Seaham sealife is flourishing

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MARINE life off the East Durham coast is thriving despite the area being polluted by coal waste for decades, a new study has found.

The survey, carried out in Seaham by a group of marine conservationists, shows that the sea life has managed to maintain a healthy state.

The group undertook a pioneering attempt to survey the North Sea coast of the UK over the summer.

The team, with funding from partners including the Wildlife Trust, took part in surveys from Northumberland to Essex.

Jim Cokill, director of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “The survey in our area did not reveal any spectacular finds, but it did reveal an abundance of marine life.

“The Durham coast has had a lot to put up with over the past century, including coal waste which used to turn the beaches black, but the message from the survey is that is has survived and thrived.

“From sponges and sea squirts to molluscs and worms, the survey team found plenty to encourage us.”

The survey recorded 352 wildlife species on the expedition, 126 seaweeds, many species previously unrecorded along the coast. One species found off Norfolk, the purple Hymedesmia sponge, was unknown to science and has now been added to the list of marine life in our waters.

More than 20 people took part in the trip and travelled to Seaham, as well as Seahouses in Northumberland, Orford Ness in Suffolk, Sheringham and Hunstanton in Norfolk, Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, Flamborough Head, Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire and the Blackwater Estuary in Essex.

Kirsten Smith, living seas manager for the North Sea Wildlife Trusts, said: “These results will help us to understand more about our marine environment and help us to identify key areas in need of protection.”

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Species found in Seaham

Sponges: 5

Cnidarians: 8

Worms: 1

Crustaceans: 5

Molluscs: 7

Bryozoans: 8

Echinoderms: 4

Sea squirts: 4

Fishes: 4

Algae: 20

Total: 66 species