Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Conservation push yields results for UK sea life but challenges remain

Wildlife Trusts report comeback of rare seahorse breed and nudibranch slugs but plastic pollution still poses grave risk
Helen Pidd North of England editor
Mon 31 Dec 2018 00.01 GMT Last modified on Thu 3 Jan 2019 08.45 GMT
A rare kind of seahorse and a rainbow-coloured sea slug with a titillating name are among the creatures making a comeback in UK waters, according to an annual conservation review.
The coast around Britain is now home to more than 100 species of nudibranchs – brightly hued, soft-bodied marine molluscs that appear nude because of their lack of external shells. The Wildlife Trusts credited a big conservation push around the coast for their proliferation.
It was a good autumn for sightings of curled octopus, the trusts said, and basking sharks were seen in Cardigan Bay for the first time in three years. The Wildlife Trusts are a grassroots movement of 800,000 people who help survey shores to gather information and monitor marine protected areas.
In Dorset, fishermen have been reporting sightings of the extremely rare short-snouted seahorse off the Purbeck coast. This toothless breed has a short, upturned snout, which it uses to suck up its favourite prey of small shrimp and plankton. Not very good swimmers, they use their tails to cling on to seagrass or seaweed, and they face various threats, from trawlers scouring the seabed to yacht anchors, according to the Wildlife Trusts.
In Cornwall, the spiny lobster or crawfish is making a comeback from overfishing in the 1960s and 1970s, while undulate rays seem to be thriving along the south coast, though they are still considered endangered following over-exploitation.

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