IF you go down to the lido today you could be in for a big surprise…
While the tidal pool at Havre des Pas is a favourite of the Island’s sea swimmers, it is, it seems, equally popular among the inhabitants of our marine environment.
The abundance of life in the bathing pool was recently highlighted when an undulate ray was spotted doing lengths and quickly made a name for itself on social media.
Now, Kevin McIlwee, chair of Jersey Marine Conservation, has revealed that the pool is an ‘important breeding area’ for endangered species and a ‘great site to explore marine life’ which has variously been home to conger eels, common eels, cuttlefish, wrasse and the John Dory fish.
‘I don’t think people appreciate just what an amazing place the lido is,’ said Mr McIlwee.
‘In fact, it’s a shame it can’t be more of an educational environment with the number of creatures, and endangered creatures, in there.’
A video of the undulate ray – which is considered a priority species in the UK and is listed as ‘under threat’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – was shared thousands of times on social media and initially sparked some concern among the more wary swimmers.
But Mr McIlwee said Islanders had nothing to fear, adding: ‘They are more vulnerable than people. These are not stingrays that could potentially harm humans, and their response will always be more flight than fight.
‘There are lots of rays anyway in the lido, but you can’t see them because they are youngsters that have just hatched.
‘Through their genetics they know about hiding in the sediment, because that’s how they can potentially go from juvenile to adults.’
Past surveys have revealed that the pool can host, for varying periods of time, an array of other marine species.
‘We have surveyed the lido on a number of occasions and found some interesting creatures in there that have been trapped when the tide recedes. It is a great site to explore marine life.’
The species include the common eel and the less commonly seen conger eel, which typically grows to between five and 25lbs, inhabits rocky ground and spends most of the daylight hours hidden away in caves, rock holes, or other small spaces. These are of minimal risk to humans.
Mr McIlwee said that even the resident wallflowers are actually an unusual species of worm, adding: ‘These look like flowers, but they are Peacock worms which send out tentacles that look like petals.’
Mr McIlwee has further spotted uncommon fish species in the popular bathing spot, such as Goldsinny wrasse, a species of ray-finned fish known for its orange-red colour, pipe fish, bib fish, cuttlefish, and the John Dory fish.
There have also been catsharks, which are non-harmful to humans.
In 1951, a 10ft juvenile basking shark even made its way into the lido. It was the first time that one had been recorded in local waters. Unsure of how aggressive or harmful the shark would prove to be, the authorities took the decision to shoot it.
Mr McIlwee explained: ‘For a marine creature, pressure indicates depth, and they can’t always sense they are entering the lido because the walls increase pressure and provide the illusion of depth. It will get to the point where creatures can’t get out.
‘Possibly when a problem can arise is if they open the sluice gates and anything in there gets stranded. A creature caught in there until the next tide happens a lot. It’s the same as rock pools: the creature will try and get out of the sun and away from predators until the next tide.’