Coast The Truth about Wildlife


Coast

Chris Packham takes a look at the nation's wildlife and its conservation. He travels to Lundy to examine an exclusion zone there that has benefited undersea creatures.


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Transcript


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The sea - the lifeblood of our island nation.

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Some 10,000 species are known to live in British waters.

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Yet this undersea world is endangered

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from our indifference and exploitation.

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Tonight, I'll find out why seahorses are under threat.

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Nobody has done a single thing

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to protect seahorses in the wild, under water.

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Why fishermen feel aggrieved.

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We are just seen to be rapists and pillagers of the sea

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and that's not the case.

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And look at how our ocean inhabitants might be protected in the future.

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If I'm honest with you our record when it comes to marine conservation

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is pretty patchy.

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Perhaps that's because for the likes of you and I,

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it's out of sight out of mind.

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So, join me because I'm on a quest

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to find out what the future actually holds for our marine creatures.

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I'm on a quest to find out the truth about wildlife.

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Grey skies, a biting wind, it's the great British seaside,

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the closest most of us get to the salty stuff.

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Here on the beach near Brighton the rocks are rich

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with unlikely seaside stars. Limpets.

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I know they don't look much

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but they do play a valuable role in the ecosystem on this shore.

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These animals are grazers.

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If you like, they are the sheep of the shore.

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At the moment they are resting on the rock here in this shelter

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but when tide comes in they'll become active

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and they will roam, yes, roam, all over the surface of this rock

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eating the algae that grows on it.

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And, the only reason that this rock is clear of algae

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is a bit of wave and wear and tear,

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but also because it's been scoured by these limpets.

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So without limpets the balance of life on this shore

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could easily be turned upside down.

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Believe it or not, the Portuguese love eating them

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and I'm joining Mario and John for breakfast.

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These limpets didn't get eaten and they're still alive

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and the naturalist in me says, "I've got to save them."

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My good deed for the day.

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-Are they done then?

-Yep! All done.

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That'll be good, will it?

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You may be wondering what eating limpets has got to do with conservation.

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That's superb.

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It's really, really tasty.

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I feel a bit of a traitor saying that, though.

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I'm eating the cast!

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So, if a few people come along the shore here and collect a few limpets

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it's a bit like us going out on a summer's afternoon and picking a few blackberries.

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But if hordes of people were to come and completely denude the beach

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it would be a catastrophe.

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That over-harvesting might not be happening here, on shore,

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but it's certainly happening out there at sea.

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This is a scallop dredge at work.

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These pictures from a research video show how the teeth of the trawl

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rake along the seabed.

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Everything, everything, including starfish,

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is churned up as the dredge speeds over the boulders.

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It's relentless.

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Eventually the seabed gets so worn it looks like this.

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This is a reef off Lyme Bay on the Dorset coast.

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Rare, slow-growing pink sea fans lie broken.

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These pictures helped convince the Government

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to ban scallop dredging from 60 square miles here,

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but it took 16 years to get that ban.

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Lyme Bay was the forerunner of what's happening now.

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A new network of marine conservation zones will ring Britain's coast.

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Some zones may restrict fishing or ban it outright.

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How do fishermen feel about this?

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Morning!

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How are you?

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-Fine, yourself?

-Well, I'm all right at the moment.

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'I'm taking to a South Devon scallop boat to find out.

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'Dave Hurford has been fishing all his life.

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'Seven months of the year it's sprats, the rest, scallops.

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'The Lyme Bay closure still rankles.'

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How aggrieved were the fishermen?

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-Are they really bitter about it?

-I think they are.

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They've closed 60 square miles of ground off,

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but a lot of that ground still could be fished quite easily.

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And, not doing any harm to anything.

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Why don't you trust the fishery scientists, the conservationists?

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I think that the scientists... I don't believe the scientists, no,

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because the scientists get it wrong with the fish quotas.

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There are species of fish which are much more abundant than they were years ago

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and they're being dumped back into the sea.

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It's a total waste of a resource.

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I would argue, that's paperwork, that's bureaucracy,

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-that's European regulation.

-Yeah.

-It's not fish science.

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I would argue that the fish science has got to a point of understanding

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where we know we have to protect the stocks

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to give you guys a sustainable future and keep the seas

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rich enough to function.

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We want to see a sustainable stock of fish of all species

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for years to come, of course we do,

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but there's lots of areas that are already closed off,

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like the crabbing areas. All that is breeding ground for fish.

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Scallops are fast breeders with no quota,

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so more fishermen are going after them.

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When the scallop grows it produces these rings on its shell.

