Wildlife Scheme is Making Waves
For Dalesman this August, I visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s new Living Seas Centre at Flamborough Head.
It’s an education resource aimed at both schools and the general public. The Wildlife Trust also uses it as a base to raise awareness of the marine environment, and what can be done to protect it.
Centre Manager Anthony Hurd concentrates on showing people what wildlife lives both under the waves and on the shoreline, while his colleague Kat Sanderson works with local fishermen. She says, “Our aim is to promote a healthy marine environment, which supports productive fisheries.”
There are many different techniques for fishing, and Kat has recently been working with those who go ‘potting’ – catching crabs and lobsters in the lobster pots frequently seen piled on quays along the Yorkshire coast.
Kat explains, “Some conservation measures are compulsory, some are voluntary. But there’s no traceability. So we’re trying to develop that traceability, and interest shellfish eaters in where it’s come from – the name of the vessel, and which port it operates from. It’s similar to a restaurant telling diners who raised their beef.”
Kat hopes that diners will then choose fish from fishermen who practise additional voluntary conservation measures.
An example, says Kat, is that the authorities set a minimum size of crab that can be landed – it’s 130mm. But, says Kat, if they’re left in the sea at this size, and not landed until they are 140mm in diameter, that gives the crab an extra period of growth, another year for reproduction, hopefully providing more juveniles, to create a larger population. Some fishermen choose to land only the larger crabs – and Kat would like consumers to know who they are.
It’s also possible, she says, to use lobster pots with “Escape gaps, like little windows, that allow smaller crabs to escape from a pot. Otherwise, if a larger crab or lobster enters the pot, it will eat the smaller crabs. So we’re trying to reduce such waste.”
Kat is also an enthusiastic diver and snorkeller. Working with her friends the fishermen, she’s planning to organise snorkelling trips for people to see the undersea life around the Flamborough coast. She says, “We’ll go out, in the fisherman’s boat, round the headland, into a cave. When the tide is in, it’s a different perspective.”
Other events that people can get involved with include Shoresearch, searching the beach for the wildlife that lives on the shoreline. The results are recorded, and the information can be used to study trends, such as migration of species due to climate change. Anyone wanting to join in can book a place, and will be taught how to identify the various species on the beach.
“We’ve also got microscopes and slides that the public can look at,” comments Anthony. “And a card explaining how to identify whales and dolphins. On the other side, it’s a post card so that people can send in their sightings.”
Flamborough has been a ‘dream job’ for Anthony. He pursued a childhood passion for wildlife to University, where he studied Marine Biology. He worked at the National Marine Aquarium, then for the National Trust at the Farne Islands.
The currents around Flamborough head make the seas there particularly rich, and the centre, says Anthony, is ideal for introducing the public to the life of the Yorkshire seas. He adds, “The shore here is very good for rock pools, so it’s good for families and school trips to come and have a look.”
Anthony has not allowed professional expertise to dim his boyhood enthusiasm. He says, “Everyone loves crabs. There are seven species on the shore here. And we’ve recently had a worm called the ‘green leaf worm’. It’s bright green, but its defence mechanism is to ooze mucus. If you pick it up to show people, you get covered in slime – kids love that.”
The centre is full of information about what can be seen both under the waves and on the shore. There are DIY guides, or many guided events.
Find out more, or visit the centre, at www.ywt.org.uk/living-seas-centre