The Environment Agency has used the recent ‘World Wetlands Day’* to look back at the time when Starry Smoothhound Sharks visited RSPB Medmerry.
The school of 50 sharks were first spotted in July 2015 when EA officers were carrying out fish surveys with the Sussex IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) and RSPB.
The EA posted the ‘amazing’ footage (featured) of Starry Smoothhound Sharks (Mustelus asterias) feeding within the Medmerry site. The video has nearly half a million views on YouTube.
RSPB Medmerry was created as part of the multi-award winning Medmerry Managed Realignment Scheme, at Selsey in West Sussex. The scheme, carried out by Team Van Oord on behalf of the Environment Agency, includes the largest realignment of open coast in the UK.
‘Managed realignment’ involves building new defences inland from the coast and allowing a new intertidal area to form seaward of the new defences. ‘Intertidal’ refers to the land that is exposed at low tide and covered by the sea at high tide.
Medmerry, which is located between Selsey and Bracklesham in West Sussex, is one of the stretches of coastline most at risk of flooding in southern England.
The scheme is a key element in a 15-year project to provide 7km of new sea defences to protect local communities in the area.
Wildlife at Medmerry
Sharks are not the only species to flourish at RSPB Medmerry.
In May 2016, it was announced that around 24 pairs of graceful black and white avocets, classed as extinct in the UK until 1941, nested in the reserve’s silt pools, an area growing in popularity for the protected species.
Medmerry is home to the only known breeding population of avocets in West Sussex, with each pair laying between two and four eggs.
Avocets first bred at the site in 2014, with eight pairs taking advantage of the newly created wetland habitat. In 2015 a further 18 pairs nested. Having bred successfully, avocets are said to be faithful to a site in subsequent years, so it is likely that at least some of the pairs are returning guests.
*Held on 2 February 2017, World Wetlands Day was established to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet.
10 February 2017