This post on how to help marine creature friends focuses more on mammals, also see giving seagulls back their natural home, and how to clean up our oceans. Marine creatures abound on our shores, and can include ones you don’t see (unless you live near certain coastlines). England is home to many dolphins, porpoises, seals, whales and harmless basking sharks. Also spend a day exploring the seashore and wear biodegradable flip-flops. And show compassion to crustaceans.
- Dolphins are intelligent and playful. We have around 30 species circling our shores, eating fish, squid and crustaceans. They are related to orcas (killer whales) which often get sunburn in Seaworld and other aquariums, as the tanks are not deep enough to protect their backs in hot weather. They are very social with eyesight 10 times better than us, but they can’t smell. Their only real threats are pollution, fishing waste and hunting.
- Porpoises are found in most harbour areas on our coastlines. They look a bit like dolphins, but are quite different creatures with super hearing to echo-locate their food. They are less sociable than dolphins, so you won’t find them swimming in large pods. .
- Seals are mostly seen in Eastern England and South West. Again they are playful and have been called ‘water-dogs’ as they like to have their tummies tickled by divers! They are at risk from pollution although they spend a lot of time on land (keep dogs on leads, if nearby). One lorry driver found a young seal on a motorway. It remains a mystery, but the seal was taken to a rescue centre, and was eventually released back to the sea.
- Whales are also seen in England. Humpback whales (around half the size of a big blue whale) and sperm whales (toothed whales with the biggest brains on earth) have been noticed. Again they are affected by everything from pollution to fishing waste to noise pollution (they sing to each other across the waves). Jojoba oil is a beauty product that is used as an alternative to whale blubber (ambergris is ‘whale poop’ used in perfumes).
Basking Sharks are found around Cornwall, and in the Isle of Man and Hebrides in Scotland. They only arrive in summer, and are very shy. Before you run screaming from the beach, these are gentle giants and won’t harm you. Myths surround this ‘magnificent monster’ because when when it dies, its carcass rots to reveal a small head and long neck like a sea monster. If you are thinking ‘Nessie the Loch Ness Monster’, DNA tests have shown no basking sharks, the latest idea is that it’s a giant eel!
- Sea turtles are found in our waters (especially leatherback turtles). If you see one, call British Divers Marine Life Rescue, as most don’t come ashore, it may be in trouble. Again hazards are fishing waste and balloons (which look like jellyfish). Unlike most turtles, they can’t retract into their shell. They are ‘ocean lawnmowers’, as when not looking for jellyfish, they eat seagrass.
- Octopuses (not octopi!) are highly intelligent creatures. Read The Soul of an Octopus. They can bounce objects (despite having no bones), change colour (they have blue blood), squirt ink and have three hearts. They even outwit fishermen and use nets as trampolines! The only time alas you see them much is in tanks, as people eat them (sometimes alive).
How to Help Marine Creatures
- Fishing waste. If you angle, take all your fishing waste with you, and dispose of it responsibly (sealed in the bin or in a fishing line recycling bin that doesn’t resemble a bird’s nest). Lead shot was banned a few years back, but still lurks in some riverbeds.
- Oil. Oil spills cause all birds to lose insulation and waterproofing, so they freeze or drown. Recycle used oil, use waterless car wash (to stop oily water going down storm drains) and use a funnel to change oil. See tips to be a greener driver. Antifreeze is lethal to pets/wildlife. Let mechanics change it in a controlled environment: use sand or kitty litter to soak up spills).
- Don’t release balloons or fire lanterns. Balloons are the top choking hazards for children, and fire lanterns also are mistaken for coastal flares, risking lives (they cause wildfires on dry land).
- Kite strings can get trapped around bird necks and wings. Expert advice is to not fly kites, as they cause harm when they fall to land or sea. If you use them, choose biodegradable kites (slightly less dangerous) and avoid at dawn/dusk, when birds are likely flying.
- British Divers Marine Life Rescue are on call to help injured or orphaned wildlife (you can also be put through by RSPCA or Coastguard). Friends can take a Marine Mammal Medic Course.
- Wildlife-friendly boaters can take a 4-day course with WiSe Scheme and get a flag, ideal if you run a boating business. The Green Blue has tips on green and wildlife-friendly boating.
- If abroad, follow boating codes to help endangered dugongs and manatees (‘sea cows’). Fast boats, jet-skis and loss of habitat are main threats.
- If you dine abroad, avoid eating food from endangered species. The main marine creature to avoid is shark fin soup (the fins are cut off while the shark is still alive). It apparently does not even taste of anything.