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World Oceans Day 2003



Reports of marine wildlife from all around the British Isles, with pollution incidents and conservation initiatives as they affect the fauna and flora of the NE Atlantic Ocean.

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    28 March 2003
    An American Scoter, Melanitta nigra, a vagrant sea bird from the western side of the North Atlantic turned up on the coast of Denmark at Blåvands Huk. Image 1, 2, 3.

    27 March 2003
    The European Union transport ministers endorsed a ban on old single-hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil, in an effort to prevent oil slicks like the Prestige disaster which sank off Spain in November 2002. Once confirmed by the European Parliament (possibly July 2003), the law will immediately ban most single-hull ships older than 23 years of age from carrying the highly polluting forms of oil from calling at EU ports, a EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said.

    14 March 2003
    I have photographed a Giant Goby, Gobius cobitis, at Pendennis Point, Falmouth, Cornwall. This protected species is rare on the northern coasts of the English Channel. 
    Giant Goby Image (Link)
    More Information on the Giant Goby
    BMLSS Gobies

    21 February 2003
    Tony Heart caught a Pollack on angling tackle over a depth of 50 metres of water with a Sea Lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, attached 23 miles WNW of Corbiere, Jersey, roughly 8 miles SW of Hanois Light, Channel Islands. 

    Lamprey (Photograph by Andrew Syvret)

    The Sea Lamprey was 51.8 grams in weight and 267 mm in length. This jawless fish is still reasonably common but there are few records from the Channel Islands. In recent past they have been eaten.

    Report and photograph by Andrew Syvret
    Original Report and Discussion (Link)
    Channel Islands Wildlife Discussion Forum
    BMLSS Lamprey page

    c. 20 February 2003
    Angler Val Fletcher struggled for 40 minutes to reel a unique shore capture of the deep oceanic fish known as the Oarfish, or Ribbonfish, Regalecus glesne, off the north-east coast of England at Anchor Hole, Skinningrove, Cleveland. This rare fish caught on a squid bait came as a bit of a shock, even scary, as first the head and then the whole length of its 3.3 metres emerged from the sea. This elongate silvery fish, with red fins weighed in at 63.5 kg, which actually meant it was rather a small one for arguably the largest, certainly the longest bony fish in the mostly deep oceans (found down to 1000 metres) attaining a normal length of 7 metres and a maximum of over 11 metres, and a maximum weight of 272 kg.
    So unusual was this discovery that it ranks as perhaps the most unusual of all records on these news pages. 
    Link to Photograph
    An alternative story is that the Oarfish became trapped in a net and was brought ashore dead. This seems a more likely occurrence. 
    The last record of an Oarfish washed up on the British coasts goes back to 1981, again on a North Sea coast at Whitby, north Yorkshire. There are only two known photographs of an Oarfish in the wild, which shows that its main method of swimming is vertical, propelled by its dorsal fin. However, there are reports of young Oarfish swimming below the surface in a sinuous manner. 
    The Oarfish has a wide distribution in all the deep oceans with most records from the tropics. It is one of two fish in the family Regalecidae. The similar Ribbonfishes are in the family Trachipteridae

    Report from Richard Lord (Guernsey) from News Reports

    I have serious doubts about the authenticity of this record and it is thought that it could only be a Dealfish (Ribbonfish family), Trachipterus arcticus.  

    Original Report and Discussion (Link)
    Times Report
    Fishbase Entry

    16 February 2003
    A 117 cm pup long of a Bluntnose Sixgill Shark, Hexanchus griseus, was landed at Mevagissey, south Cornwall. The shark weighed 6.3 kg before gutting. The Bluntnose Sixgill Shark is principally a deep water species, usually found offshore and near the bottom at depths of up to 1,800 metres.  Young specimens can however occasionally be found inshore in cold water at depths as shallow as 25 - 50 metres, especially near rocky coasts or islands where deep water occurs close by. The shark was caught by a small day boat FV Soft Shadow in a bottom set net (gill net). These boats do not usually fish more than six to ten miles offshore where the maximum depth would be 65 metres.
    Sixgill Shark pups measure 65 cm - 70 cm at birth and can grow up to at least 4.8 metres (over 15 ft) long. This grey coloured sharks is unusual in that compared with most species of shark, they have an extra pair of gills. Females are thought to have 22 - 108 pups per litter.
    Full Report 

    11 February 2003
    A dead Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, has been found washed ashore just north of the Shore Station at Burrafirth, north Unst, the most northerly island in the Shetland Isles. It is relatively fresh, at least by the standards set by previous corpses, which are usually no more than lumps of blubber. Burrafirth (Location)

    13 February 2003
    One adult and one juvenile Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaengliae, are seen 100 metres off Cove, near Aberdeen, north east Scotland. They swam slowly north past Girdleness breaching about one mile offshore in Aberdeen Bay. This large whale is regularly seen around the Shetland Isles but rarely ventures further south.

