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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Summer 2009

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Winter 2009 News
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Link to the News Reports, October to December 2009




27 September 2009
On a dive out of John o' Groats (the most northerly settlement of mainland Scotland) I discovered the rarely reported free swimming tunicate Thetys vagina as well as the Mauve Stinger Jellyfish, Pelagia noctiluca,  both seen in shallow (10 metres deep) water, within two or three metres of the surface. Thetys was observed swimming by opening and closing its mouth and propelling itself along under the cliffs at Skirza Head (eastern coast). 

Thetys vagina has been rarely recorded in Irish waters. The species was reported for the first time in Irish waters during November 1988 when hundreds of specimens were taken in trawls at offshore. A few specimens were also found stranded on Ventry Beach, near Dingle, County Kerry during July 1987 & 1988

BMLSS Tunicata
BMLSS Jellyfish

24 September 2009
A four metre long Thresher Shark, Alopias vulpinus, was discovered washed up on Hayle Beach, Cornwall. 

22 September 2009
A Cornish Blackfish, Schedophilus medusophagus, was caught in in a pelagic trawl about five miles west of the Mull of Galloway (south-west Scotland) and was weighed in at Portaferry (Northern Ireland) at 3.5 kg gutted weight. The vessel which caught the fish was the FV. Ambitious, skipper/owner Eric Cully.

Cornish Blackfish (Photograph by Alan Mawhinney)

Cornish Blackfish
Photograph by Alan Mawhinney

This was an unusual capture of a widespread mesopelagic fish, found on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean but it is normally found at depths greater than 200 metres so it is not caught in nets for the usual commercial species. This sub-tropical fish is also found in the Mediterranean Sea

Notes by Andy Horton

Schedophilus medusophagus is a relatively common bathypelagic species off the west coast of Ireland. I have seen several of them landed with Blue Whiting, Micromesistius poutassou, in Killybegs, Donegal. 

Identification & Comments by Declan Quigley
Previous Report

September 2009
A Giant Goby, Gobius cobitus, was photographed in a rockpool at Gerrans, south Cornwall.

Link to a Photograph (by Andy Rapson)
BMLSS Giant Gobies

21 September 2009
Just a mile from the centre of Glasgow, a four metre long baby Northern Bottle-nosed Whale, Hyperoodon ampullatus, swam up the River Clyde and was seen from Arc Bridge
"The poor creature is currently showing very unusual behaviour, which could be to do with its current location. It has become stranded a few times but each time has managed to get itself back into slightly deeper water," said Trevor Weeks of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). "If the whale has not been weaned, unfortunately, there is not much chance of it staying alive. Even if we can return it to the sea, there is very little chance of reuniting it with its parents, on which it depends for food."

BDMLR Report

19 September 2009
There was a large stranding of jellyfsh-like Aequorea forskalea on Treyarnon Beach, North Cornwall coast. 

Featured Species: Aequorea
BMLSS Aequorea Notes
BMLSS Jellyfish and other Medusa

16-17 September 2009
A close inshore sighting of a 9 metre long Northern Bottle-nosed Whale, Hyperoodon ampullatus, in Poole Bay, Dorset, and seen from Bournemouth Pier, was a notable observation giving cause for concern that this deep water whale was injured or sick.

The Bottle-nosed Whale was washed up dead on Bournemouth beach in the evening of 21 September 2009 on the high spring tide. 2008 Stranding Report

10-12 September 2009
A 9.5 metre long Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaengliae, was discovered washed up dead at Erith, Greater London, in the River Thames. On 10 September 2009 a large whale was spotted at Tilbury at least ten miles to the east (where the river narrows to 732 metres wide) and this is believed to be the same one. The young male Humpback Whale is believed to have starved to death. The main food items of Humpback Whales seems to be small shoaling fishes and large zooplankton, including krill-like Amphipods.
This is the first record of a Humpback Whale recorded in the Thames, although a large whale of this species was washed up dead on the north Kent coast at Deal in 2006. The Humpback Whale is a deep water species but these whales occasionally wander into the southern North Sea where they can become disorientated and starve to death. In 2006 another young whale became lost and died in the Humber. In 2006 it was a Northern Bottle-nosed Whale that was washed up dead up at Lambeth in London
BBC News Report
BDMLR Report
Whales and Dolphins in British Seas (by Steve Savage)
BMLSS Cetacea News Index
UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP)
Identification Key for Stranded Cetaceans
Whale Watching (Britain)

How to Report a Stranding

c 26 August 2009
A Broad-billed Swordfish, Xiphias gladius, was discovered in the Kattegat, the shallow sea to the east of Denmark. It was alive but died shortly afterwards in only 50 cm of water at Oreby Port, three kilometres from the mouth of the fjord.
"'Swordfish are seen occasionally in the North Sea in late summer, but it is unusual that it made so far into the inner Danish waters as Sakskøbing Fjord. As far as I can see, it is not described before in literature," said biologist Karsten Bjerrum Nielsen (Kattegat Center), who believes that the catch was sensational. The fish was put on display at the Kattegat Center from 13 October 2009
Full Report
BMLSS Swordfish

19 August 2009
Green seaweed has been clogging parts of the English coastline, and from the air above Langstone Harbour in Hampshire it resembles a massive algal green carpet. This amount of seaweed has a detrimental effect on the underlying fauna deoxygenating the mud and killing the worms and cockles etc.
BBC News Report

The continual problem also occurred off the shores of Brittany.
BBC News Report

17 August 2009
A line fishermen, Ingibergur G. Thorvaldsson, caught a huge Ling, Molva molva, of 51 kg in 2009 off Iceland. This is a very large specimen exceeding in size of any caught around the British Isles.   

