Sea Trust snaps thresher shark off Strumble Head
By Becky HotchinReporter
A HUGE Thresher Shark has been seen launching itself out of the sea off Strumble Head.
The Shark, estimated at around four metres in length, was first seen by Sea Trust’s Holly Dunn and her Pembrokeshire Porpoise Photo ID group, along with Ken Barnett on last Tuesday, August 3.
The huge creature seen blasting out of the water about 500 metres off the headland took Sea Trust staff and volunteers by such surprise that nobody managed to get an image of the impressive creature.
“Ken is our star volunteer photographer and when I arrived at Strumble just after the event, I jokingly told Kenny he was sacked for not getting a picture,” said Sea Trust founder and director Cliff Benson.
“To be honest at that distance and with no warning it would have been a bit of a miracle.”
Ken returned to Strumble on Wednesday and his perseverance was rewarded when the shark made a second appearance. Fully prepared this time, Ken captured these incredible images of the shark leaping out of the sea.
“Thresher Sharks tend to be loners, so it’s probable that it was the same animal as the previous day,” said Cliff.
“Sharks are fish and have no need to surface and sightings are pretty rare, although we have had several sightings over the years and the seas around south west Wales seem to be a bit of a hot spot for them.”
Thresher sharks spend most of their time in the deep waters of the open sea, rarely straying into coastal areas. They can grow up to 450cms and weigh up to 340kgs. They use their long tail to stun fish while hunting.
Describing his second time lucky at Strumble, Ken added:
“In my peripheral vision to my right something caught my attention, a massive splash. I swung the camera around to see this beautiful bar of silver in the form of a Thresher Shark leave the water.
“I rattled off several shots and hoped for the best.
“How lucky was I to have seen it on two consecutive days when you might never see such a sight in a lifetime?”
Stranded dolphin rescued by Sea Trust, Celtic Coasteering and the Marine Stranding Network
By Becky HotchinReporter
RESCUERS braved freezing conditions and strong winds to save a dolphin stranded on a sandbank in Fishguard Harbour on Friday, January 12.
Fishguard and Goodwick mayor, Jackie Stokes, raised the alarm, ringing Sea Trust founder Cliff Benson to say she has seen the common dolphin in distress.
Cliff initiated the rescue response, contacting Terry Leadbetter of Wales Marine Rescue (WMR)who in turn notified the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme.
Cleo Browne of Celtic Quest Coasteering, a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine medic, Cliff and Fran from Sea Trust, Terry and John from WMR and Rod and Matt of UK Cetacean Strandings Investigations all raced to the harbour.
The rescuers found the dolphin stuck in about 40cm of water. Cleo went into the sea and reported that it was stuck on a sand bar. It had no obvious injuries and was breathing normally. There were sightings of other dolphins in the deeper water off the harbour which seemed to be waiting for it.
The decision was made to assist the animal back out to deeper water and rescuers, joined by then by Ffion of BDLMR, used a sling to take the dolphin out to waist high water and float it on the rising tide.
It was seen to swim sideways before heading out to sea, with a bit of encouragement from the rescue team.
“All in all it was a great group effort from local people and hopefully had a happy ending,” said Cliff.
Sea Trust launches Local Giving fund for Porpoise-ID project
Goodwick based marine conservation charity Sea Trust Wales has launched its first online crowdfunding appeal, in the hope of continuing its successful porpoise photo-ID project.
The project is the first of its kind in the UK and one of only a handful worldwide. It is identifies and monitors individual harbour porpoises, getting a close-up, in-depth look into their lives.
Sea Trust is asking the public to support the project by donating to its Local Giving appeal
The appeal, which runs until June 30, aims to raise £3,000 to keep the project going throughout the summer.
“Harbour porpoises face so many threats and their current protection is minimal and inadequate,” said project officer Holly Dunn.
“This lack of protection is a direct result of lack of knowledge. By using photo-ID, we can essentially track individual porpoises and over time answer so many questions, such as population numbers, residency patterns, distribution and so much more.
“With this information we can make better, more informed decisions on how to protect them.”
As a citizen science project, Sea Trust trains volunteers, who head out to several sites around the north Pembrokeshire coast collecting data and photographing porpoises. The project has attracted over 60 volunteers since its launch in 2017. The volunteers get to contribute to an important conservation project and receive a lot of mental health and well-being benefits in the process.
