Dive conservation projects in the UK

[This blog first appeared on greentraveller]

Diving with a seal off the coast of CornwallIf you’re mad about marine life, then volunteering on a dive project can be a rewarding way to spend your holiday.

Many volunteer projects are organised in far-flung (and warmer!) destinations like the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Australia, but if you’re keen to do your bit for conservation, you don’t necessarily have to fly half-way round the world to help out.

At the London Dive Show last week, I found out about an organisation called Seasearch that trains recreational divers here in the UK to gather important data about our very own marine life.

Seasearch was set up in 1987 and has the support of groups like the Marine Conservation Society, the Environment Agency, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

Through the work of volunteers, Seasearch is able to collect information on marine habitats for which very little data exists and has even located species not known to exist in UK waters. More recently, Seasearch findings have been used to help determine where the new Marine Conservation Zones should be established around the UK coast.

The  Seasearch observation formYou need to be a qualified – and reasonably confident – diver to get involved, but Seasearch offers training courses to bring you up to speed on species identification and how to fill in an observation form.

The one-day Seasearch Observation Course costs just £35 and takes place in locations from Dorset and Dublin to Bangor to Norfolk. If you’re a member of a dive club, Seasearch can come and hold a training session especially for your club.

“The one-day course is a great introduction, and then there’s the Seasearch Surveyor course for more experienced observers, and a range of speciality courses like sponge ID,” explains national co-ordinator Chris Wood.

Once you’re adequately trained, you can join one of a number of organised research Seasearch dives around the country. “It’s a very affordable way to dive, as we run the dives at cost price,” says Chris.

Key dive sites for Seasearch this year include the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, Devon, and Pembrokeshire – these links provide suggestions for green accommodation that you can stay at while you’re out finding Nemo (or his distant cousins, at least).

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