Jun12

A celebration of the ocean!

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

A celebration of the ocean!

World Oceans day on board the Pont-Aven

Welcome readers! Well that’s it, another two weeks completed on the Pont-Aven, time seems to be going so fast now with only three more weeks left! The Bay has again treated us to the similar delights we have been spotting over the last couple of months or so now. From our Santander crossings this week we have had great sightings of 28 common dolphins, 3 fin whales, 3 striped dolphins, a sei whale, a minke whale and 2 Cuvier’s beaked whales – proving there’s still plenty to spot in the infamous Bay of Biscay. My stint on board this past fortnight was a little different, however as this week my colleagues Kate and Lucy welcomed Beccy on board - a previous ORCA Wildlife Officer based in the North Sea. Beccy kindly stood in as a Pont-Aven Wildlife Officer for four days whilst I was away and had her first species sighting of a Cuvier’s beaked whale and a fin whale – a great experience for her!

Following on, Friday 8th we celebrated World Oceans Day, which this year was dedicated to ‘preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean’. So what better way to commemorate this day than to be out at sea, admiring the full beauty of our ocean from the Pont-Aven! So, as much as our oceans are vital habitats for whales and dolphins, we also have a huge reliance on oceanic ecosystems, such as from the fish we buy in the supermarket to the atmospheric conditions and temperatures we live in. This is all a result of our marine ecosystems. So I thought what better way to honour World Oceans Day than by dedicating part of this blog to sharing with you a few facts about our magnificent oceans and why it is so vital we protect them.

So did you know that our oceans hold around 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere? This means that with our increasing use of fossil fuels over the past 50 years our oceans have acted as vital stores of the excess carbon we have produced. However, this process has come at a price. Increasing carbon dioxide in our oceans means that they are becoming more acidic and causing a process called ocean acidification. This impacts the ability of hard-bodied marine organisms to develop, such as corals, and is responsible for the bleaching effects we see in reef systems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Another fact, did you know the oceans produce half of all the oxygen we breathe? This is largely down to the little powerhouses of the ocean; organisms called phytoplankton, or best described as the ‘plants of the sea’. As well as being vital oxygen providers for us, these organisms also form the base of most oceanic food chains, meaning that without them we wouldn’t have the beautiful whales and dolphins that we see in our oceans! So it is now perhaps more important than ever that we work together to conserve the health of our oceans.

So keeping on the theme of World Oceans Day of course I’m going to mention plastics -yes no marine life blog would be complete without it. We’ve seen great positives as a result on the 5p plastic bag charge that was introduced into England in 2015, with an estimated 80% decrease in plastic bag use. But there is still more to be done. Known as the ‘Blue Planet effect’ following the scenes filmed showing the direct impacts of plastic pollution on marine life, we are now seeing a fantastic backlash against single-use plastics. As consumers we have a great voice to continue this momentum and keep saying “NO” to single-use plastics such as straws, cotton buds, plastic bottles and take-away coffee cups. Because of your voice we have already seen large retailers changing from plastic to paper straws – so they are listening!

Continuing on our week, we were treated to a glorious sunny afternoon as we sailed out of Cork on Saturday 9th - the deck was full with basking passengers! But it wasn’t just the passengers enjoying the sunshine; we caught sight of a sunfish enjoying the beaming rays too! As their names suggests, this species spends most of its time soaking in the sunshine at the surface of the water, scientists believe this behaviour enables birds to pick at them and remove parasites off of their bodies. They really are impressive to see, being the largest species of bony fish we have in our oceans. We also had a quick glimpse of a Risso’s dolphin on our route back to Roscoff – infamous for their scarred white bodies, bulbous heads and tall, almost killer whale-like dorsal fins. 

So another great two weeks of cetacean spotting for us on board the Pont-Aven, I wish another great week for my fellow Wildlife Officers Kate and Lucy and look forward to hearing what they have seen when I’m back. Thank you for reading!

Kirsty

Wildlife Officer - Pont-Aven