    A solitary Humpback Whale was also seen the Firth of Forth and this similar to one described recently from the Moray Firth so this 13 metre long whale may be the same animal. 
    30 January 2003
    From around 3:00 pm to 4.30 pm, I witnessed a very large pod of dolphins swimming eastwards up the English Channel past Polperro, Cornwall. It was impossible, even through my telescope, to firmly identify the species, but there were a mix of (probably) Common Dolphins, Delphinus delphis, and Porpoises, Phocoena phocoena. They were leaping from the water from about a half mile from the coast to the horizon, and spread over the four miles or so that I can see from my window. Numbers must have been well over a thousand. A fantastic sight to witness, and one I have not seen before in my nine years in Polperro. Recent Report of Huge Pods of Dolphins
    BMLSS Cetacea

    29 January 2003
    The level of oil pollution on Belgium's west coast worsened as more and bigger oil slicks from the sunken vessel Tricolor washed ashore and strong winds hampered clean-up operations. A spokeswoman with a Belgian North Sea ecosystem management institute, BMM, said the situation at Zeebrugge and Blankenberge had worsened since yesterday and oil slicks several square metres in size were being washed ashore. The Knokke-Heist Council also reported that oil clumps had polluted the beach at Heist, but it was not yet certain whether the oil had infiltrated the De Baai Nature Reserve. Oil has also washed ashore at Bredene, but the town's Mayor, Willy Vanhooren, said the situation was not yet an environmental disaster.

    Additional Report
    Oiled Birds on Belgian beaches

    Velella sail (QX3 image by Andy Horton)28 January 2003
    Thousands of By-the-Wind Sailor, Velella velella, are discovered washed up, alive or very freshly dead, on Perranporth Beach, Cornwall, together with the Violet Snail, Janthina janthina, (two shells) that preys on Velella. This gastropod is rarely recorded in British seas even when there are large numbers of Velella stranded. It is always worth looking for this attractive and fragile shell. 

    Exceptionally, between 100 and 200 of the small jellyfish called Pelagia noctiluca, the Mauve Stinger or 'Nightlight' jellyfish were also discovered. These swarms seems to occur about every five or ten years, and is easily recognised by the pustules that cover the small (rarely more that 75 mm across) dome or umbrella.
    The cuttlebones of all three species of large British cuttlefish, Sepia, and a Spirula (a tiny mesopelagic cephalopod) shell were also found in the squally conditions on the shore.
    Rory Goodall has also found large numbers of Velella, on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall. 

    Report by Paul Gainey from Stella Turk MBE on the Cornish Mailing List
    By 1 February 2003 the westerlies have blown plenty of By-the-Wind Sailor, Velella velella, and the Mauve Stinger, Pelagia noctiluca, on to Sennen Cove, Cornwall, above the high tide mark.  Hundreds of Velella have been washed up on Cornish shores, together with cuttlebones of all three species of British cuttlefish BMLSS Jellyfish & large Medusae
    BMLSS Cuttlefish
    BMLSS Molluscs

    24 January 2003
    A 14 metre long male Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, beached at the mouth of the River Ouse, near Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and died as a result of the stranding. The dead whale was present on Brest Sands in the Wash the following day when Rob Deaville from the Natural History Museum performed a post-mortem. The ultimate cause of the live stranding could not be determined but the animal appeared to be reasonably aged (very worn teeth) so this may have played a factor. This large whale is rarely stranded on English North Sea coasts, with the first of the 20th century in 1986 and four records thereafter. 

    BMLSS Cetacea
    Sperm Whale (southern North Sea, stranded dead) 2000

    four metre long Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, is washed up dead on Shanklin beach on the east coast of the Isle of Wight. This could be the same whale that was spotted briefly stranded in Portland Harbour last year. 

    Report by Luke Richards

    23 - 28 January 2003
    Over a period of five days, at least 2,000 oiled birds have washed ashore on Belgian beaches, especially between De Panne and Ostend and more are coming in.
    The majority of the birds are Guillemots, but more than 100 Razorbills were also washed ashore.

