Friday, 4 October 2013

Shoresearch blog 1

Well it has been an action packed start to our survey season – The PANACHE
Shoresearch methods were hot off the press as we held the first Shoresearch volunteer
training session at the Allet Methodist hall on the 27
th of March 2013.
The aims of the PANACHE Shoresearch survey programme are to monitor marine life
on the shore within Cornwalls south coast marine protected areas, and to engage and
enthuse citizen-scientists who live near to the MPAs. A third important aim is to get
verifiable records of key species of interest to our government. This information will be
directly relevant in this formative time while DEFRA are still working towards a
network of marine protected areas around the coast of Britain. It was highlighted at the
Panache conference meeting that Defra are not accepting any species data that is more
than 3 years old so it is vital to record the presence of key species and get verifiable
accurate records to them as soon as possible or important species and habitats will be

Shanny - photo Matt Slater, Matt-Photo West Britain

The method focuses on searching for a list of 50 Species made up of climate change indicator species, non-native invasive species, protected Biodiversity Action Plan species and Features of Conservation species and habitats that have been used in the selection of Marine Conservation Zones. From the larger list a CORE List of 20 species was chosen and all surveys will concentrate on looking for these species and recording their
abundance and distribution. The Shoresearch method is standardised so all of the partner organisations will be carrying out the same surveys on both sides of the English Channel. In addition to recording the core species we are also keen to identify as many other species present as possible each survey. It is exiting work as this data will have real use – it will help us monitor changes on the shore as well as help us record presence of rare and vulnerable species, that could influence the creation of Marine Protected Areas.
18 enthusiastic volunteers turned out for our training evening. It was great that amongst them we had several dedicated volunteers from our Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas and we also had some with marine biology qualifications including lecturers from Cornwall College Newquay and Falmouth Marine School. We were also really lucky to have been joined by an avid local marine recorder David Fenwick who’s awesome
website is a really useful resource to anyone who is identifying marine life on our shores.

On 30th March we were lucky to have a beautiful day for our practical training day at Prisk cove near Mawnan at the mouth of the Helford VMCA. where we carried out an informal survey using the PANACHE Shoresearch methods for the first time. CWT’s Cat Wilding lead the transect survey and Matt Slater led the walkaround survey. Prisk is a stunning shore – its boulder filled gullies and rocky pools provide ample cover for a range of life and its location at the mouth of the Helford means that there is a healthy supply of nutrient rich sea water. The shore is south east facing, making it very vulnerable to easterly gales but the power of the waves is dispersed by a rocky reef off shore called August rock. This complex, semi-exposed aspect also contributes to the sites high biodiversity and we certainly experienced this on our training survey!

Notable finds included;
Lots of harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata is present on this site, this is a non native species that is spreading particularly quickly but as yet does not seem to be causing too many problems. Climate change indicators and core species, Rainbow wrack Cystoceira tamariskifolia, and tuning fork weed Bifurcaria bifurcata, were abundant. The shore is teeming with Montagu’s crabs Xantho hydrophilus – this climate change indicator species has moved into the area relatively recently (was not there when I was a boy!). Also
present is the similar Risso’s crab Xantho pilipes. Unusual finds included a Topknot, a transparent and sticky, inflated sea cucumber – Leptosynapta inhaerens, really bizarre. A black lugworm Arenicola defodiens, A cool sea slug called Geitodoris planata, and the obscure invertebrates – a hydroid Candelabrum cocksii and an Echiuran (also known as a spoon worm) - Thallassema thallassema. It was great timing to find Dr Paul Gainey was out on the shore the same day looking for rare sea squirts – his fantastic local knowledge and identification skills was invaluable and we hope that he will be able toattend some more of our surveys this year!

