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We have been supporting Sea-Changers for years with 1% of sales profits being donated to the many important UK marine conservation projects that would otherwise struggle for funding.
Each year Sea-Changers funds different projects with underwater clean-ups, seal conservation projects and citizen science apps being among the winners of the latest round of Sea-Changers’ grants, with almost £14,500 distributed between 21 UK-based marine conservation charities and schemes.
Since it first began back in 2011, Sea-Changers has awarded over 170 marine conservation grants to projects across the UK, providing over £100,000 in funding towards the protection of the UK's coasts and seas.
The latest round of grants will sponsor a diverse mix of marine conservation projects, with the emphasis very much on community involvement in environmental solutions. Below are details of some of the diving related projects that will be receiving funding for 2020.
Upskilling commercial divers in important marine species identification and sharing diver knowledge and experience.
Our collective understanding of the marine environment still remains patchy. As an example, no one knew of the global importance of Loch Carron’s flame shell beds until after a scallop dredger had sadly damaged them. This lack of information feeds into a lack of proper management for our seas and means that damaging activity, like scallop dredging and bottom trawling is allowed to continue in sensitive parts of our sea.
The Open Seas Trust seeks to empower these divers to record and report what they see. It aims to utilise the experience and knowledge of amateur divers (and hopefully the Sea Search community) to upskill the commercial diver community. It also seeks to establish a process whereby commercial divers are able to share their information (hopefully working with the Scottish Scallop Divers Association).
Finally, given that our seas and seabed remain ‘out of sight, out of mind’, even for some of our fisheries managers, the project will seek to tap into the experience of these divers to enlighten managers of the fauna that is in need of better protection and the impact of damaging fisheries when it occurs.
The project will do this by hosting a workshop on the Scottish West Coast at a venue considered best placed to draw the most attendees.
The Citizen Science Dredger Damage Project aims to respond to reports of illegal dredging within MPA's and also to legal dredging in areas where it is known or suspected to have PMF's (Priority Marine Features) across Scotland.
A visit to the area as soon as possible after the incident and with the aim to dive the location to gain photographic and videographic evidence of any damage done to the seabed.
The project has already secured an underwater ROV to enable more effectively search for areas of damage and locate them accurately before diving to get footage.The grant received from Sea-Changers will enable the group to purchase some very important items to better utilise the ROV - namely a 100m tether (the ROV shipped with a short 25m tether) so enabling searching of water more than approx 18m depth as well as a controller and tablet to physically control the ROV (the ROV shipped without either).
These additions, will ensure the ROV will prove an extremely useful tool in locating damaged seabed and cut search time down, as well as making it much safer as for the divers as they won't descending to an unknown seabed to search for areas of damage.
Now that the Scottish MPA network has become established, a number of enthusiastic community groups have sprung up with the members keen to look after “their” MPA and find out more about the marine life on their doorstep.
Seasearch is a well established citizen science project which specialises in training sports divers to carry out marine surveys as well as organising and running surveys once the divers are trained.
Over the last few years Campbelltown Sub Aqua Group (CTSAC) has become increasingly involved in carrying out Seasearch surveys in conjunction with local community groups including CROMACH and SeaChange Wester Ross. To enable the surveys to take place the club has been actively refurbishing their 5.6m Humber RHIB which had been lying unused for a number of years.
The hard work has borne fruit as the RHIB has been used to carry out Serpulid Reef surveys in Loch Creran, native oyster surveys in Loch Craignish and seasearch training surveys in Loch Fyne.
The Friends of Horsey Seals campaign (which Sea-Changers funded in Spring 2019) highlights the dangers of plastic flying rings (frisbees) to seals has successfully raised peoples’ awareness. The majority response has been of concern, sympathy and shock at the injuries the seals are suffering. Some coastal shops have stopped selling flying rings as a result, primary school children have contributed and local Councillors are coming on board.
This further grant will enable the project to seek longer term solutions to safeguard the seals.
A fresh wave of publicity will be launched in 2020 supported by an outdoor banner and display for events. Coastal schools will be contacted to invite them to engage in project work in support of the seals. They intend to build on the support of local Councillors which is crucial in securing longer term measures to safeguard the seals as well as raising the awareness and asking for the support of other beach stake holders.
They intend to develop an e-information pack explaining the dangers of plastic flying rings to seals to send to the retail trade: from shop owners to importers and manufacturers to raise their awareness and start a dialogue about reducing the risks to seals.
While the impacts of litter washed up or left on our shoreline can easily be seen, the same cannot be said for marine litter that is below the surface of the ocean.
Neptune's Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC) have been carrying out underwater clean-up diving since 2005, making them the UK's first diving clean-up charity. For their 15th clean-up year NARC has planned a minimum of 10 underwater clean-up events in Pembrokeshire and multiple awareness raising and educational events with more to be organised. The Sea-Changers grant will provide funding for boat charter hire as well as air fills to carry out the underwater clean-up dives and events.