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You can see there's a pale one here.

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We used to think these equated to annual growth rings,

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like those we find on trees.

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It may or may not be the case,

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these are clearly periods where the animals are growing more quickly

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because it's finding a lot more food.

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And these can live up to 20 years.

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20 years, you wouldn't think it, would you?

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That is, of course, unless they get caught.

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There doesn't seem to be a lot of stuff in here that isn't scallops.

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No, the odd swimmer crab and the odd starfish,

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nothing of any consequence. The ones that are undersized, below 100ml go straight back.

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Anything that looks a little bit dodgy, will be measured.

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Anything that's not big enough will go back in.

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Fishermen are involved in drawing up the map of these conservation zones

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but Dave feels that no-one's really listening to them.

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-Are you being bullied?

-You are.

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At the end of the day all of this has been decided behind closed doors.

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Everybody can bleat all they like, it's going to happen and that's that.

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Let's hope not all our fishermen friends are quite so gloomy.

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To be honest with you, Lyme Bay has become a bit of a cause celebre

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in the conservation world on account of

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all of the animosity and bickering

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we had to go through to get the ban in place.

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So the big question is, of course,

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has it actually paid off - has it worked?

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The reefs are being monitored by Plymouth University researchers.

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Two years on from the ban, this reef outside the closed area

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is still being fished and the seabed is bare.

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There's little sign of any life.

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Inside, where the dredging's stopped, it's different.

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Look, wonderful sponges colonising the seabed,

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a hungry crab is lured in by mackerel in the bait box

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and there's a pink sea fan growing.

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We have to say that's encouraging,

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there are definitely signs of recovery there.

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It's only through monitoring sites like this where fishing has been restricted

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that we could then argue the case to create areas where there's absolutely no fishing at all.

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What we are going to call, "no take zones."

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Well, at the moment, there are only two "no take zones"

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in all of the English waters

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and I'm off to see how the oldest one, Lundy Island, is doing.

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This granite outpost in the Bristol Channel

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has been a marine nature reserve for 25 years.

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Eight years ago, lobster potting and all other fishing,

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was banned from the east coast of the island.

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There's a carnival of life going on down there,

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but let's not get too carried away.

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Here we are on a misty morning but let's be clear from the start

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we haven't come here to celebrate

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a great British marine conservation success

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because sadly the protected area is insignificantly small.

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But it is tremendously valuable,

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it has given us the opportunity to measure scientifically

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the benefits of this "no take zone."

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Monitoring over four years here showed a five-fold increase in lobster numbers.

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but the scientist in charge says he saw little change in other species.

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Part of the reason for the "no take zone" being set up

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was a concern that the potting activity

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was damaging other species of conservation importance

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like pink sea fans and sponges and other soft corals

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but we didn't find any evidence in the short period

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that we were studying it that they were recovering.

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But I have to say some of these effects of "no take zones"

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can take 20 to 30 years to emerge.

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We wouldn't expect some of these benefits to be instantly obvious.

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That seems to make sense and, in fact, there's been no monitoring here for three years,

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so our divers are going to see what they can find.

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Cold damp, wet, that's the divers.

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Warm tea, relatively warm clothes, comfortable on deck, that's me.

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'We've got a lobster.'

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See what you can get some shots of and I'll look forward to seeing it.

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Will do.

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Meanwhile, we'll put the kettle on.

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Despite my sarcasm, I'm itching to see what the divers have found down there.

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Does this look like a rich, marine environment because it's a "no take zone"?

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There's definitely more life in a concentrated area

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than where I live out of Plymouth.

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That was really good for me to see.

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Look, guys, I know it was tough down there. It is March, not September.

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It was a bit silty but we can see there is a richness of life.

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Yeah, there's lots of life coming on all the rock.

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That's a pink sea fan, which are very fragile and prone to damage.

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Looking under the nooks and crannies is where you'll find your shellfish.

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There's a little, juvenile, nosey lobster at this point.

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Yeah, yeah.

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OK, next up.

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-This was a bigger fella.

-Oh, yeah.

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A little bit more playful, this one. Hopefully he'll give us a turn.

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He's probably about nine inches down the carapace.

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It's really nice to see a good variety of sizes.

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They're obviously growing and sticking in the environment.

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It's coming out a treat. Look at that.

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-Beautiful thing.

-A lovely blue colour in this one.

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A nice orange antennae.

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Blue legs.

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I know a lot of you at home are thinking,

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"You know, what is this? You're showing us a lobster, this isn't sexy wildlife."

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People come to Lundy to see puffins.

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This is a fantastic animal, I have to say.

