our irish sea - The Wildlife Trusts


our irish sea - The Wildlife Trusts
Who we are
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside (the Trust) is a
local wildlife charity, working to protect wildlife for the future. We were established in
1962 and started as a core group of volunteers, growing now into one of the largest
Wildlife Trusts in the country with over 100 members of staff employed.
We manage reserves, deliver projects and engage people in wildlife and
conservation. The Trust’s vision of Living Seas is where marine wildlife thrives, from
the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows, recovering from decades of neglect.
Our beneficiaries are the people, wildlife and wild places of Greater Manchester,
Lancashire, North Merseyside and the adjacent Irish Sea; now and into the future.
The Need
Sir David Attenborough once said: “No one will protect what they don’t care about;
and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” But what if we can’t
easily experience something, does this mean we shouldn’t protect it? What if the
place we want to protect is sometimes dark and murky, and the creatures that live
there are a little ‘unusual’? How can we get people to care? For much of the Irish
Sea, this is our reality. There is a lack of awareness and support from local people,
and schools, about the importance of our Living Seas and the threats that are upon
them. We need to help people experience our Living Seas through a variety of
means in order for them to value it. People need to value the marine environment in
order for them to want to protect it for the future.
Poor public perceptions of our underwater environment are some of the biggest
barriers we face in the UK, marine conservation – and one that The Wildlife Trusts
have been working tirelessly to change over the past 30 years. Qualitative and
quantitative research undertaken by Natural England (2008) into public
engagement with the undersea landscape in England, demonstrated that there are
some clear regional differences in perception. Particularly, the “Northerners
describe ‘their’ sea as dirtier and colder than the rest of the country and cite
industrial pollution as a big factor in this”. Recent surveys have shown that in the
North West, 51% of participants had heard of the idea of ‘Marine Reserves’ but
thought that 29% of the UK’s sea area was already protected. In reality, over 16%
of our seas are now classed as marine protected areas but only a fraction are being
actively managed to prevent damaging activities. People felt that our seas should
be protected but were unclear of how to engage and what needed doing.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said “When people take action, politicians have to
listen.” Nationally and in other parts of the UK, the Wildlife Trusts have
demonstrated that where we invest time to co-ordinate campaigns, we can
influence policy. For example, the Petition Fish campaign was a huge success.
Why is it so urgent that we act now?
Marine habitats as diverse as the Amazon rainforest, and the communities they
support, are at high risk of further damage and deterioration unless the Government
takes urgent action to protect them and restrict damaging fishing practices in the
Irish Sea. Stocks of fish in the Irish Sea including cod, whiting and sole are reaching
crisis point – suffering declines of 80-90% since the late 1980s – due to the vast
numbers that are caught as bycatch from the Dublin Bay prawn fishery. If
exploitation continues at the same rate, these fish species could go extinct in the
Irish Sea within the next 10 years. At the same time, vulnerable habitats continue to
be damaged and we could lose some species: cold-water corals have already
disappeared decades ago due to fishing damage.
Our marine megafauna – the 29 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and
basking sharks regularly found around our coast - are still at risk from damaging
activities and some species are in decline. The nutrient-rich places they need most
for feeding, breeding and socialising are not protected - there are currently no
areas of English waters protected for them, and only one in Wales.
Habitat damage and species loss are just some of the issues facing the Irish Sea.
Although the Government has begun protecting areas so that marine wildlife can
begin to recover from decades of damage and over-exploitation, there is still a lot
to be done. Progress is certainly a lot slower than anticipated due the complex
interaction of interests and jurisdictional issues that face this extremely busy sea.
This means that despite recent progress in some areas, the general trend is still
one of decline.
Out of the 50 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) that have been designated to
date, only four MCZs lie in the Irish Sea. 19 MCZs were originally proposed to the
Government five years ago. The management of new and existing protected areas
has also been slow.
There is an opportunity now to build on the momentum gathered from recent
campaigns around MCZs and fisheries issues. We have the potential to avoid a
mass extinction of species and habitats in the Irish Sea. However, our seas and
marine life need to be valued and urgent action needs to be taken, otherwise we
could be seeing this scenario within the next decade.
Why is this particular proposal a priority for us and how are we uniquely
qualified to tackle the need?
