– by Emily Cunningham, Living Seas Officer, The Wildlife Trusts
Cold. Dirty. Murky. Barren.
Poor public perceptions of our underwater environment are one of the biggest barriers we face in UK marine conservation – and one that The Wildlife Trusts have been working tirelessly to change over the past 30 years.
The Wildlife Trusts have a vision for our (not at all barren!) marine environment, one of Living Seas teeming from the ocean depths to the coastal shallows. A key part of this vision is to inspire people to value and take action for nature; as was once said by the great Sir David Attenborough: “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
Although none of us in the UK live more than 70 miles from the coast, it’s pretty difficult for the general public to experience an undersea canyon, a dense forest of sea fans or a vast mud plain of phosphorescent sea pens… so we have to get creative!
There are 47 Wildlife Trusts around the UK, all working hard to achieve our vision for Living Seas. From Alderney to Ullapool, Ulster to The Wash, our amazing marine staff – supported by thousands of dedicated volunteers – run a myriad of weird and wonderful events, all with the singular aim of better connecting the British public with the awe-inspiring life in our seas.
We run events all year round – but it’s in the summer that it all comes to a head, peaking around our annual National Marine Week celebrations. Some of the more quirky events of National Marine Week 2015 included: night rockpooling, shoreline foraging, snorkel safaris, boat trips, making giant beach art, doing underwater dive surveys and even bringing the beach hundreds of miles inland to the midlands! Officers and volunteers visited holiday parks, gave talks at libraries and ran guided walks, beach cleans and intertidal surveys. Statistics are still flooding in from around the country, but incredibly, this year, in just a fortnight we ran over 100 events and engaged with over 7000 people!
Summer might be fading to Autumn, but we’ll still be out and about: taking groups out for beach cleans, organising citizen science surveys, running beach school sessions and organising ever more imaginative activities to get us all better engaged with the sea!