Our first official Shore search survey was held at Marazion on the 10th of April – this was the first in a series of dual purpose events – I was running a public rockpooling session and shore laboratory with the help of Zoe Russell, and the Shore search volunteers carried out a survey with CWT’s Niki Clear leading the survey. It was all set to be a fantastic day – a super low tide and lots of interest from the public but a howling

easterly gale and horizontal rain dampened it down a little! We still had a great turnout but the problem with the rain was it was difficult to keep peoples attention and hard to round them up as most had become saturated and had left the shore before the end of the ramble! The survey went well and a good species list was put together. Thanks must go to David Fenwick who added massively to our species list by collecting and sifting through a sample of shell sand that contained 49 species! It was great to see healthy
looking eel grass beds, Zostera marina at the lower shore. Interestingly this marine flowering plant is rarely found on the intertidal and in this location it is growing in a shallow lagoon left at low tide – the water there was only a few inches deep and as a result the leaves seemed to have become stunted. Amongst sea weeds in this area David found a small example of the stalked jellyfish, Halyclystus octoradiatus – a Bidodiversity
Action plan species and one that he has recorded in many locations within Mounts bay and elsewhere in Cornwall. Finding Stalked jellyfish is challenging but they are far more common than many people realise and as they are protected we really need to collect as many verifiable records as possible wherever they can be found!

Eel grass Zostera marina and shanny eggs-photos Matt Slater 

Sadly Spring took a long time to arrive, the gales continued and our Shoresearch public 
event and survey at Gyllyngvase reef, Falmouth was also extremely cold and wet!

Despite this we had an incredible turnout of volunteers and a fair few families and other members of the public attended. It was slightly unexpected but we were joined by a group of young ladies on a hen night that, rather alternatively were having a coastal bushcraft and foraging day on the beach that day – despite the weather!
The survey was led by Patrick and Claire who did a great job! Significant finds included –Montagu’s blenny, a climate change indicator species with a funky cockatoo crest. Haedropleura septangularis – a rare sea snail, Asparagopsis armata – harpoon weed, lots of common but cool species such as velvet swimming crabs, broad clawed porcelain crabs, hermit crabs and edible crabs. Risso’s and Montagu’s crabs were also both found. My mum who kindly came along to man the stall while we were out rockpooling nearly
caught hyperthermia!
The worst part about the day was that somehow I managed to loose a giant pack of kit kats so the volunteers only had coffee at the end of a gruelling survey!

Montagu's blenny and Gyllyngvase marine day 2013

Our next survey could not have been more of a contrast! We were blessed with a
beautiful sunny day and a light breeze for our survey and public event at Poltesco beach on the Lizard. The shore is covered in serpentine boulders that are perfectly rounded – and the lower shore boulders were teeming with life! We found loads of sea cucumbers Pawsonia saxicola beneath rocks, green urchins, Cornish sucker fish, spiny starfish, common stars, velvet crabs, worm pipefish, Risso’s crabs and everything else you would expect to find. The families who came along for a rockpool ramble really enjoyed themselves and found out how special the Lizard peninsula is for marine life!

The unbelievable highlight of the survey was a beautiful 1cm long but incredibly vividly marked baby squat lobster found by Martin Mitchell. There was loads of speculation about whether this could have been a tropical species- certainly none of those present had ever seen it before. On my way home I called in on Dr Paul Gainey who confirmed it as a juvenile Galathea strigosa, the blue striped squat lobster. This one of the largest of our native species of squat lobster and is quite common below the intertidal, but rarely found on the shore. As an adult it is the most beautiful orange with vivid blue stripes on its back and tail. The juvenile was totally different in colour but was identified by its shape! You can really see it is a juvenile by looking at its comical giant eyes that it will have to grow into! It is the first example seen by Paul Gainey and that is a big
achievement as Paul has recorded most living things in this county!
A nice big saucepan full of hot chocolate supplied by Patrick really rounded off the day, I can’t wait to go back to do more surveying on the Lizard.

