Crawfish sightings off Lundy – clear evidence of the benefits of protecting our seas says MCS
Rare sea fans also recovering in an area free from damaging activities
Divers say the reefs around Lundy Island off the North Devon coast are becoming healthier with recovery of sea fan populations clearly seen and nationally scarce species spotted in number.
A 12 strong team from Seasearch, the volunteer dive programme coordinated by MCS, took to the water around the North Devon island in what is England’s only existing highly protected Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).
The main object the dive survey was Lundy’s pink sea fan population. Seasearch Coordinator, Chris Wood says these colonial corals are slow growing and long lived, but fragile and easily damaged.
“In Lundy they had been affected by a ‘wasting disease’ in 2001 which caused the living tissues to die and the fan-shaped colonies to be overgrown with other organisms. We recorded the condition of each colony to try and spot signs of new growth or newly formed colonies. There were some signs of improvement, but the population is still less healthy than elsewhere showing the importance of protecting other areas with sea fan populations as well as Lundy.”
The team also sighted three crawfish, an animal which is increasingly rare in UK waters. “Crawfish - not to be confused with freshwater crayfish - are a large lobster-like creature which in the past has been over exploited by tangle netting and hand collection and populations in England are now very low,” says Chris Wood.
“We have only received sporadic records of crawfish in England in recent years. To see three on one dive is simply amazing and a vindication of the highly protected status of Lundy.”
127 sites have been chosen around the English coastline to create a network of MCZs and the government is set to open a public consultation later in the year to find out which of these sites the public want to see protected.
“A number of these proposed sites areas are called Reference Areas,” says Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Biodiversity Policy Officer and a member of the Lundy dive team. “These would have the same level of protection that Lundy now enjoys – fully protected no take zones - whilst the other sites will have a range of protection to reflect the degree to which the area needs to recover.”
“With the recovery success we saw whilst diving around Lundy, MCS wants to see all 127 sites designated as MCZs and we would urge the public to visit www.mcsuk.org/mpa to pledge support for the network.”