Tag Archives: featured

LAUNCH SYSTEM FOR ILFRACOMBE’S HARBOUR WASTE SHARK IS NEARLY READY

The new launch system for Ilfracombe Harbour’s very own waste shark, ‘Sharkie’, is getting closer to completion thanks to the arrival of a new shark cage and a lot of hard work.

The custom-built shark cage, along with a trolley and a waterproof cover, have been presented to Ilfracombe Harbour Staff and The Shark Ambassadors from Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines Chivenor and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association. ‘Sharkie’ is the nickname given to the aquatic drone, designed to clear unwanted debris such as plastics and oil from waterways and a much-loved resident of Ilfracombe Harbour. The items will be used to transport it from its home to the new bespoke launch system once complete and installed at the harbour.

The new launch system for ‘Sharkie’ is currently being  set up specifically for Ilfracombe’s tidal range by harbour staff and The Shark Ambassadors. The Shark Ambassadors are local residents who have volunteered their time to help with the set-up of the system and operating ‘Sharkie’ and also the organising of other volunteers who will be trained up when the system is complete. Once complete and Covid-19 restrictions ease, it will mean that ‘Sharkie’ can be launched on a more regular basis in the harbour.

Lead Member for the Environment at North Devon Council, Councillor Netti Pearson, says: “‘Sharkie’ is a real asset to Ilfracombe and as a resident of the town I look forward to seeing it back in action. I was at the launch last year, it is a novel way to raise awareness of the amount of plastic waste that washes up in the harbour and is a useful tool for measuring and reducing other pollutants in the water. The new equipment will make it easier to launch ‘Sharkie’, and house it safely, so we will be able to see it in action more often.”

Ilfracombe Harbour Master, Georgina Carlo-Paat, says: “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines Chivenor and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association for all their hard work developing these items for us to house ‘Sharkie’, the resulting cage, trolley and cover are brilliant and have moved the completion of the project a huge step closer.”

Chairman of the Royal Marines Association in North Devon, John Peel, says: “The communities of Ilfracombe and North Devon are very appreciative of the Armed Forces and the work they do and particularly those stationed at RMB Chivenor and the base at Instow.  As chairman, acknowledging the responsibilities we have to our local veterans, it is great to have such a good relationship within the community and we are always very well received when out and about.

“It is a great pleasure to able to support projects when they come around and the ‘Sharkie’ project has, yet again, been an opportunity to collaborate in a positive way and continue to enhance relationships.  We look forward to being able to come back to Ilfracombe for future events.”

‘Sharkie’ was first launched in Ilfracombe Harbour in March 2019 and has been stored away during the winter months. This recent project has been funded with a grant from the AONB along with other local contributors. Once launched, the drone has the capabilities to gather air and water quality data, and filter chemicals out of the water such as oil, arsenic, and heavy metals through filtering pads.

‘Sharkie’ is controlled by harbour staff alongside the Shark Ambassadors and all waste recovered from it will be deposited in the Ocean Recovery Project bins at Ilfracombe Harbour, then collected by North Devon Council for sorting.  Ocean Recovery will then recycle the separated plastic waste into pellets, which can in turn be made into kayaks and composite flooring.

 

CALL FOR CITIZEN SCIENTISTS TO HELP KEEP VITAL CONSERVATION PROJECTS ON TRACK

Exmoor National Park is calling on people to help rescue conservation projects that have been hit by the coronavirus lockdown, by reporting sightings of important plants and wildlife spotted in their garden or whilst out walking on Exmoor.

The plea follows the launch of #30DaysWild this month, the Wildlife Trusts’ challenge to the nation to carry out Random Acts of Wildness every day in June, and is a great way of giving something back to the landscapes we love.

The National Park relies on records submitted by volunteers and the general public to help monitor the condition of habitats on Exmoor through its WildWatch scheme. This helps paint a picture of overall ecological health to help target conservation efforts and tackle problem invasive species.

