Monday, 26 June 2017

Devon fish paying high price for Scottish salmon farms

A Devon-based wildlife charity is calling for immediate action to control a fishing practice which is leading to thousands of local fish – from a family of fish known as wrasse - being removed from around the coast of Devon. The fish are being transported alive to Scottish salmon farms where they are being used as a ‘natural’ control against parasites.

Today Devon Wildlife Trust is calling for a ban on the live capture of the fish from Devon’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)* – places which have been recognised for the richness of their marine nature. The Trust is requesting people in Devon to voice their opposition by signing an on-line petition which asks for action to be taken by the county’s MPs.

The removal of live wrasse for Scottish fish farms is thought to be a relatively new practice. Until now wrasse have not been commercially fished in Devon, however, demand from Scotland for parasite control has meant that five species are now being targeted. These include: corkwing, ballan, goldsinney, cuckoo, and rock cook wrasse.

Recently limited controls on Devon’s wrasse fishery have been implemented by the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), but Devon Wildlife Trust believes that these do not go far enough. It points to a similar wrasse fishery which took place in 2015 in Dorset. This saw 57,000 of the fish taken during just one 18-week period in an area between Lulworth and Weymouth. Now the fear is that a similar operation is underway in Devon.

Devon Wildlife Trust is concerned about the impact this will have on local wrasse populations and the wider marine environment. The charity’s Director of Conservation and Development, Peter Burgess said:

“We’re calling for an immediate stop to the practice of removing live fish from Devon’s MPAs to satisfy the needs of Scottish fish farms. This is a very destructive fishery. Mortality rates among the wrasse are often high - many of them do not survive the process of capture, storage and transportation they are put through.”

“Wrasse are long-lived and highly territorial fish, so the removal of large numbers along the Devon coast will severely disrupt their populations – it could take decades for them to recover.”

Peter Burgess added:

“Nobody yet knows what impacts wholescale removal of wrasse will have on our fragile marine reef ecosystems and the natural balance could be thrown into chaos. This could be devastating for not only the wrasse but habitats and species which depend on them for their survival.”

“The recent moves by the Devon IFCA to partially control the fishery are an acknowledgement of the problem but don’t go nearly far enough to offering a solution. It’s vital that we exercise the precautionary principle and halt the capture and removal of wrasse from our most precious marine environments before long term damage is done.”

Devon Wildlife Trust has evidence that as many as 480 baited traps, known as pots, could be deployed around the county’s coastlines. There are currently no restrictions on where the pots can be placed. As wrasse live on rocky reefs close to shore this means that much of the fishing activity could take place within Devon’s most treasured and protected ‘in-shore’ marine environments, places which include Plymouth Sound Special Area of Conservation and Wembury Voluntary Marine Conservation Area.

Devon’s wrasse are being removed to meet demand from salmon fish farms in Scotland. Wrasse are used as ‘cleaner fish’ helping fish farms by feeding on the sea lice that infest captive salmon and which slow their growth. In the past chemical controls have been used against the lice. However, in recent years the lice have developed resistance to these chemicals and salmon producers have instead turned to the use of ‘natural’ controls in the shape of wrasse and other fish.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Peter Burgess encouraged people to support the charity’s call for a stop to the mass removal of wrasse for the Scottish salmon industry. He said:

“Devon wrasse populations are being threatened to solve the problems caused by commercial salmon fish farms hundreds of miles away in Scotland. Once commercially viable stocks of wrasse are exhausted from Plymouth our fear is this practice could move to ports throughout the South West.

There are only limited controls on this new fishery and little understanding of its longer term impacts on the health of this fascinating native species and the fragile reef environments the wrasse help to sustain. This is why we’re asking the people of Devon to help us stop the removal of thousands of wrasse from the county’s Marine Protected Areas by signing our on-line petition.”

Details on Devon Wildlife Trust’s wrasse petition can be found at
Corkwing Wrasse Photo copyright Paul Naylor/ (All Rights Reserved)
Corkwing Wrasse Photo: Paul Naylor/ (All Rights Reserved)
Ballan Wrasse. Photo copyright Paul Naylor/ (All Rights Reserved)
Ballan Wrasse. Photo: Paul Naylor/ (All Rights Reserved)
Cuckoo Wrasse. Photo copyright Paul Naylor/ (All Rights Reserved)
Cuckoo Wrasse. Photo: Paul Naylor/
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Peter Burgess
  Devon Wildlife Trust’s Peter Burgess
Marine Protected Areas are “home to some of the most biologically diverse habitats and species in Europe” and are identified as such by the Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC), the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

‘Bat cam’ provides unique view of rare animals

Viewers of a very different kind of reality TV will be going batty in the coming weeks. People can tune into a live webcam of a greater horseshoe bat roost to see hundreds of the rare animals appearing on screen at one time.

