,000 square kilometres.

If approved, the new tranche will take the total to about 220,000 square kilometres, or two fifths of the UK coast.

Mr Gove, said: “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations.”

The sites in the Westcountry are: Axe Estuary; Camel Estuary; Cape Bank; Dart Estuary; Devon Avon Estuary; East of Start Point; Erme Estuary; Helford Estuary; Morte Platform; North West of Lundy; Orford Inshore; Otter Estuary; South of Celtic Deep; South of the Isles of Scilly; South West approaches to Bristol Channel.

Firestone Bay from 'Exploring Britain's Hidden World' by Keith Hiscock (Image: Keith Hiscock)

The Marine Conservation Society said designation was only the first step to creating a network of sites, and that adequate funding must be found to ensure these final sites are not protected in name alone. 

Among the sites put forward for the public consultation, which starts today, is South West Approaches to Bristol Channel, an area that hosts a reef complex, and a sand and gravel seabed. Recovery of the fish populations and wider species in this rich sea would widely benefit the animals, and migratory species such as common dolphin, sharks and seabirds that regularly visit this site.

Further offshore, South West Deeps East is an area that could show phenomenal recovery following intense historical fishing pressure.

Minister gives thumbs up to plans for new Plymouth national marine park - Plymouth Live

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