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Lundy's seabeds are thriving, but getting a "no take zone" was an easy win,

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it was already a marine nature reserve.

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It won't be as easy where many more competing interests clash

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and more jobs are at stake.

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The only way you can resolve those debates is by doing these studies.

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It would be helpful to have more, it would take out a lot of the heat.

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A lot of it comes down to money, funding from Government.

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But also having people in the Government agencies

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that are scientifically minded, that they are aware that the decisions that designate these things

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shouldn't be the end point of management, it should be the starting point

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for science to evaluate the effects of the management.

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The seas are undeniably rich

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but if you add this to the UK's only other "no take zone"

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they add up to less than seven square kilometres.

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A mere drop in Britain's oceans.

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Surely there has to be a middle ground between somewhere that's totally protected

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and somewhere that's ravaged.

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Hopefully it's going to be these marine conservations zones that we've been talking about.

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There should be a whole ring of them appearing around the UK.

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I'm off to a place that might be one of the first.

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This is the beautiful Studland Bay in Dorset's Isle of Purbeck.

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The water here is home to one of the country's most enigmatic

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and delightful creatures, the spiny seahorse.

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Given that they are such pin-up stars when it comes to marine creatures

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you'd think looking after them was relatively easy.

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But no. In fact, it's caused a right old controversy.

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Surprisingly, for a fish, seahorses aren't very good swimmers.

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They hang out in eel grass beds for something to hang on to

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and it's here that they find their food.

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Seahorses are protected by law, just like dormice or bats.

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You harm one of these at your peril.

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Yet here, seahorses are under constant threat.

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It looks like the Caribbean,

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just doesn't feel like it.

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The seahorses knights in shiny black neoprene are Neil Garrick Maidment of the Seahorse Trust,

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and campaigner Steve Trewhella.

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What a strange couple of creatures I've discovered here.

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Morning Neil, Steve.

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Nice to see you, as ever.

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-Any seahorses?

-Not yet, but hopefully later on if we do another dive.

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You say, "hopefully" but what number of animals are we talking about here?

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On this site, probably a maximum of about 40 animals a year

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which is a tiny population on such an amazing site.

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-You mean 40 seahorses in total?

-Yeah.

-Throughout the course of the year?

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This site should actually have four times that amount of animals on it.

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That's a very fragile population. It takes one little oil spill,

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-one storm and it could wipe the whole lot out.

-Yeah.

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Is it habitat that's limiting the expansion of the species here?

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Not at all, it's actually man problems again.

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It's anchoring and mooring damage that's destroying the sea bed and the sea grass that the seahorses live in.

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That's why the numbers are low here.

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-That's not the case here?

-No, we're actually on sand here.

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We have to go a little bit out. We'll get on a boat and toodle on out

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-and show you what we're doing.

-Let's go and take a look.

-OK.

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Steve's going underwater to find evidence of the damage these heavy mooring chains are doing.

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It's illegal to disturb the place of shelter of a seahorse.

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So, the sea grass bed here is being disturbed

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so it's actually disturbing the site of a protected species.

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-What's it like?

-There's a big wear mark underneath the boat.

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-It's damaged?

-Really damaged, yeah.

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The chain goes around like the hands on a clock with the tide.

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It'll slap the seabed every time it goes round with the tide.

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It doesn't spare anything. It goes around in a big circle.

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Why aren't the agencies that are responsible sorting it out?

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It seems to have been going on for three, four, five years?

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It's been going on every since the seahorses were protected on 6th April 2008.

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Nobody has done a single thing to protect seahorses, in the wild, under water.

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As if to prove the point, whilst we've been filming, a yacht has turned up and moored here

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and this is within the sea grass area.

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It's happening on a daily basis, even not in the peak of the season.

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I suppose the skipper might argue he doesn't know the damage he's doing

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and then we might say, "It's the conservationists' fault for not telling him".

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Frankly, he shouldn't be able to moor here in the first place.

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Many boat owners don't believe the moorings cause damage,

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so a small voluntary, no-anchor zone is testing this.

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Will a new conservation zone help? Steve's not optimistic.

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We already have laws in place that aren't working.

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Why should we believe the new ones will?

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Many meetings later, will we have protection in place? It's unlikely.

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If we can't get it right here, we're not going to get it right at all.

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It is possible to get it right without a shadow of a doubt.

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If only everyone was as passionate, then this problem would be solved.

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This is a rare and wonderful creature

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which could so easily be better protected.

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But it's one small example of out of sight, out of mind.

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Where I'm going next, there's a battle on a far bigger scale

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at one of Europe's biggest harbours in Cornwall.