The lockdown has meant many volunteer teams being stood down and far fewer records being submitted. This is a particular problem for projects with short-term funding, such as the Exmoor Non-Native Invasive Species (ENNIS) project – a two-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, the National Trust and Natural England that was set to majorly scale up work to control invasive species in the National Park.

Ali Hawkins, Exmoor National Park Conservation Officer, said: “Prior to the lockdown we had a dedicated team of trained volunteers ready to start surveying for invasive species. But even with some volunteers now returning to surveying, we have nothing like the numbers needed for large-scale monitoring. Meanwhile the clock is ticking down on our two years of funding and, if we don’t find a way to get some records in, it could have a serious impact on the whole project.

“We’re appealing to everyone locally to take a little time out to check what’s growing and living in their gardens and, if out walking on Exmoor, to report what they see. Many of the invasive species that threaten our precious habitats started life as garden plants and it’s surprising how many private gardens still harbor them. Equally we would absolutely love to hear about all the bees, butterflies, songbirds, bats, owls, fungi and wild flowers that signal nature is thriving.

“Now is a good time to look out for the invasive species ‘American skunk cabbage’, with its large green fleshy leaves and distinctive yellow flower spikes. Sightings of this plant will help us tackle it as part of our ENNIS Project, which is funded by Defra and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. You will also spot the emergence of Japanese and Himalayan knotweed, Himalayan balsam and montbretia and we’d like to hear about these species too.”

Submitting a record is quick and easy and can be done on your mobile phone via the iNaturalist App or at www.inaturalist.org. There is even a category for unidentified species, so you don’t necessarily need to know the name. Or, if you don’t have a smart device, head to www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/wild-watch to submit an online record and also download a handy spotter guide.

PHOTO: American skunk cabbage has been banned from sale in the UK since 2016 due to the damage it can cause to native species if left to spread in the wild. Look out for it in wet woodland and on the banks of ponds and rivers. Seen here on the River Barle in Exmoor National Park.

EXMOOR RANGERS’ PLEA TO PROTECT WILDLIFE AS VISITORS RETURN TO MOORS

Exmoor National Park Rangers are asking people to be mindful of ground-nesting birds, baby deer and other wildlife that may have been caught out by the sudden return of visitors to the moors, following the easing of Government restrictions.

Many ground-nesting birds will have nested in spring while crowds were away, making them particularly vulnerable to disturbance now visitors, and particularly dogs, have returned.

Ranger Charlotte Wray, who also volunteers as a BTO bird surveyor, said: “It’s great to see people enjoying the outdoors once again. But with most businesses still shut and the need to social distance, we’re seeing a lot more people heading to open moorland and quieter parts of the National Park, where previously nature has been free to carry on relatively undisturbed.

“Please tread carefully and be mindful that wildlife may not have had time to adjust to the sudden influx of visitors and turn up in some unusual places, such as on or near paths. If lucky your thoughtfulness may be rewarded by some pretty amazing natural encounters.

“Ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable and known to abandon their nests if they feel threatened by predators. This includes your family dog, who in following its instincts can innocently ruin these rare birds’ chance to breed successfully.”

How to have great wildlife experience:

  • Time it right. Dawn and dusk are peak activity times for many animals, especially during the hotter summer months.
  • Keep a respectful distance. If a bird flies away, circles, makes repeated alarm calls or feigns injury, move away immediately. If an animal lingers on in one location, ask yourself why – it may have young nearby and feel extremely stressed by your continued presence. The same applies to livestock with young.
  • Stay on the paths, particularly around habitats often used by birds and other animals for nesting or shelter, such as dense heather, riverbanks or wetlands.
  • Take the lead. Curious dogs can scare ground-nesting birds and cause them to abandon their nests. By law they must be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July on open access land. Dogs should be under close control at all times near livestock.
  • Leave the BBQ at home. Moorland fires can be particularly devastating to wildlife in breeding season, so leave the BBQ at home and bring a picnic instead.
  • Take action for nature. Help us better target conservation efforts by letting us know what you see and hear while out on Exmoor at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/wild-watch.