Ocean giants on the Fylde doorstep

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In the sea, just a few miles from the Fylde coastline, lurk some of the giants of the aquatic world.

The Irish Sea is home to oceanic heavyweights more closely associated with the world’s more exotic waterways.

Many see our stretch of sea as a mundane place, suitable only for paddling and fishing.

But the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire has revealed porpoises, dolphins and even basking sharks are regular visitors to our waters.

Now the trust has launched a campaign to Save Our Ocean Giants, identifying wildlife hotspots in the Irish Sea.

The campaign aims to increase protection for majestic marine “megafauna”, including the world’s second largest fish, the basking shark, the 25m Fin Whale, humpback whale, common bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins and the harbour porpoise.

North West Marine Conservation Officer Emily Baxter said: “Ocean giants are attracted to many areas of the Irish Sea.

“We regularly have sightings of these large creatures off our coast.

“Harbour porpoise are regularly seen off Fleetwood and the Sefton Coast. We also get sightings along the North Wales coast, in Liverpool Bay, and often hear stories of schools of common dolphins following ferries heading into and out of Liverpool and Heysham.”

The Wildlife Trustsays that UK Government-designated Marine Protected Areas only protect wildlife on the seabed and they are proposing 17 areas which should become protected zones for nine species that regularly use our waters, including whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks.

The Wildlife Trust’s campaign has already seen 27 areas around the UK designated as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ)including 100 square miles off Blackpool, known as the the Fylde MCZ.

Ms Baxter said: “Although the two sites that we have are in the southern Irish Sea, megafauna are not restricted to those areas.

“Our report identifies the hotspots that they use year after year but they travel vast distances and every year we do get reports of bottlenose dolphins and porpoises off Blackpool, Liverpool and Barrow and Whitehaven.

“These creatures are wanderers – they are mobile species - and we have had lots of sightings this summer.”

The Wildlife Trusts will continue to apply pressure on the Government to protect the UK’s seas but the North West Trusts are keen to ensure that the Irish Sea is not forgotten.

Ms Baxter said: “The perception is that the Irish Sea is dirty and lifeless but this is just not true.

“Over the past couple of months we have had reports of amazing creatures like leatherback turtles and sunfish and dolphins off the Merseyside coast.

“We know that porpoise and dolphins inhabit our local waters, and the sea around the Isle of Man is a hotspot for basking sharks.

“I’m sure people would be amazed if they knew that the second biggest fish in the world is just a few miles offshore while they are walking along our beaches.

“Adult basking sharks can grow up to eight metres in length – the length of a bus, and certainly much bigger than anything we have on dry land.

“These wonderful creatures are in our bit of the Irish Sea, and they need our help to make sure they are there for generations to come.”