In March, Ghost Fishing UK chairman Richard Walker and I thought it would be a good idea to attend a Seasearch Observer course. Here is what we found out…
We have been very grateful to Charlotte Bolton, National Coordinator for Seasearch for her advisory help with all matters relating to marine biology and how Ghost Fishing UK operates to ensure that we have the highest standards of working practices.
Seasearch reaches out to volunteer scuba divers and uses citizen science to map the sea bed around the UK. The idea is to get a picture of what grows and lives there, how much or little there is in each area and highlights any concerns for species and the need for protection. The aims of the Seasearch project can be found here.
It seemed a little odd to be conducting a course primarily aimed at observing the seabed, in Vobster Quay!
Although Vobster has some flora and fauna, it is a fresh water inland site and in spring, we didn’t expect to see much. But the aims of the course are to train divers in how to record data, sketch seabed profiles correctly and the classroom sessions, which made up most of the day, covered everything we needed to know to get started.
Charlotte together with Lin Baldock shared the lectures and soon, many of us who could barely distinguish between a crab and a wrasse were learning how to identify species, how to categorise them and how to produce underwater sketches. They were thorough in explaining how to complete the Seasearch report forms and patiently explained how to gain accurate coordinates for dive entry and exit points using various methods.
The course had an optional dive – which we all took up – and we were soon jumping into the rather cold quarry to document different algae! Doesn’t sound very exciting but it is amazing how much divers look but don’t see.
To become a Seasearch observer, divers must complete five surveys out in the ocean and submit them to Charlotte for approval.
Each of us were itching to get into the sea and start recording species from our favourite dive sites. Roll on a couple of months and the second Ghost Fishing UK training course conducted the basic skills and survey in a shallow seagrass bed at Cawsands, Cornwall.
Realising the opportunity, I soon began scribbling notes as my students swam about with cameras, eagerly sketching and identifying critters. It was deeply absorbing and very enjoyable. I only hope my report is up to scratch! For more information about Seasearch and to enroll on a course, head over to their website.