State of UK seas revealed in annual marine biology report

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Ian C
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State of UK seas revealed in annual marine biology report

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The UK’s seas have seen strong numbers of humpback whales, surprising sightings of dolphins and orcas in 2021.


The coalition of regional charities’ marine review of the year shows that by early December, Cornwall Wildlife Trust had recorded 17 sightings of humpback whales, once an extremely rare sight in UK waters.

It brings the total to 75 sightings since 2019, with the species thought to be chasing shoals of sardines now present in the region’s waters, and shows numbers are recovering after bans on commercial whaling.
Humpbacks were also seen off the Isles of Scilly, the Firth of Forth and off Shetland.

Two orcas from the Hebrides were spotted from the Minnack Theatre in Cornwall, in the most southerly sighting of the west coast community in more than 50 years. They also put in an appearance off the coast of Dover, in Kent.

White-beaked dolphins were seen off Essex, far from their normal subarctic waters, while Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins were recorded on the south coast for the first time.


Conservationists said that 2021 had been a positive year for marine ecosystems around the British Isles, with schemes launched to restore seagrass meadows and huge kelp forests, which provide shelter for wildlife, including two species of seahorse.

But the Wildlife Trusts warn marine nature is being disturbed by human activities around the coasts and climate change is disrupting wildlife.


More than 170 cetaceans were stranded in Cornwall alone this year – along with 247 seals, many injured by fishing activity – including a striped dolphin, a species rarely seen in the UK.

Daniele Clifford, marine conservation officer for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Noise at sea caused by wind farms and other development can disorientate wildlife and cause whales and dolphins to head off course – we need to think carefully about all marine development in the future.

Climate change is also disrupting wildlife, with marine creatures from far-flung places turning up around the British coasts.

An Arctic walrus nicknamed Wally made a splash as his progress was tracked around the UK, while a second walrus was seen off Northumberland and around Shetland.

A pufferfish, found in the open ocean and rarely seen this far north, turned up on Downderry Beach in Cornwall, possibly blown off course by summer storms.

The ringneck blenny, a small fish found in the Eastern Atlantic or Mediterranean, is now common in the Fal estuary in Cornwall.

And the furrowed crab is now abundant on all Cornish shores, outcompeting common shore crabs, and is spreading north-east to Dorset in a clear sign of climate change, conservationists said.

Lissa Batey, head of marine conservation for The Wildlife Trusts, said: ‘It’s been a fantastic year for marine megafauna sightings, particularly in the South West, but it’s clear that our oceans are under immense pressure from fishing, development, pollution, climate change and recreation.

Matt Slater, marine conservation officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trusts, said: “Only a few years ago, it would have been extremely rare to see a humpback whale around the UK.
Mandy Knott
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Re: State of UK seas revealed in annual marine biology report

Post by Mandy Knott »

Thank for posting Ian

Interesting to see and maybe we'll get to see humpbacks this year!
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