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So, look, we are beginning to understand that many interests,

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fishing, obviously, leisure as well, are coming into conflict with the aims of conservation

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as it stands at the moment.

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But occasionally individual development proposals can be difficult to reconcile

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and there's one here in Falmouth.

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A multi, multi-million-pound project to dredge and improve the port

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for the alleged future prosperity of the entire town and region

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and it's on hold, down to this.

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Algae. I know what you're thinking.

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This doesn't look it's best. It's dead.

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But beneath me there's a living carpet of this algae,

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called maerl. It's like a tropical coral reef

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and the bay here is the largest UK outpost,

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a nursery for a huge variety of animals and plants.

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Maerl is also protected by European law

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but even so, scallop fishing continued here

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until the Marine Conservation Society stepped in to stop it.

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This is a special area of conservation, so why wasn't it being protected?

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That's one of the first questions. We've got the designation.

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I'd have to say there's a weakness in the regulators,

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the people who are officially tasked with managing,

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potentially damaging activities

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and damaging activities like scallop dredging that was occurring here until 2007/08.

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We had to step in as a third party in an office in Ross-on-Wye

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to manage an activity which was clearly damaging in Cornwall

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because the local regulators didn't want to touch it.

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That is outrageous.

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The Marine Conservation Society is now lobbying for 30% of our coastal waters

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to be closed to all fishing.

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But they're nowhere near winning that argument.

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We feel that not more than 0.5% of our waters will be no take.

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0.5% of the UK's waters could become no take?

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Maybe 1%.

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OK, to achieve that, then, I would argue we need far greater public support.

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You need the public behind you

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so you can go and say, this is what people want.

0:21:480:21:53

Yeah, and we need them to be frustrated and angry

0:21:530:21:56

about the current state of affairs.

0:21:560:21:58

We are destroying a renewable resource that we could have on our plates for eternity.

0:21:580:22:04

It's just bad management. We do need angry people out there.

0:22:050:22:10

Can you be frustrated and angry?

0:22:100:22:13

Hearing all of this I can do it really easily.

0:22:130:22:17

God...

0:22:170:22:19

I was soothed, though, by the surprise arrival of Miles Hoskin,

0:22:200:22:24

our Lundy lobster expert, with a real treat.

0:22:240:22:28

Thank you.

0:22:300:22:31

So this is the stuff, Jean Luc, that we're talking about.

0:22:320:22:35

You can imagine how wonderful that is for critters to live in,

0:22:350:22:39

molluscs, snails, shrimps,

0:22:390:22:41

tiny crabs, all these are food for a multitude of species

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and fantastic for recruitment and life.

0:22:440:22:47

Once neglected, now protected, I'm very pleased to see the little guy,

0:22:470:22:53

the thing at the bottom of the food chain has got the protection that it needs,

0:22:530:22:57

not only here, but in European terms and if we can look after little things like this

0:22:570:23:02

then our ambition for more glamorous species

0:23:020:23:05

at the top of the food chain might be realised as well.

0:23:050:23:09

Miles, what can I say, it's best delivery I've ever had.

0:23:090:23:12

It was phenomenal!

0:23:120:23:14

I'll be talking about it for years.

0:23:140:23:16

Thank you very much, indeed. Cheers!

0:23:160:23:19

And our glamour guys are, of course, dolphins.

0:23:210:23:25

Curious, intelligent, beautiful, dolphins delight us all.

0:23:250:23:29

They're a real T-shirt animal and without dolphins, we would be very much poorer.

0:23:290:23:36

And, sadly, today I am without dolphins.

0:23:360:23:40

In five hours at sea I've seen nothing but gulls.

0:23:400:23:43

The thing is we're looking for a few slippery needles in a giant, wet haystack.

0:23:430:23:50

The population of these animals in the Channel is so low.

0:23:500:23:54

And yet 100, 150 years ago,

0:23:540:23:57

this place would have had lots and lots of dolphins.

0:23:570:24:02

But not today.

0:24:020:24:03

While the new protected areas will stretch 200 miles out into international waters,

0:24:050:24:10

where the dolphins live, they won't be specifically protected,

0:24:100:24:15

nor will our seabirds, or the fish that we eat.

0:24:150:24:19

Instead, the aim is to create a coherent network

0:24:190:24:22

of nationally important habitats.

0:24:220:24:27

For this to work, to get populations of creatures like dolphins back to the levels that we might aspire to,

0:24:270:24:34

we need a healthy marine ecosystem, and to get that,

0:24:340:24:39

we need effective, well-thought-out, marine conservation.

