This summer, help support ongoing research by reporting your marine animal sightings during your sea swims. The Marine Conservation Society’s long-running wildlife sightings project focuses on two key species which arrive on UK shores: jellyfish and, as a result, turtles. Both species are vital in supporting ocean biodiversity and are indicators of climate change while being at risk from its impacts.
During spring and summer, jellyfish arrive in the UK’s warming waters to feed on plankton blooms or, in fact, anything small enough to get caught. With healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity, jellyfish quickly become part of an effective food chain. Everything from tuna to turtles will feed on jellyfish of various sizes, so the population is well controlled.
Supported by a rich and diverse ocean ecosystem, jellyfish link the microscopic world of plankton to larger marine animals and the ocean around them. Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species have been spotted in UK seas as a result of jellyfish blooms in spring and summer.
The largest sea turtle, and the most common in UK seas, is the leatherback which has a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status. Reporting sightings of these incredible creatures will support the Marine Conservation Society and others in understanding their movements, potential threats and how to better protect them.
Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “For more than 17 years, beachgoers across the UK have been contributing to scientific research by sharing their wildlife sightings with us. It’s a key part of our work and plays a vital role in better understanding and protecting our ocean.”
Jellyfish can be spotted year-round in UK seas, but larger blooms are more likely to appear in spring, lasting through until autumn. Jellyfish sighting records from 2021 suggest that compass jellyfish are the most common around UK shores, making up 36% of reported sightings.
See our guide to jellyfish for open water swimmers for more safety information.