Current funding for the project is coming to an end this summer. As well as this, Sea Trust has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The project has lost a big chunk of its funding with the closure of its aquarium due to restrictions.
Funds from this appeal will go directly towards surveys, volunteer recruitment and training, organisation of public events and sharing of results.
“The project has been so successful so far, we have learnt a great deal about the porpoises in the area and brought joy to so many people, it would be such a shame for it all to stop now,” said Holly. “Funds raised from this appeal will allow surveys and for volunteers to continue throughout the summer. This will give us the time and support we need to secure more permanent funding.”
For more information on this appeal and how to donate, visit localgiving.org/porpoiseappeal.
PROJECT SEEKS BAIT BAG ALTERNATIVE TO REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION
A unique partnership of marine conservation committed organisations, drawn from the education, NGO and private sectors, has launched a project to prevent a particular source of plastic from entering the marine environment.
Marine conservation charity, Sea Trust Wales, together with the largest shellfish supplier in Europe, Macduff Shellfish, and the BioComposites Centre, a specialist research centre at Bangor University, seek to find a sustainable alternative to woven, plastic bait bags that are used by shellfish fishermen and in seafood processing factories. If successful, it may have broader applications across aquaculture, agriculture and food production.
The three-month project is backed by The UK Seafood Innovation Fund, a £10 million programme supporting new ideas to deliver cutting-edge technology and innovation to the UK’s fishing, aquaculture and seafood industries.
The bait bags, commonly used in the whelk fishing sector, are not easily recyclable often ending up in landfill or can sometimes fly away overboard when used at sea, impacting on marine and coastal wildlife. They are also not easy to clean for re-use.
This initial feasibility study will examine how the bags are currently used by fishermen, explore how they could be cleaned, and, through a circular economy, the material reprocessed into a polymer bag which is more robust and readily recyclable. The team’s hope is that in future the partnership could develop a robust, commercially viable, biodegradable bioplastic bag, that would have wider applications too across aquaculture, agriculture and in food processing.
Lloyd Nelmes, Marine Project Officer, at Sea Trust Wales, said:
“In our role, we constantly look for ways to care for our marine and coastal wildlife and mitigate any dangers by coming up with innovative solutions. The issue of bait bags came to our attention from local fishermen and a chance meeting with Macduff Shellfish at a sustainability conference set us on the path to work together in addressing the issue and applying for funding.
“We were delighted when the project was approved by The UK Seafood Innovation Fund and look forward to seeing what we can develop with the expertise of The BioComposites Centre.”
Claire Pescod, Head of Sustainability & Science, at Macduff Shellfish, added:
“Sustainability is at the core of the Macduff Shellfish business. We are committed to investing in scientific research to inform and improve fisheries management as well as a wide range of sustainability initiatives like this bait bag project.
“We’ve worked hard on reducing, reusing, and recycling materials within our supply chain but bait bags was one area that needs more work to find a commercially viable and cost effective alternative. We are pleased to be working in partnership with Sea Trust and the BioComposites Centre with input from whelk fishermen and hope that collectively we can make real in-roads.”
Rob Elias of Bangor University, said:
“An important aspect is ensuring that any replacement bait bag performs better than what it would replace. We know that currently shellfish get caught in the mesh of the bags and are difficult to extract. A key part of our work will be informed by interviewing fishermen and finding out the issues they face. From that we can look to enhance both the useability and sustainability of the bags, while retaining the robustness needed.
“We hope that this is just the initial part of a longer-term project to find the ‘holy grail’ – a commercially viable, biodegradable, bioplastic alternative that has many applications across different industries.”
Risso’s dolphins and porpoises spotted at Sea Trust’s New Year’s Day porpoise watch
More than 70 people started 2020 with a sense of porpoise at a popular north Pembrokeshire cetacean spotting event.
Sea Trust’s New Year’s Day porpoise watch at Strumble Head attracted droves wildlife lovers, from babes in arms to grandparents and all ages in between.
Peering through binoculars onlookers were rewarded for their persistence with sightings of seals, porpoises and a pod of Risso’s dolphins, as well as an array of seabirds.
Among the animals sighted was Jupiter, a porpoise identifiable by marks on her dorsal fin and one of Sea Trust’s regulars in its ground-breaking Porpoise ID project.
