This page highlights some marine life, environment and conservation issues and useful links for divers.


Marine environments, habitats and species.

Knowing a bit about the marine environment and the plants and animals you see underwater can help make diving more enjoyable- even those otherwise boring dives on mud or sand! There are nearly always intriguing creatures hidden away and there to see if you only know where to look. Here are a few links that will be useful.

Guides for beginners onwards about marine life

British Marine Life Study Society - follow links from table in bottom third of homepage for species information and guides or click on following selected links: general species list; Anemones ; general fish information - a bit about what they are and how they live, with links for ID etc.

Marine life fact-sheets An easily understandable site about marine life in general with links to other sites for more information.

Marine Life Learning Zone has a number of links with information about species, marine life recording, topic notes, and virtual tours.

The Marine Conservation Society has information about marine life, species and conservation. The MCS also runs the Seasearch programme where divers can learn more about marine life and take part in surveys - see below.

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Species ID, surveys and reporting sightings

fish ID User friendly UK Fish ID page with links to Fishbase.

Fishbase with species listed from all over the world.

MARLIN Habitat and species ID - excellent online database for marine organisms around the UK, with photographs, common and scientific names.

Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland - another excellent online database for marine organisms around the UK, with photographs and scientific names. Particularly good for nudibranchs.

Sea Watch is a national charity, dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the UK.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is a registered charity established in 1994, that has pioneered practical, locally based conservation through education and the study of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Hebrides.

Report whale, dolphin and turtle strandings and sightings in Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland.

Report Basking shark, jellyfish and turtle sightings to the Marine Conservation Society.

NBN Gateway - Distribution Maps of species and habitats around the UK, including information about surveys in different areas.

UK Marine Special Areas of Conservation

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Marine Nature Reserves

There are only three statutory marine reserves designated in the UK:

Lundy Marine Nature Reserve surrounds an island in the Bristol Channel off the west coast of Britain. The clear waters are warmed by the Gulf Stream so colourful warm water species such as branching sponges, red sea fingers, sea fans and cup-corals that are rarely found in British waters can be seen in abundance. Divers need to be experienced enough to cope with fierce tidal currents and get the timing right. Divers are asked to respect the zoning scheme. see also: and

Skomer Marine Nature Reserveis the only Marine Nature Reserve in Wales and has spectacular coastal and underwater scenery with an extremely rich and colourful marine life. The island's steep cliffs plunge deep under water. The west and south coasts are exposed to heavy swells and waves and fierce tidal currents sweep through the Sounds, around headlands and over rock outcrops. Many species found in the reserve are typical of south-west Britain while some are uncommon species which are much more at home in warmer water and at the northern end of their range.

Strangford Lough has been designated as Northern Ireland's first Marine Nature Reserve. The range of geology and landforms in this small area leads to a wide range of current speeds, levels of exposure and shore/seabed types, creating an exceptional variety of undisturbed marine habitats representing most of those described for the Irish Sea.

The Voluntary MR include:

Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve is the longest established Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve (VMNR) in the UK. VMNR status does not offer any extra legal protection to the wildlife of the area - visitors and users are encouraged to contribute to the safeguarding of the site for future generations by treating the wildlife and the environment with respect. See also the Dorset Wildlife Trust webpage for the reserve.

The St. Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve was opened on the 18th of August 1984 by Sir David Bellamy, who plunged into the sea from St. Abbs harbour wall. As a voluntary reserve, protection of the marine life relies on the goodwill of the numerous groups of people who use the area and adhere to the Code of Practice.

The North Devon Voluntary Marine Conservation Area was created in 1994, in recognition of the important wildlife of the area, to raise public awareness of the marine environment and to involve the local community in helping to reduce the threats facing it.

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The Marine Bill consultation

New legislation about how the seas are controlled and managed in the UK is about to be created, and all stakeholders should have had an opportunity to respond to proposals in the consultation.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) outlines conservation issues regarding why we need the marine bill and gives information on marine reserves.

The BSAC response includes information and concerns relevant to divers.


Environmental change

Reports with a Scottish focus on Ocean Climate Status

SNH - Marine Trends

UK climate impacts programme

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Get involved - Seasearch

Recreational divers are contributing enormously to our current knowledge of the marine habitats and species distributions through the Seasearch programme run by the Marine Conservation Society. Seasearch offers three levels of training and the first, Observation level, lasts one weekend and requires no previous experience with marine habitats or species. Even dedicated "wreckies" have been known to say that all these boring squidgy things suddenly become more interesting once they know a bit more about them and can start to recognise what they are. Any dive can be a Seasearch dive, and all you need extra is a slate to record what you see. You can also join dives that are specifically organised to do Seasearch surveys.


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