The sheer range and diversity of the marine life in the waters around the Isle of Man have led two marine biology graduates to set up a society aiming to both investigate and educate about, and also help conserve the aquatic environment that surrounds us.
Hayley Dulton and Becca Crowe have created the Manx Society for Marine Conservation (MSMC), with the aim to further research and knowledge of patterns of marine life, in order to create a more informed picture on the migration and breeding patterns of the environment in the waters around us.
‘Basically, we’re aiming to find out why the IoM is so diverse in terms of marine life,’ said Hayley Dulton. ‘We’ve both been here for three or four years now, and we both realised how diverse it was.
‘Every year we would come back, the pattern of when species were turning up was changing and the amount that was turning up was changing. But nobody was investigating why. So this is why we felt the need for a new marine organisation.
‘We are working quite closely with the Manx Wildlife Trust, collaborating on any projects that we are doing. But with the whale and basking shark groups, they are predominately focused on sightings, whereas we want to explore more why they are here.’
Cambridge graduate Becca, and Hayley, who graduated at Oxford Brookes, were both attracted to the island by the wealth and diversity of the life in the waters. And the pull of the cold waters and the secrets that lie beneath it proved more attractive than carrying out research in warmer areas.
‘With marine biology, a lot of people are attracted to the tropical stuff,’ said Becca, ‘but actually temperate regions, such as the Irish Sea, are hugely diverse. Personally that’s what I’m interested in.’
Purely self-funded, and run on a voluntary basis, the society has only been in existence for four months, but already the two have found themselves busy, with appearances at the Queenie Festival, and also helping to investigate the recent strandings of marine creatures on beaches in the west. A harbour porpoise washed up on Peel beach early in June, and last week a 20-foot minke whale washed up at Glen Maye beach, both of which were the cause of great local interest.
One of their key themes is their ‘Thoughtful Campaign’, which is something they are keen to promote. The aim is to encourage people in their awareness of their own impact on the environment. They have produced a series of bracelets, made from rubbish, discarded fishing gear and other bits and pieces found on the beaches, and they hope to use these to educate about the longevity of materials in the water.
‘We do beach cleans and collect up the fishing wire, and bits of rope and then we make our official bracelets out of things we collect,’ said Hayley. ‘Then everyone who buys one takes part in a little mini science experiment, to tell us how long they last for with constant use.’
‘Our Thoughtful Campaign is something we’re trying to run to get people to be just a little bit more aware of the marine environment and adopt little hits and tips at home to try and minimise their impact on the environment,’ said Becca. ‘People really do need to be more aware. Everything from plastic use at home through to how to behave when your out on the water, if you come across a large animal to minimise any disturbance.’
They have also launched a shark and ray case survey, which entails searching areas of strand lines on beaches, searching for egg cases of such species as cat shark, thornback ray and skate.
‘With the egg case project, we are looking to investigate abundance and diversity of species, it will give indications as to where hotspots are for small sharks, ray and skate,’ said Becca. ‘We are hoping to link it in with other data. The sharks lay their eggs in the substrate just off the coast, and that may offer information on how the environment is doing out there.’
For more information, or if anyone comes across findings, such as fish egg cases, that may be of interest to the society, you can get in touch via their facebook page: facebook.com/manxsmc. They would also appeal to anyone who would like to offer sponsorship.