16 August 2009
A most surprising capture in an angling competition in the saline Humber estuary (at Hessle underneath the Humber Bridge) was a Wels Catfish, Silurus glanis, caught by Mark Taylor on light tackle fishing for Eels and Flounders. This freshwater fish weighed in at 2.3 kg (5 lb) and measured 57 cm in length. 

Catfish, Silurus glanis

The Wels Catfish is an alien species from central Europe (River Danube) but known from the lower reaches of the major river systems in England for over a century. Some populations of this catfish will breed in salt water (Aral Sea). 

12 - 14 August 2009
Thousands of fish have died of suffocation in the seas of St. Austell Bay in south Cornwall. 
"The more we looked, the more dead fish we found, mainly small ones, but eventually even about half a dozen Cuckoo Wrasse, Labrus bimaculatus, - a beautiful red and blue fish, and some others which someone identified as baby Dogfish, Scyliorhinus canicula, all unmarked but dead in rock pools or on the shoreline. One chap even hauled out a large Conger Eel, Conger conger, from a pool, obviously dead."
The dead fish coincided with a large bloom of plankton that had been blown into the bay. The bloom had turned the water brown and left sludge deposit on the shore. The exact species has been identified as the dinoflagellate, Karenia mikimotoi
Western Morning News Report
Wild About Britain Forum (Report)
BBC News Report (1)
BBC News Report (2)

Web Site Report by David Fenwick

Selected microphytoplankton species from the North Sea


10 August 2009
A 15 cm juvenile Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta caretta, was rescued after stranding on Loe Bar, near Porthleven, in Cornwall. It was discovered by by Rose Ledbury from Warwick. The turtle was surrounded by a number of stranded Portuguese Man-o'War, Physalia physalis, one of the Loggerhead's staple foods. The turtle is recovering in a special quarantine unit at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay. 

BMLSS Turtles
BMLSS Portuguese Man-o'War

2 August 2009
A Bogue, Boops boops, was caught in a Red Mullet net in 10 metres of water about half a mile off the shore at Seaton, south east Cornwall, by Chris Dominic on the FV Emma May.

This fish was about 17 cm (6 - 7"), but they can grow to 38 cm (14").  They are a shoaling fish and are a commercial species in southern Europe. They are classified in the Sparidae Sea Bream family and I assume they are good eating.  They are rare in British waters and most have been caught in the Channel Islands, but they have also been found in Torbay and several other places. They are regularly caught in Red Mullet nets in Mount's Bay Cornwall in the autumn, but this is the first I had heard of from Whitsand Bay.

BMLSS Sea Breams

19 July 2009
Two-banded Sea Bream, Diplodus vulgaris, have again been identified from the shallow seas of Belle Greve Bay, on the east coast of Guernsey, Channel Islands. This silvery sea-bream has a distinctive black band on its caudal peduncle (preceding its tail fin). 

BMLSS Sea Breams
Full Report

9 July 2009
Commercial crab and lobster fisherman Clive Brown brought me a live Common Octopus, Octopus vulgaris, which he landed in one of his pots to the north-west of Les Hanois Lighthouse , south-west of Guernsey, Channel Islands, at 10:00 am. This octopus was missing one arm. The injury had healed.

All reports of Octopus vulgaris in Channel Island waters are of interest because of their virtual disappearance after the cold winter of 1962/ 1963. They began to re-appear in small numbers several years ago and then disappeared again. Clive Brown reports one being caught in the same location as his capture by another fisherman five years ago. They may move in from deeper water to the west of Guernsey.
Octopus vulgaris has two rows of suckers per arm and grows to a much larger size than Eledone cirrhosa, which has one row of suckers per arm.

Report, Photograph © & Comments by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Sealord Photography
Previous Report
BMLSS Octopuses

2 July 2009
A newly born (neonate) Porbeagle Shark, Lamna nasus, was caught and released by a young angler off the Great Bank off the east coast of Guernsey, Channel Islands. Andy Simon (father of the angler) wrote that the neonate shark weighed about 7 kg (15 lb) and was about a metre long. It was caught at 4.30 pm out from Fermain Bay. 

Porbeagle Sharks usually produce two young per uterus (four in total per litter) after a long gestation. The embryos are oophagous. The mother only fertilises two eggs in each uterus but she produces copious amounts of eggs during gestation, which the developing embryos eat. The embryos have sharp teeth to tear the skin of the eggs apart. The developing embryos have a large abdominal yolk sac, which they absorb during development. During the colder months Guernsey fishermen catch Porbeagle Sharks occasionally. The captured adult females usually carry embryos.  It appears that Channel Island waters are a nursery ground for Porbeagle Sharks as there is evidence that Porbeagle Sharks give birth there.
Images of Embryos (by Richard Lord)

BMLSS Sharks : Porbeagle
BMLSS Shark & Ray News
BMLSS Porbeagle -1
BMLSS Porbeagle -2
Large Porbeagle Sharks
Summary of Porbeagle (Lamna nasus) litters from Guernsey and Jersey
IUCN Red List Endangered Species: Porbeagle Shark


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