Bank holiday Monday on Whitsun weekend was our next survey. This was held at Greenbank quay – one of my old haunts as a kid. The Penryn river estuary, often referred to as Falmouth harbour is a really productive area with silty mud flats, scattered with rocky outcrops both teeming with life. Most people think of harbours as nasty polluted places but this one is really vibrant. As well as it being a Shoresearch survey day I was leading a Fox Club public event and was looking forward to sharing one of my favourite places with the next generation of marine biologists but sadly we had a south westerly gale and horizontal rain lashing us again! This didn’t deter all of our fox clubbers and we had 3 families attend and amazingly they all lasted out for a good couple of hours! Long enough to find lots of specimens of another Biodiversity Action Plan species, the european eel, Anguilla anguilla. Just about every rock you lift on this shore has a young eel living below it. They are definitely not rare in Cornish estuaries, yet, across their range eels are becoming increasingly rare due to habitat loss, barriers to migration, parasites, pollution, over-fishing and climate change affecting oceanic currents. They are so endangered that they have now been classified as Critically Endangered by

the ICUN Red list of endangered species. European eel populations are thought to have fallen by 95% in the last 25 years. Eels have the most amazing life history – mature adult eels living in rivers and ponds in Europe undergo a massive migration travelling four thousand miles to the Sargasso sea in the centre of the Mid Atlantic gyre – a place where there are no ocean currents and the surface of the sea is scattered for hundreds
of square miles by rafts of floating Sargassum seaweed. It is here in the Sargasso sea that the eels spawn and their eggs hatch in the water and tiny juvenile eels begin their journey back to Europe. 5 years later they arrive on our shores in the form of tiny transparent glass eels- these struggle their way back up rivers and streams into fresh water and there they slowly grow until, like their parents eventually they are ready to

make their second incredible migration.
Our Shore search survey was led by Sarah Clear who was joined by Patrick D’arcy-Evans, Zoe Russell, Derek Goodwin and Chloe Kingston from Falmouth Aquarium. The survey team had a great time mudlarking and found some lovely specimens some of which were brought up to the shore lab tanks so that we could show the youngsters.
Notable finds included a greater pipefish – rarely found on the intertidal but common below low water in shallow estuaries. A butter fish – a beautiful slimy eel like fish with rows of fake eyes down its back. Several specimens of male Rock gobies with a distinctive bright orange edge to their dorsal fins. Derek Goodwin, leader of the fantastic juvenile bass surveys of the Fal and Helford, came along to show us how to find
rag worms. Although he felt that this side of the creek was not as good as the Flushing side he still came back with some beautiful specimens of King Ragworm, Nereis virens the largest of our native polychaetes equipped with a vicious set of sharp mandibles. Derek also found a truly revolting bright red Terribellid worm. The estuary is home to many non native species. Shipping has brought many non native species from around the world to Falmouth harbour and we saw evidence of this on our survey –Crepidula fornicata– the slipper limpet is abundant in the harbour and we found plenty on our survey. Many of the seaweeds found were unusual and on a nicer day I would love to return and take samples of the many species I didn’t manage to identify.

I would like to thank our surveyors. Its been a really great start to the PANACHE
project – it will be great to see you all at the next surveys – Keep Up the great work
and lets pray for some nice sunny surveys before the end of the summer!
Please remember to keep a look out for core species and keep telling people about our
surveys we could always do with more helpers! Have a look at the Shoresearch page on Cornwall wildlife Trust website. While I’m here – just wanted to show off about a couple of finds that I have made this spring within MPAs on Cornwall’s south coast – my friend Darren Williams returned to a childhood rockpooling haunt within the Fal SAC (that’s as much detail as I’m giving away)where we always used to find BIG gobies and we caught and identified 6 young giant gobies Gobius cobitus! Record has been submitted! Please record them if you find one – there are 2 ways of identifying them – either by exceptionally large size or by two thickened lobes on the front edge of their sucker like pelvic fin.

Giant Goby  -closeup of pelvic fin and Darren Williams in action

The other exceptional sighting was within the Tamar SAC – rockpooling with a school at Sandways beach near Cawsands we found a beautiful cave at the lower shore full of scarlet and gold cup corals Ballanophyllia regia. Simply stunning.

Please keep a look out and keep on sending in your records and photos. If you are not already signed up please email me and I will invite you to join our drop box account where it is easy for you to browse the photos, look at reference and training resources and it is easy for you to upload your pictures from surveys and from your own outings to the shore. Also don’t forget it is easy to carry out your own Shoresearch – all the info is on our website and in the dropbox !!
Cheers for now
Matt Slater
Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Marine Awareness Officer

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