As well as a good showing of porpoises, onlookers also spotted rare Risso’s dolphins.
“Rich Campbell had reported seeing the Risso’s the previous day and they have been showing on and off since mid-October but this was a real bonus,” said Sea Trust founder, Cliff Benson.
“A pod of six to eight Risso’s cruised past distant, but visible to the naked eye. Luckily we had supplied some binoculars to some of the people who did not have their own so I am pretty sure most people got a decent view. Later another distant smaller pod also was spotted. Porpoises were also showing well.”
This was Sea Trust’s 15th annual New Years Day Porpoise watch at Strumble Head.
“It’s always a bit nerve-wracking planning an event. Especially when the events are dependent on the weather and whether or not the focus of the event, in this case wild marine mammals, will actually turn up,” said Cliff.
“But seventy odd people had a great start to the New Year with seals and porpoises giving good views as well as Risso’s.”
For more information see Sea Trust’s Facebook page or seatrust.org.uk.
Sea Trust presents Porpoise Photo-ID project at World Marine Mammal Conference 2019
The conference hosted over 2,500 marine mammal scientists from around the globe.
Among them was Sea Trust project officer Holly Dunn who presented Sea Trust’s pioneering Porpoise Photo-ID Project; one of only four worldwide and the only one in the UK.
The conference was a spectacular opportunity for Sea Trust to show the world the photo-ID project, to meet and get advice from other researchers in the field, to make connections and to put Pembrokeshire’s porpoises on the map.
The project, which is currently funded by Enhancing Pembrokeshire, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Biodiversity Solutions, has been running since April 2017,
It started as a pilot project using local volunteers to gather data on individual porpoises at Strumble Head and since then has grown into a ground-breaking research project.
Sea Trust now has the world’s largest harbour porpoise catalogue in the world, surveys four different sites and is achieving results which were previously unheard of.
“We are learning things about porpoises that have never been discovered before, such as residency patterns and family structure,” said Holly. “All because we have decided to study individual porpoises rather than the population as a whole.”
Holly received lots of positive feedback and praise for how well Sea Trust is doing, considering porpoises are one of the hardest marine mammal species to photograph and identify.
“I have learnt so much and been so inspired by all the amazing research on display, all with the aims of enhancing our knowledge and understanding of these magnificent animals and ultimately conserving them and their surrounding environments,” she said.
“I leave Barcelona with my head held high, so proud of the Porpoise Photo-ID Project and Sea Trust and inspired and determined to achieve more great results in the foreseeable future.”
Sea Trust secures funding for a very important porpoise
Marine conservation group Sea Trust has received £24,600 from the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund for their “Outreach with a porpoise” project. The new project forms part of Sea Trust’s ongoing “Peoples Porpoise Project” which involves groundbreaking harbour porpoise photo-ID research. With this new funding Sea Trust aims to spread awareness of the marine life around the Pembrokeshire coast throughout the community by hosting community events such as ‘Porpoise Picnics’ and visiting schools with the Whale Workshop’s Marine Wildlife Roadshow. The roadshow is designed to educate school children on the marine life we have present in UK waters, their importance, their threats and how to conserve these amazing animals and our seas.
Members of the local community will have an opportunity to volunteer with the project and directly contribute to vital scientific research. Project officer Holly Dunn says “Volunteers benefit directly from the project, accessing nature on a weekly basis and working as a team towards the conservation of a very important species. In previous years we have seen vast improvements in volunteer mental health and well-being and individual personal and professional development.”
The project will educate the community about the precious marine life present in Pembrokeshire waters, encourage them to be proud of it and in turn protect it. Long-term monitoring surveys will help ensure that the porpoises and other marine life are protected and will remain abundant around the Pembrokeshire coast for future generations to enjoy.
Commenting on the award, project officer Holly Dunn said: “It is so great to have this opportunity thanks to National Lottery players to show the local community the amazing wildlife that we have just on our doorstep. This new funding also gives us a chance to share the results of our research with a wider audience which will assist in our overall goal of protecting the harbour porpoise population in Pembrokeshire.”
