Fascinating year for sea life explored

SEAL sightings in Shoreham and how they link to the bigger picture will be discussed at a marine wildlife course.

Tutor Stephen Savage is leading the Sussex Sea Life – Mammals to Sharks course for the Sussex Wildlife Trust at Southwick Community Centre on Saturday, November 16, 10am to 4pm.

Stephen said: “There will be a big focus on the recent seal sightings and an update of what we have found out from all the reports.

“The course will also focus on past and present sea mammal sightings in general and other oddities, such as the blue fire jellyfish we had this year, the basking shark and more.”

The course, designed for adults, celebrates some of the larger marine animals that can be seen off Sussex.

It comes towards the end of a fascinating year for marine life, said Stephen, who runs the Sussex branch of the Sea Watch Foundation.

Most notable have been two grey seals that have entertained the public up and down the coast. The first grey seal, named Trevor, spent time along the coast from Shoreham to Littlehampton as at it proceeded to moult and later interacted with bathers, including a paddle boarder at Shoreham.

A second grey seal has also taken up residence in the area for the last few months.

Stephen said: “This grey seal has been approaching boats and swimmers and has even surprised canoeists as far up river as Pulborough.

“While this is a great experience, people must remember that seals can produce a bite as bad as a bear and so people should not attempt to touch the seal.”

Stephen also reported that there had been several common seals around this year.

He said: “Three different individuals visited Shoreham during winter and spring and were seen in the river and off the coast. Then in early September, a juvenile common seal appeared in Shoreham Harbour for a while.”

Other visitors have included dolphins, sharks, rays and jellyfish. Notable this year have been an inshore sighting of a basking shark and a small swarm of the beautiful blue fire jellyfish.

Stephen said: “In my childhood, it was quite common to see basking sharks off Sussex in the summer months but now they are only rarely spotted.”

Stephen was invited to take part in a marine conference at Plymouth University in September which focused on these issues and the health of the ocean. The conference was attended by scientists and educators from 15 different countries and a representative of the EU.

The course costs £27.50 for members, £38 non-members. Contact the Sussex Wildlife Trust on 01273 497561 or www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/whatson for more details.