We believe that Living Seas, alongside Living Landscapes, are essential for the
protection and enhancement of our wildlife into the future. Our vision for thriving
marine wildlife is supported by our ongoing marine advocacy and support with the
North West Marine Steering Group, contribution to marine campaigns and promotion
of Living Seas, however we are aware that much more needs to be done at a local
level to step up our campaign work and engage with a wider audience.
Currently there is a lack of capacity within the Trust to drive forward marine
campaigns, or effectively engage the general public and volunteers in the marine
environment. In the North West we have a Marine Conservation Officer (supported
by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation) who works full-time on the Irish Sea Marine
Advocacy Programme. Whilst strategic advocacy can be effective at a regional
level, it is difficult to effectively engage with communities at a local level through a
regional approach. This project will enable face-to-face activities.
The Trust benefits from being part of a network of other Wildlife Trusts across the UK
who have a wealth of experience in delivering marine education and awareness, and
we have also delivered aspects of marine awareness in previous engagement
projects such as the Morecambe Bay Wealth of Wildlife Project which through a
series of family events, walks and training opportunities, engaged a wide audience in
the wildlife delights of Morecambe Bay. Furthermore, we are very experienced in
ways to inspire, involve and engage communities in activities with land-based
conservation. Examples include community engagement work for the Chat Moss
project where local people have lost their connection (funded by Esmée Fairbairn
Foundation 2011 - 2017) and reaching new audiences and instilling a sense of pride
in urban nature reserves through our Gateway to Urban Nature project (2009 –
The needs identified by our beneficiaries:
A marine awareness campaign can be very wide-ranging and across such a large
area can become very diluted with little impact. To ensure that we can target the
right places, reach the right audiences, and organise activities that people actually
want to take part in, we have spoken to a number of partners and conducted a
survey. A separate report has been produced on our findings but the following
highlights were found:
Connect and Take Notice: There is a need for more information to reach a wider
audiences. Messages need to be clear and simple, but spell out the urgency for
action. We need to hook messages onto existing activities, look at ways to
incorporate messages and amazing facts into information we promote about Living
Seas. There needs to be an initial hook to gain the public’s interest and a presence
in the community at every event we possibly can. We need to explore ways in which
we can inspire those people who already have an interest in wildlife but are not
aware of the threats to our marine environment.
Give: There is clearly a wish for people to help with campaigns although people do
have very limited time. We need to explore easy ways in which people can
participate, and build on volunteering opportunities already out there. A lot of people
have ideas and want to help; we need to harness this enthusiasm and enable
support where people are keen to give it.
Learning Something New and Be Active: There are so many amazing facts about
our marine life. We just need the ability to get out there to wow people about why it
is so valuable. We need to inspire people to come and visit our coastline, promote
safe and accessible nature reserves, and give people the confidence to get the most
out of their experience and time while they are visiting.
Who will benefit and the difference we will make:
People will be inspired and engaged in our awareness raising activities helping
them to learn something new and connect with their sea. Our activities will be
accessible, fun and relevant to new audiences. It will give them time to take notice
of their coastline & seas and help protect these. It will encourage people to use
their coastline to become more active. Once people value their marine
environment & our Irish Sea, they will be more inspired to take action in support of
marine conservation. The marine environment will also benefit if people are
inspired to take action and put pressure on the politicians to make our vision of
Living Seas a reality. The project will make a difference by:
Increasing public awareness and action in support of marine conservation;
Building the engagement of local NGOs in marine conservation in positive
Galvanising the power of the people in helping to include conservation
concerns in marine policy.
Influencing marine conservation to help us recover wildlife and habitats from
past declines as our use of the seas’ resources becomes environmentally
Outcomes and targets
Key Outcome
Progress indicator
1 Increased public awareness and
engagement in support of marine
conservation of the Irish Sea
Interactive website and social media
using simple messages; collecting and
sharing stories of marine wildlife; 84
events; number of people attending
2 Increase in volunteers and more
volunteers acting as Living Seas
Champions for the Irish Sea
120 volunteers involved in activities; 20
marine champions recruited, trained and
supported; increase in positive local
3 Build the engagement of local visitor
centres, museums, schools etc. in
marine conservation in positive ways
Run events in partnership with others;
Provide information to, and train staff
and volunteers from a wide range of
organisations, to ensure key messages
can be incorporated in to their events
and tours

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