Sussex Sea-search (Diverse ’06)

Notes from the recent Diverse ’06 conference st Surrey University organised by the BSAC South-East Region.

Kate Cole’s presentation at Diverse ’06 was an overview of the activities of Sea-search and a call for volunteers to participate in the scheme.

Any UK diver that is interested in wildlife can be involved in this effort to attain an overview of the distribution of aquatic life around our coast. And there seems more of it than you might think. Of the forty thousand or so species in the sea, half can be found around the UK! Including the second biggest fish in the world – the basking shark.

The main aim of the survey is to understand our environment and the pressures that industry, fishing and pollution place on marine species. Volunteer divers play an important role.

Sussex Sea-search is part of a nation-wide programme, but as you might expect, the Sussex survey area covers the 140 or so kilometres of coast from Chichister to Rye. And the programme offers a great introduction to divers that are interested in marine conservation. In fact the only pre-requsites are good buoyancy control and the ability to record what you see and a slate.

Divers record the types of seabed, any interesting underwater features and what species are common during their dive. And, any dive can be a Sea-search dive.

Divers can participate at three levels:

1) Observer

At this level you are simply expected top complete a form after your dive, say in the car-park before you go to the pub. Observers need to complete a days training, and their first five entries are assessed.

2) Surveyor

The form for this level is a bit more in depth (complete it in the pub after a dive) and there are two days training and two assessed dives. But, you get a qualification!

3) Specialist

This level is adaptable, evolving and flexible. Focusing on either a particular species or site.

As you can see, anyone can participate. And, the more divers that are involved the better the picture of our coastal wildlife can be put together. As Kate emphasised – “Any dive can be a Sea-search dive”, you just need to be willing to fill out a form.

So what happens to all these forms?

All the data is collected into a national, and publicly available, database to be used to inform conservation decisions and plans. This information helps determine dredging licences and boundaries and fishing rights. But also builds into a comprehensive guide to all marine life and areas of significance.

For instance, the Sussex coast is unique in having the only underwater chalk cliffs – only four feet high though. It also sports the largest concentration of wreck sites.

On the wildlife front:

  • The hermit crab is the most commonly recorded species.
  • It is the easterly limit of the Jewel anemone
  • Rare sightings include both the Ross and Cup corals along with the Grey Triggerfish!

If you want to find out more about the programme, visit