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‘Seeing sharks is a good sign of healthy marine life’

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YOUR average swimmer might not relish the prospect of more sharks in Jersey waters...

But one Islander, a marine biologist, is hoping that her study finds just that – although none of them are harmful to humans.

PhD student Sam Blampied (25) is mid-way through a three-year study to see whether protected areas of sea around the Island are having a positive impact on marine wildlife and eco-systems.

Various sections of water around Jersey, the Minquiers and the Écréhous are protected or designated ‘no mobile gear zones’ – areas where dredging or trawling is not allowed.

Miss Blampied, a Plymouth University student, with support from Jersey Fisheries and Marine Resources as well as the Blue Marine Foundation, last year began work to see if such protected status is helping sea life.

And the St Helier parishioner said early indications were that sea grass – an important nursery for juvenile marine species – around the reefs was doing well. She added that there have been a number of sightings of smooth hound and tope sharks, which can grow up to seven feet, as well as positive scallop populations.

She said: ‘It is important to see, now zones are in place, if they have an impact. Within three years it might be tricky to see changes to something like the maerl – it’s our version of coral – habitat around Les Écréhous, as it grows slower, but it’s important if we put measures in to protect marine life that we measure it to see if it is really worth it.

‘Seeing shark populations is a good sign of healthy marine life as it means their food is present.’

Miss Blampied, one of four students carrying out the same research across the British Isles, is using cameras on lines attached to boats as ‘bait cameras’ and other methods to record data. One bait camera recorded a huge shoal of cat sharks while another captured images of a stingray. A ‘potting study’ – to assess the health of lobster and crab populations – is also being carried out.

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A stingray captured by one of the underwater cameras used in Miss Blampied's study (25767884)

She added: ‘Data collection is due to continue until next year and I hope to have all the findings written up by 2021.’

The marine biologist said she had always been interested in the ocean, having grown up around boats and one day hopes to work in fisheries management in Jersey after doing more research outside of the Island.

Sam Blampied with camera equipment (left) that is dragged behind the boat (25767862)
Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
author

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