What’s Going On Here?

To start the year off on a positive note, we’re celebrating the UK’s 2021 marine conservation successes. According to The Wildlife Trusts’ marine annual review, a high number of humpback whales and other sea mammals were spotted in our waters. However, the conservation group also warns that human activity and the climate crisis are increasingly harming our marine wildlife. 

What Does This Mean?

It wasn’t just Wally the Walrus that shocked Britain by gracing us with his presence in 2021. Just a few years ago, you would have been extremely lucky to have seen a humpback whale in our seas. Last year, however, they made a comeback, with 17 sightings in Cornwall and a total of 75 sightings recorded since 2019. Orcas also took centre stage when two were spotted from the open air Minack Theatre on the Cornish cliffs. This is thought to be the first sighting of the UK’s sole resident population of killer whales this far south.

Whilst this is welcome news, the report also outlined concerns over high numbers of marine mammal strandings (the beaching of a live or dead marine mammal). Over 170 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and 247 seals were reported to The Wildlife Trusts as stranded in Cornwall alone, and 51 more cetaceans in Devon. Many of these were linked to fishing activities. 

Why Should We Care?

The increase in sightings of humpback whales in British waters is a positive sign for the species’ recovery since commercial whaling was banned. But high numbers of strandings should be a wake-up call to protect these incredible creatures and the seas they rely upon. The review highlighted that discarded fishing gear and an increase in the use of jet skis and motorboats are of particular concern. Lissa Batey, head of marine conservation for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“It’s been a fantastic year for marine megafauna sightings, particularly in the southwest, but it’s clear that our oceans are under immense pressure from fishing, development, pollution, climate change and recreation. All these issues are having a huge impact on life at sea.”

Not only does all this marine wildlife depend on the ocean, but a healthy marine environment is important for us too. We get food from the sea, it provides jobs, and the oceans help regulate our climate – over half of the carbon produced is stored in the seabed! The conservation group calls for stronger protection of our waters, including policies that stop unsustainable fishing practises and prevent unrestricted development at sea.

Be Curious!

Learn more about The Wildlife Trusts and support their work. 

Take the next step towards a plastic-free life – check out this extensive guide to using less plastic.  

Eat less fish – it’s not too late to sign up to this year’s Veganuary for daily tips and recipes on delicious plant-based food.

Live near a beach? Join a beach clean-up group, or if you can’t find one in your area, start your own!

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