Underwater camera plan to put the Island’s marine life in focus

AN underwater camera is to be placed in the Harbour to offer schoolchildren a chance to see rare species, including seahorses.

Photos supplied by Société Jersiaise Marine Biology Section (24295205)
Photos supplied by Société Jersiaise Marine Biology Section (24295205)

It is hoped the camera will be in place and streaming live video by the summer.

Ports of Jersey have been working with the Jersey Marine Conservation Society and the Société Jersiaise’s marine biology section to set up the camera.

Marine section chairman Gareth Jeffreys said the Société were aware of 130 species living in local marinas, most of which grow permanently on the pontoons, including sponges, sea anemones, limpets, seaweeds, hydroids, bryozoans, fan worms and sea squirts.

The marina also hosts populations of mullet, bream, sea sticklebacks and, hopefully, the short-nosed seahorse, Mr Jeffreys said.

‘The seahorse is elusive and has so far managed to evade divers during attempts to survey them,’ he added.

Photos supplied by Société Jersiaise Marine Biology Section (24295207)

According to Ports group engineering safety and environment manager James Letto, all the building blocks such as Wi-Fi and power are already in place in the harbour to start the project.

The exact camera locations will be kept secret to protect the sea creatures from needless physical interference, however.

In 2016, a survey was carried out by Jersey Marine Conservation, which chairman Kevin McIlwee said had its challenges.

‘We found it very difficult from a diving perspective, as we could only carry out surveys when the marina was closed and consequently too shallow,’ he said.

‘Our focus was on the south-east part of Elizabeth Marina. We found there to be a healthy large colony of feather duster worms (Sabella spallanzani) and various types of sea squirts such as Phallusia mammillata. These species are associated with a reasonable water flow and suspended nutrients.

‘None of my team came across seahorses in the marina during our survey which suggests they are well hidden, if still there.’

If they are spotted on the video feed it would be to the delight of wildlife enthusiasts and add momentum to efforts to protect the fragile species.

‘In the UK, seahorses are protected but the revision of the Wildlife Law here to include them is still to be finalised,’ Mr McIlwee said.

‘In the UK one of the last significant colonies is in a busy marina with all types of pollution and continuous craft movement. The unsuitability for swimmers, divers and snorkellers seems to be a major factor in assisting the creatures’ survival.’

Once the camera is operational, the plan is to move it around various locations to view marine-based local species and visitors.

‘Larger animals do occasionally get caught in marinas too. There was a juvenile blue shark trapped in Elizabeth Marina in 2011 and Guernsey had a juvenile sunfish in one of its marinas for a couple of days,’ Mr Jeffreys said.

And the camera could allow conservationists a first look at arriving invasives, he added, as marinas can be a ‘hot spot’ as non-natives tend to arrive on the hull of boats.

‘We’ve had several non-native species arrive in the marinas and then spread from there into the wider marine environment,’ Mr Jeffreys said. ‘The asian bryozoan and wakame are such examples.’

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