Jun18

Oh English Channel, what is your secret?

Categories // English Channel Wildlife Officer

Oh English Channel, what is your secret?

People think the English Channel is polluted, empty & busy, but under those white caps there's more life than you can imagine..

Gooday to you whale lovers!

We are back for our second week on-board DFDS Seaways travelling from Dieppe to Newhaven. I noticed that many of you seemed puzzled upon first meeting me wondering the true purpose of a presentation about the marine wildlife in an area you describe as polluted, empty and busy. Although there is significant traffic, the English Channel has a lot to offer; underneath those white caps lies more marine life than you can imagine. This week, I want to illustrate how miscomprehend the Channel is.

Seagrass beds spread on the seafloor bringing home to a huge variety of fish, and even seahorses. Last week we spotted the largest bony fish on the planet, the sunfish, and these waters are also home to the second largest fish, the basking shark. Numerous birds accompany us along the crossing, mostly gannets but also kittiwakes, fulmars, arctic terns, puffins and guillemots. And cetaceans are present as well as lovely seals. How, you might wonder, do so much life survive in what looks like an unpleasant environment? Remember that thousands of years ago, men were able to walk between the UK and France as it was joint-land. Due to its topography, the channel is quite shallow with an average depth of 120 meters. Being such a narrow and shallow place, the sunlight penetrates the entire water column providing marine life with all the primary components for its survival and growth. Wildlife might not be sighted as often as it is in other places, but it does not mean it is absent, far from it!

In fact, on Friday evening, minutes before arriving at Dieppe harbour, a few passengers spotted 3 dolphins on starboard swimming alongside the ferry. At the time, I was on deck 8 doing a watch on port side. From the description they provided me with, I am quite certain they were common dolphins; easily recognisable with their distinct hourglass-like pattern on the side. Weather-wise, we have been unlucky this week with choppy waters, and a rainy, windy and cloudy sky. With the summer months just around the corner, we should be getting better conditions really soon, and our chances of sightings will greatly increase! With a calm sea, you will realize that the English Channel is full of surprises… So keep your fingers crossed and come and see me if you embark on the 12:30pm from Dieppe and/or 5:30 from Newhaven, I have a lot more to tell you about whales and dolphins!

See you next week!

Maeva     

ORCA Wildlife Officer - English Channel 

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