Cyllid wedi ei ddiogelu ar gyfer Porpoise pwysig
Mae grŵp cadwraeth forol Sea Trust wedi derbyn £24,600 wrth yr National Lottery cronfa dreftadaeth ar gyfer yr prosiect ‘Outreach with a Porpoise. Mae’r prosiect newydd yn rhan or prosiect parhaus ‘People’s Porpoise Project’ sydd yn cynnwys ymchwil lluniau adnabod (‘photo ID’) Harbour Porpoise. Gyda’r cyllid Newydd bydd yr sea Trust yn anelu at codi ymwybyddiaeth yr cymuned lleol o’r bywyd gwyllt morol sydd yn byw ogwmpas arfordir Sir Benfro trwy trefnu a rhedeg digwyddiadau cymunedol fel ‘Porpoise picnics’ ac ymweld ag ysgolion lleol gyda’r ‘Whale Workshop’s Marine Wildlife show’. Dyluniwyd yr sioe I ddysgu plant am yr bywyd gwyllt morol sydd yn byw yn môr yr DU, pwysigrwydd yr anifeiliaid, beth sydd yn bygythu nhw a sut yr ydym yn gallu edrych ar ol yr bywyd gwyllt pwysig hyn a’r môr.
Bydd aelodau yr cymuned lleol yn gael yr cyfle I gwirfoddolu gyda’r prosiect a cyfrannu I’r ymchwil pwysig. Dywedodd Holly Dunn, Swyddog prosiect, “Mae’r gwirfoddolwyr budd yn uniongyrchol o’r prosiect trwy gwario amser yn natur yn wythnosol a gweithio mewn tîm tuag at yr cadwraeth rhwyogaeth pwysig iawn. Mewn blynyddoed blaenorol mae’r prosiect wedi gweld gwelliannau enfawr yn iechyd meddwl a lles gwirfoddolwyr a datblygiad personol and profesiynol rhai unigolion.”
Bydd yr prosiect dysgu’r cymuned lleol am yr bywyd gwyllt morol sy’n byw yn yr môr ogwmpas Sir Benfro, annog pobl I fod yn balch o’r bywyd gwyllt morol ac I edrych ar ol e. Bydd arolygon tymer hir yn helpu sicrhau bydd yr Propoise a bywyd gwyllt morol arall yn cael ei amddifyn a cadw ar gyfer cenedlaethau’r dyfodol I mwynhau.
Sylw Holly Dunn, Swyddog Prosiect, ar yr gwobr oedd, “Diolch I’r National Lottery rydym yn cael yr cylfe grêt I dangos I’r cymuned lleol am yr anifeiliaid gwyllt rhyfeddol rydyn ni yn gael ar ein trothwy. Mae’r cyllid newydd yn rhoi’r cyfle ini I rhannu’r canlyniadau o ein ymchwil gyda cynulleidfaoedd ehangach a fydd yn helpu ni gyda ein nod I amddifyn y Harbour Porpoise yn Sir Benro.”
Sea Trust’s Citizen Scientists secure Enhancing Pembrokeshire funding
Sea Trust, a marine conservation group based in Goodwick have received £16,772 from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant. The grant will fund a new project titled “Citizen Science with a Porpoise”. The project which takes place throughout Fishguard and Goodwick and the Pencaer area, recruits and trains volunteers to conduct porpoise photo ID surveys around the local area. The data collected will add to Sea Trust’s existing database contributing to their ground-breaking porpoise research.
The project aims to enhance the community by providing an opportunity for individuals to work together on an environmental project which benefits their mental and physical health, social life, employability skills and much more. The project also introduces the community to the special wildlife we have on our doorstep, this makes the area more attractive to tourists. The project is also partially funded by Valero, Biodiversity Solutions and the Nineveh Trust. Sea Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank all their funders and the community for their support. Visitors to our aquarium and gift shop have all contributed to this new project.
Three local community members are showing their support for Sea Trust by taking part in the “Sea Trust Swimathon”. Ryan Davies, Callum Shaw and Emma Westoby will swim from Newport to Goodwick beach, a distance of approximately 8 miles all in aid of Sea Trust. If you want to show your support you can sponsor the team by visiting gofundme.com/sea-trustswimathon or follow the link on Sea Trust Facebook page. Donation boxes and sponsor forms have also been distributed throughout Fishguard and Goodwick, including at the Ocean Lab, Goodwick Parrog. The swim will take place during Sea Trust’s Ocean Guardians Event (weather permitting) on 18th August. Head on down to Goodwick Parrog to show your support in person.