SNH has supported Seasearch in Scotland for many years now. The skills and enthusiasm of their union of marine life investigators has in turn supported our own research. Some of our marine team are Seasearch volunteers in their free time. So we were almost as pleased as they were to see the efforts of their citizen scientists recognised as Seasearch won the special Coasts and Waters prize at the recent Nature of Scotland Awards – a one-off award to mark the Year of Coasts & Waters 2020.
Seasearch is a project for volunteer sports divers and snorkelers who have an interest in what they’re seeing underwater, want to learn more about it and help protect the marine environment around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. The information collected by Seasearch divers is helping us to map out the variety of life found on Scotland’s seabed.
For example, during a week-long expedition along the far north coast, Seasearch divers found a live skate egg on a dive near Cape Wrath, which helped us understand how far north these secretive animals are breeding. Other volunteers alerted us to damage on a previously un-mapped flame shell bed in Loch Carron, which we could then protect to prevent further damage.
If you’re a qualified diver who would like to get involved, Seasearch organises a variety of training courses at locations throughout Scotland. Seasearch Observer is a one-day course aimed at giving divers and snorkelers new to the project and marine recording a basic grounding. At the end of the course you should be able to complete the Seasearch Observation Form and take part in Seasearch dives and snorkels on your own, with your club, or on dives organised by Seasearch partners. You can see what they have planned for the coming months on their website – and who knows, the Year of Coast and Waters 2020 could bring you a new connection with Scotland’s nature, and some new dive buddies too! As one course participant said: “I have been diving for 21 years and this is going to transform my diving.”
Natlie Hirrst, Seasearch Coordinator in Scotland, said: “Following the 30th anniversary of Seasearch and a record 500 forms from Scotland in 2018, we are delighted to see the commitment of our volunteers rewarded. We would like to thank our partners and sponsors, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Marine Conservation Society and everyone involved in the project over the years, who continue to make the project a success and contribute vitally important data towards marine conservation goals of the future.”