    Report by Jan Haelters
    By 29 January 2003, the numbers are much greater than this and oiled birds are being found over a wider range. On Dunkerque (France) beaches we discovered 125 dead oiled birds (mainly Guillemot) and only four survivors. The count for Belgium is over 2000 surviving birds.  Additional Report
    BMLSS Sea Birds
    Oiled Birds

    13 January 2003
    A live Green TurtleChelonia mydas, was stranded on the west coast of Guernsey (Channel Islands) in the afternoon. 
    Green Turtle found on Guernsey 1/2003 (Photograph  by Richard Lord, Guernsey)Elliot Green, was playing football with his young son, discovered the turtle on Saline Beach and reported it to the Guernsey Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA). Geoff George and Yvonne Chauvel (in the photograph) collected the turtle, and after it had been treated by veterinarian John Knight,  transferred it to the Guernsey Aquarium at St. Peter Port until arrangements can be made to release it into the sea at a suitable location (preferably warm water).  The curved carapace length of the turtle is 75 cm and the curved carapace width is 68 cm. This turtle inhabits tropical seas including the Atlantic coast of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. This turtle is only very rarely recorded in British seas.  This is the seventh confirmed record from around Britain, although there may be an eighth record from Essex. 
    The white spots are a species of turtle barnacle, which may have not been recorded before on the British list of marine (barnacle) species (MCS Directory). 

    Report from Richard Lord (Guernsey)
    British Marine Turtle Stranding Network
    Green Turtle Information Page
    BMLSS Turtles
    UK Marine Mammal and Marine Turtle Strandings Project
    BMLSS Barnacles
    Barnacles (notes)
    Channel Islands Discussion

    11 January 2003

    Rhizostoma Jellyfish (Photograph by Keith Talbot)

    A large jellyfish weighing an estimated 15 kg was washed up at Lepe Country Park on the Solent coast in Hampshire (SZ 459 985). The excellent photograph of the underside confirmed this as the first reported specimen of Rhizostoma octopus for 2003.

    BMLSS Jellyfish Page

    9 January 2003
    Already 32 dead cetaceans, have been washed up on the shores of south Cornwall this year, so that the recorders and helpers including David Ball of the Silver Dolphin Conservation and Diving Centre at Porthleven, Cornwall can hardly keep track of the 'tide' of carcasses. The dolphins have been in the sea for long enough for them to start to decompose. They are all tagged with with cable ties around the tail, so that if they wash out and re-beach, they can be identified. At least some of them have probably been caught in fishing nets.
    By 18 January 2003 the number had risen to 55. Most have been Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis), one was a Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), Harbour Porpoises, (Phocoena phocoena), number about 10, and several carcasses were too decayed to be identified.
    By 29 January 2003, David Ball advised me that the number had increased to 74, rising to 77 by 30 January 2003.

    Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
    BMLSS Cetacea

    4 January 2003
    Fishermen aboard the Polperro (south Cornwall) bottom trawler "Girl Jane" reported an extraordinary dolphin sighting whilst fishing some 13 miles west of Plymouth, and about two miles offshore, they encountered a pod of leaping dolphins estimated to be "many hundreds", perhaps a thousand. The species was not identified. At the same time they received a call on the radio from a sister ship fishing 10 miles east off Rame Head that they were surrounded by at least two hundred dolphins (obviously a different pod). 
    On 17 January 2003 Polperro trawler "Girl Jane" (again) reported another huge pod of dolphins and porpoises, whilst shooting nets some 20 miles off Rame Head. Trawler "Cazadora", three miles or so away at the time also recorded dolphins. In both cases the number reported was "hundreds". Also, the Plymouth mackerel boats off Eddystone reef stopped fishing as they were catching dolphins rather than fish.

    1 January 2003
    Triggerfish (Photograph by Andy Horton)My dog discovered a 25 cm (10 in) long Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, are washed up dead on the beach between Seascale and Sellafield (Cumbria). I recognised the body shape and the shell crunching type of teeth in the book.

    Reports on the north-west coast of England are unusual, although there have been specimens washed up on much more northerly Scottish islands. Even on the south west coasts, reports in the year 2002 were reduced in numbers. 
    BMLSS Triggerfish

    27 December 2002
    Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, is spotted just before midday stranded on some rocks in Portland Harbour, Dorset. The coastguards were called and they managed to push the whale back into the water and it spent the rest of the day swimming around the large natural harbour, but it has yet to be coaxed back out to the open sea.  This species of whale is rarely seen in the shallower parts of the English Channel. 
    BBC News Report
    Corrected Report by Clive Martin (Biscay Dolphin Research Programme)
    BMLSS Cetacea



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