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13.01.12

Significant loss of marine life on renowned conservation site

The National Marine Aquarium has confirmed that the Scylla Reef - an artificial reef close to Whitsand Bay, Cornwall - has suffered significant damage and loss of marine life.

What could be an illegal fishing net was found caught on the reef by a team of professional divers yesterday (12 January), who began the process of removing the net and helping to free a number of marine animals which remained tangled.

However, marine experts’ worst fears were confirmed when various species, including numerous crabs and fish were found trapped in the net, alongside a cormorant which had perished after becoming stuck.

It is thought that the 100m fishing net may have been illegally set close to the reef by unlicensed fishermen, before drifting onto the renowned conservation site, destroying a large section of the reef.

Home to more than 250 species of marine life - many of which have not been found on other dive sights around the UK - the reef had recently been nominated as a marine protected area.

 

Dead Cormorant (Photo by Rich Stevenson at Diving and Marine Solutions)

 

The Plymouth-based National Marine Aquarium, which has been involved with managing the reef since it was first sunk in 2004, is concerned that some of these uncommon species have now been destroyed, and may take many years to return.

Dr David Gibson, Managing Director at the National Marine Aquarium, said: “We are horrified by the extent of the damage which has been caused on the reef, and by the lack of care and attention as a result of irresponsible fishing practices.

“It has taken eight years to establish such a diverse community of marine life on the reef, something that is likely to take just as long - if not longer - to recover and return.”

The National Marine Aquarium has advised against any dives over the reef, until further information is available.

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