0:24:390:24:45

This is the sharp end, tomorrow this'll be on your plate.

0:24:480:24:51

To some, this bounty is evidence of heedless exploitation.

0:24:510:24:55

To others, it's proof there's still plenty of fish in the sea.

0:24:550:24:58

Here they are look, Dave's scallops,

0:25:010:25:03

and there are ten dozen in every box and I've counted 49 boxes.

0:25:030:25:09

He'll be hoping for a good price, of course.

0:25:090:25:11

Conservationists and fishermen say they want the same thing,

0:25:120:25:16

sustainable fish stocks and a thriving business.

0:25:160:25:19

But as industry negotiator Nick Prust tells me,

0:25:190:25:23

the Lyme Bay ban created suspicion and this doesn't bode well

0:25:230:25:27

when it comes to the new marine conservation zones.

0:25:270:25:29

We're just seen to be

0:25:290:25:34

rapists and pillagers of the sea and that's not the case.

0:25:340:25:37

There are some 21 zones to my knowledge

0:25:370:25:42

from Poole to Milford Haven.

0:25:420:25:45

They're crazy.

0:25:450:25:47

They're not required.

0:25:470:25:48

There's no reasoning, no scientific reasoning for those areas to be put in.

0:25:480:25:54

If there are put in and "no take zones" are designated within them,

0:25:540:25:58

do you think the fishermen will respect those?

0:25:580:26:01

I don't know.

0:26:010:26:03

I think we've got to work to try to get them stopped.

0:26:030:26:07

The minister who's balancing all the competing interests admits, inevitably, there will be losers.

0:26:080:26:14

He says that fishermen need to look to the future.

0:26:140:26:17

If they're constantly battered and beaten into a corner,

0:26:180:26:21

then what we're trying to do will lack credibility.

0:26:210:26:24

We've got to work with them.

0:26:240:26:25

Yes, we've got to enforce them. We've got the means of doing that.

0:26:250:26:29

They have to part of the solution.

0:26:290:26:32

Then they will work with conservationists and government

0:26:320:26:36

to make sure what we're trying to protect is protected.

0:26:360:26:40

That's important because then their children and grandchildren will be able to carry on fishing.

0:26:400:26:45

I want to create is a sustainable future for them

0:26:450:26:49

because we've got a sustainable ecosystem in the sea

0:26:490:26:53

where they operate.

0:26:530:26:54

So, at the end of my quest, are my hopes raised, or on the rocks?

0:26:540:27:00

It might surprise you but I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for those fishermen.

0:27:000:27:05

They've been at the rough end of a rusty stick for a long time

0:27:050:27:08

and when they accuse certain conservationists of being a bit arrogant, self righteous,

0:27:080:27:14

well, I can sympathise there, too, because I see that sadly in some aspects of conservation.

0:27:140:27:20

Come on, guys, this is not the time for finger wagging

0:27:200:27:23

when it comes to peoples' livelihoods.

0:27:230:27:26

You night expect my sympathy to run a bit thin

0:27:260:27:29

when fishermen clearly have no understanding of ecosystems

0:27:290:27:33

of the real marine environment

0:27:330:27:36

but I could still turn that back to us

0:27:360:27:38

and say that we haven't done our job to educate them,

0:27:380:27:41

and I'm not being patronising, as to how it actually works.

0:27:410:27:45

Where my sympathy runs thin, though, is with those leisure users

0:27:450:27:48

because livelihoods aren't at stake there.

0:27:480:27:51

That's about a G&T on a Sunday afternoon.

0:27:510:27:53

So, come on, let's sort it out for the seahorses.

0:27:530:27:56

Ultimately, am I optimistic or pessimistic?

0:27:560:28:01

Well, true, we've got our new MCZs just over the horizon

0:28:010:28:05

but will they be properly monitored, properly regulated?

0:28:050:28:10

I've got my doubts.

0:28:100:28:12

Beyond that, I have to be optimistic

0:28:120:28:15

because if we don't look after this environment,

0:28:150:28:17

we ourselves will be in big trouble.

0:28:170:28:20

For the moment, though, the best I can offer is this.

0:28:200:28:25

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:360:28:39

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:390:28:42

Naturalist Chris Packham presents a hard hitting personal take on what's going wrong - and sometimes right - with our marine wildlife and its conservation. Chris travels to Lundy to see how a no-take zone there has benefited undersea creatures and to Lyme Bay to see the impact of a scallop dredging ban. He finds conservationists and fishermen at loggerheads over proposed new marine conservation zones that may help to protect wildlife in the future.


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