Marine ‘aliens’ may be lurking in harbour

Whitby Harbour
Whitby Harbour

Non-native species of marine life may be making a home in Whitby’s harbour, say the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The trust has launched a new marine project to monitor the presence of invasive marine species found in harbours along the Yorkshire coast.

The trust’s Vicky Rae said: “Early detection of invasive species is essential to their management and eradication.”

Some non-native species can have a negative effect on marine habitats and wildlife should they become established. They may displace native species by out-competing them for food and space and in some cases this has led to the elimination of indigenous species altogether.

Settlement panels have been placed within Whitby Harbour.

Species. such as filter feeding sea squirts will attach to these and be recorded by scientists.

“Currently there is a distinct lack of information on the presence of non=invasive species along the Yorkshire coastline, with most monitoring programmes conducted in the southern and western part of Britain. This project aims to fill this gap in the data.”

It is believed that factors such as climate change and human activities like shipping have aided the spread of non-native species.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has enrolled a team of volunteers from Scarborough University and members of the general public to help with the project. Funding from the charity Sea-Changers has enabled the trust to purchase materials and safety kit for the voluntters, who will be monitoring the settlement panels each month.

Non-native species not only pose an ecological threat but can also cause socio-economic issues, in particlur to the fishing industy. The sea around Whitby supports part of the UK’s largest shellfishery and there is the potential for non-native species to threaten this industry, not only by altering the marine ecosystem, but also by fouling fishing gear - costing the industry millions of pounds to remove.