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All you need is mud

Phosphorescent sea pen and dublin bay prawn Photo: Paul Naylor
Phosphorescent sea pen and dublin bay prawn Photo: Paul Naylor

[C]ampaigners are using dirty tactics to raise the profile of our misunderstood Irish Sea.

While many naturalists will be looking further afield this week on World Oceans Day (June 8), the North West Wildlife Trusts will be launching #MarineMudness.

The aims of the campaign are to raise awareness of the wonders of the Irish Sea, to encourage people to support protected areas of sea and coast and to have fun in some muddy events.

Mud is a vitally important undersea landscape for whole communities of marine critters. The campaign will encourage people to think about and help save the Irish Sea even if they are standing in a muddy bog on a Lake District fell or on the mudflats of Morecambe Bay.

North West Marine Conservation Officer Emily Baxter said: “You may think that deep muddy plains would be like an empty desert but these habitats have the potential to be as diverse as the Amazon rainforest.

“Mud is rich in nutrients and supports a vast array of creatures from angular crabs to delicate sea pens, strange spoon worms and the world’s longest-lived animal, a clam called the ocean quahog.

“On or above the mud are plaice, sole, cod, haddock and whiting. In turn these nutrient-rich seas support seabirds, whales, dolphins and sharks. This is the circle of life in full spin.”

The Wildlife Trusts are trying to get more areas throughout the UK’s seas and coast protected as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). This network would help a vast range of wildlife to regenerate to prevent species numbers plummeting.

In the Irish Sea there have been four designated MCZs, two of these will protect mud habitats in our shallow coastal seas and their associated species, when they are actively managed – no management has been implemented to date.

Three deep water mud sites have been put forward to Government as recommended MCZs but have not yet been designated. These sites are needed to complete the network of protected areas in the Irish Sea.

To win protection for these areas the Wildlife Trusts needs the support of people who use the Irish Sea and its coast for work and pleasure.

North West Marine Conservation Officer Emily Baxter said: “The Irish Sea belongs to the people of the North West. Millions of people have visited places like Blackpool, Fleetwood, Southport, Morecambe, Heysham, Hoylake, Walney and St Bees on holiday. Millions work in Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool, Whitehaven, Barrow and Maryport, and yet only a small percentage understands importance of the sea they see every day.

“We want to tell everyone about how rich the Irish Sea is as a habitat for wildlife from the tiniest organisms to the basking shark, the second largest fish in the world.”

The Trust is organising mud-themed events along the coast and throughout the region. They will include shore searches and sand sculpture competitions for families.

They also want people to take muddy pictures at home or events, like festivals and parties to raise the profile and awareness of marine mud. Emily said: “Get out and get muddy to show your support for MCZs in the Irish Sea. Take a picture and put it on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #MarineMudness.

“And spread the word – tell your family and friends to support the campaign. We all have memories of having fun at the seaside. Many of us will have seen birds happily digging in the mud whilst we are too. And just think there are vast communities of marine life out there that we cannot see but they are not important to our ecosystem but also to our economy – these creatures and habitats help us regulate our climate and support local fishing communities.

“You can make sure that wildlife continues to flourish as we enjoy the awesome Irish Sea coast.”

How you can help:

  • Go mad and get muddy – send us pictures of you and your friends or family getting muddy this summer #MarineMudness
  • Become a friend of muddy Marine Conservation Zones on the Wildlife Trusts’ website: www.irishsea.org/muddyMCZfriends
  • Write to your local MP telling them how much you love the Irish Sea and how you want to protect its wildlife
  • Donate to the North West Wildlife Trusts Living Seas Appeal at www.irishsea.org/donate

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