12 Jun 2019

11 June 2019 - Hot on the heels of the government’s announcement of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) last week, Somerset Wildlife encouraged the whole county to show their love for Somerset’s coastal habitats and marine wildlife by joining in on a range of activities to celebrate World Oceans Day (worldoceansday.org) and European Maritime Day on Saturday 8th June on Dunster beach.
Delivered by the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Somerset’s Brilliant Coast project and run with Dunster Beach Holidays, the Women’s Institute and Plastic Free Minehead and West Somerset, the day was themed ‘Turning the Tide’, and focused on raising awareness of Somerset’s amazing marine life and the effects of climate change, sea-level rise and marine litter through fun family activities. These included environmental art sessions using marine plastic, pebble poetry, rock pool safaris to find coastal wildlife, beach cleans and even Tai Chi.
Between 10am and 11am, the brave ladies from Dunster and Alcombe Women’s Institutes dressed in their summer finery and enjoyed tea and scones in the sea in order to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on sea levels.wi-4.jpeg
Over the years the WI has cleaned up beaches, stood up for the honeybee and campaigned for wide areas of special beauty. In recent times, this concern for our natural environment has seen members rally against climate change – an issue that is of particular concern locally due to flooding risks of low-lying areas like the Somerset Levels.
People also had the opportunity to make their own personal environmental pledges about how to reduce their carbon footprint and plastics use.
Mark Ward, Somerset’s Brilliant Coast Project Manager said:
“Thanks to the Blue Planet Effect, the IPCC report, and the general heightened media attention surrounding habitat loss and wildlife decline, more and more people are really thinking about the positive changes they can make for the benefit of the natural world.  But it’s easy to feel a bit helpless isn’t it? The way in which environmental issues are communicated sometimes makes it difficult to know what we can actually do; they are huge global problems that at first seem impossible to tackle. But small actions do add up so whether you ban single use plastic in your home, cycle to work, recycle more or build a home for wildlife – they can all make a difference.
The aim of World Oceans Day is just to help people take a step on the right path to collectively changing our habits and behaviours.  Just by simply reconnecting with our coastline during one of the World Oceans Day events, by learning something new, uncovering something really special on your doorstep, these are all really powerful experiences which help us value what we have, appreciate how the natural work benefits us and the importance of keeping our marine environments healthy. As humans, we want to protect what we value, and from this comes positive action. Engaged and aware coastal communities are a vital to ensuring we work with nature to develop new solutions to protect our maritime environment in the face of increasing threats, and the World Oceans Day event at Dunster was a great way to help celebrate what we have so we protect it in the future.”
About Somerset’s coastline:
Somerset’s fifty miles of brilliantly diverse, coastline includes sand dunes, rocky shores, cliffs, salt marsh, tidal estuaries mud flats and coastal deciduous woodland. Around 80% has environmental protection. The Severn Estuary is recognised as an internationally important wetland for its diversity of fish species and assemblages of wintering wildfowl. There are four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Brean Down, Berrow Dunes, Bridgwater Bay and Blue Anchor to Lilstock) designated for their rare plants, insects, overwintering and breeding birds and their history, heritage and geology. The Kilve to St Audries Bay coast is in the Quantock Hills AONB, and the western most part, a designated Heritage Coast, is in Exmoor National Park.
Despite all these designations the popular perception of the Somerset coast is of muddy shores dominated by a nuclear power station and bookended by holiday camps. This could lead to it being undervalued and in turn contribute to increasing and unchallenged development pressure.
Over the coming decades, climate change, coastal development and an increase in tourism all pose threats to coastal and marine ecosystems. By encouraging local people to engage with and celebrate Somerset’s brilliant coast in a multitude of ways, we aim to help local them better speak up for this crucial natural asset and protect it to minimise negative impacts, finding ways to strengthen existing ecological networks so that wildlife can move and adapt to the challenges ahead.
Did you Know?
•             Coastal and marine ecosystems play a particularly valuable role in the capture and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2, and so can help mitigate climate change. Bridgwater Bay, with its extensive mudflats salt marshes, has been identified as one of the key areas within the Severn Estuary for storing carbon.
•             The Severn Estuary is also a vast fish nursery. Ten species of fish that are of economic importance use these waters at different times in their lifecycle, either for breeding or feeding and in total, 110 fish species have been recorded there – the highest of any estuary in the UK. Our sea is also vital in providing breeding and nursery grounds for Atlantic salmon and habitat for European Eel which means our sea is of international importance.
•             There are three major estuaries used by wintering waders and wildfowl in the south west; Hayle Estuary in Cornwall houses up to 18,000 wintering birds, the Exe Estuary up to 25,000, but the Severn Estuary, which is the largest example of a coastal plain estuary in the UK, blows all numbers out of the water, playing host to up to 100,000 wintering birds. No surprise therefore that it is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive, a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive and as a Ramsar site under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
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