The bat cam is beaming live pictures around the world from an undisclosed greater horseshoe bat roost in South Devon. The camera was specially installed as part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project – a 5 year partnership project made possible by National Lottery players through a £785,500 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, led by Devon Wildlife Trust, which is working towards sustaining Devon’s population of these threatened nocturnal animals.

Ruth Testa, Project Manager, of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project said:
‘The bat cam allows everyone to see what goes on inside a bat roost – something that is not normally possible. By logging on to our website ( and watching the live footage, people can get a unique and intimate view into the lives of these wonderful animals. You can also watch footage of some of our teams favourite moments from previous years.’

Colin Morris, Nature Reserves Manager for The Vincent Wildlife Trust which owns and manages the site and is a partner in the project, said:
‘The bats are very active at the moment - people should keep their eyes peeled as the female greater horseshoe bats are getting ready to give birth. While difficult to see during daytime, the newborn pups are left on their own once the adults go out to hunt at night. The coming weeks should see some drama as a succession of baby bats appear on screen!’

Greater horseshoe bats have seen their numbers plummet by over 90% in the last 100 years. Today Devon remains a stronghold of the endangered species with about a third of the UK population thought to be surviving in the county.

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project hopes to reverse the species’ decline. Over the coming years it will continue to work with local landowners, farmers and communities across Devon ensuring that Devon remains a place which offers greater horseshoe bats the room to live and flourish.

Ruth Testa said:
‘Devon is really important for this amazing bat, as we have retained some of the landscape which is so important to them. Small, hedge-lined fields, grazed by cattle, with pockets of woodland provide the food that they need to sustain their young.’

Members of the public can help us improve our scientific knowledge of bats by taking part in the Devon Bat Survey. During the summer months you can borrow an SM4 bat detector for 4 days from 20 locations across Devon through our online booking service

Devon Horseshoe Bat Project Webcam
A Greater Horseshoe Bat – Photo copyright Michael Symes (All Rights Reserved) 


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Emily aims to send pupils wild

Local-charity Devon Wildlife Trust’s latest appointment Emily Bacon has an unusual job: to make Exeter’s school children go wild!

Emily, a 24 year old graduate who studied zoology at the University of Exeter, will work with schools throughout the city for the next 12 months inspiring children with a love of wildlife and the outdoors. Her work as an Education Assistant with Devon Wildlife Trust is being supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

One of the Emily’s first tasks will be to establish a network of Forest Schools which will offer outdoor learning to primary and secondary school students across the city.

Emily said:

“My targets are ambitious – I plan to work with 6,500 young people in Exeter during the next year. But the opportunity to engage with so many young people which is so exciting. To be able to get students out of the classroom, taking their learning outside and immersing them in nature is a wonderful privilege.

The young people who take part will develop a variety of new skills. They’ll learn how to build wild shelters and learn how to light a cooking fire. They will also gain nature detective skills, play outdoor team games and use nature to spark their creativity. These are all things that should be part of a young person’s life.”

Emily’s plans will take her beyond schools to work with local brownies, cubs and holiday clubs. In her work she’ll be using a special ‘cargo bike’ to carry all her equipment. Emily said:

“The bike is like an old-fashioned butcher’s bike with a cargo container on the front in which I’ll store my outdoor learning equipment. It should become a distinctive sight across the city as I pedal around with livery which tells people about the project, Devon Wildlife Trust and the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Look out for me as I’ll be coming to a school near you soon!”

The project was the idea of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Education Lead, Paul Martin. Paul has been working for the charity for 6 years bringing the natural world into lives of school children throughout Devon. Paul said:

“There’s a growing amount of evidence which shows that being outdoors has benefits for young people, including improvements to their health, and their social and emotional well-being. Forest School activities are especially good at encouraging individuals to build self-esteem, confidence, and resilience. Simply getting children outside in their wellies encourages a natural curiosity enabling them to experience nature first hand. Having Emily and this project will now allow us to extend these benefits to so many more youngsters.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities from People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“Our players are raising amazing amounts of money for charities such as Devon Wildlife Trust. The charity’s good work helping young people gain better access and understanding of local wildlife and wild places is just the kind of project our players love to support.”

One of Emily’s first outings will be at Devon Wildlife Trust’s half term event in Exeter’s Mincinglake Park on Thursday 1st June. The free event called ’30 Days Wild’ begins at 10am and runs until 3pm. Emily will be joined by a team of other wildlife people offering crafts, trails and fun activities aimed at families who want to go wild.

The project runs until the end of March 2018. To find out more visit or email Emily Bacon at

Emily Bacon, New Education Assistant for Devon Wildlife Trust
Emily Bacon, new Education Assistant for Devon Wildlife Trust

Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) have raised more than £197 Million for good causes. A minimum of 30% of the ticket price goes to charities and good causes. Check out PPL’s Charity Draw Calendar to see what charities are supported in different draws and see the Ambassadors who help spread the word about these good causes.