Pink Sea Fan - Eunicella verrucosa
Status: Vulnerable … Pink Sea Fans are a favourite place for catsharks to attach their mermaid’s purse eggcases
Location: Most common in the south-west of England and Wales, west and south-west Ireland. Also throughout the north-east Atlantic, south to north Africa and in the Mediterranean.
Size: 30cm tall and 40cm wide when full-grown
Habitat: In areas of strong currents on rocky reefs below 10m deep.
In the past, sea fans were collected as souvenirs and today suffer damage from trawling and scallop dredging over the flat rocky habitat they thrive in. Awareness of the species is being increased to minimise damage from trawling, and divers should be careful of not breaking a sea fan when underwater. Sea fans on Lundy suffered extensive damage from disease in the early 2000s and through Seasearch, we’re continuing to monitor their gradual recovery.
Pink sea fans are now protected by law in the UK and are also a Biodiversity Action Plan species. They should not be touched or disturbed. Pink sea fans are slow growing and a large colony could be well over 50 years old. The usual size of fully grown colonies is about 30cm tall and 40cm wide but Seasearch diver surveys have recorded them up to 75cm across in the Channel Islands. In some areas, very large numbers grow close together in a ‘forest’, with up to 20 fans per square metre. This usually occurs on deeper flat bedrock or on the flattened plates of wrecks.
Main source: Wood. C, “Sea Anenomes and Corals of Britain and Ireland”, Seasearch. 2013.
Did you know?
- There are few animals that actually prey on pink sea fans, most are repulsed by stinging cells (called nematocysts) in the tentacles.
- When colonies die, they often remain attached to the seabed, making an attractive habitat for other filter feeding animals.
- One species of sea slug (Tritonia nilsodheri) is camouflaged to look like the sea fan itself. It lays its characteristic spiral of eggs around the sea fan branches.
- Despite its name, the colour is variable from white to yellow to an orangey-pink.
What MCS is doing:
- Lobbying for a better network of marine protected areas in UK waters to protect critical pink sea fan habitats;
- Through Seasearch, MCS is monitoring and recording pink sea fan populations in UK waters;
- Working with University of Exeter and the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Association, MCS is using underwater camera surveys to monitor recovery of pink sea fans and other marine wildlife at the Eddystone marine protected area, to demonstrate the benefits of protecting habitat from bottom-trawling.