Latest News from SEA LIFE
Sea Life Rescue Mission
Sea Life staff from across the UK rallied to help save more than 3,000 creatures at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary when the building was flooded and the power lost.
An exceptional high tide combined with strong winds saw the North Sea surge through flood defences and deluge the Sanctuary.
At the height of the onslaught staff were forced to cut the power and leave the building, as the water level rose to nearly waist height.
When they were able to get back in again to allow the fire brigade to start pumping water out, it became clear that power had been knocked out completely in the vicinity, leading to fears for livestock deprived of their vital life support systems.
Transport vehicles with emergency back-up systems were immediately dispatched from Sea Life's main collection centre in Weymouth, and by early the following morning a massive evacuation was underway.
Sea Life marine experts raced to Hunstanton from as far afield as Blackpool and Stafforshire, and a round the clock operation lasting nearly 48 hours successfully relocated more than 3,000 creatures - among them sharks, a sea turtle, penguins, crocodiles and seals.
Sadly, the best efforts of all involved could not prevent more than 20 of the older weaker fish from perishing...most as a result of the loss of temperature in their displays.
Sanctuary staff were saddened and distressed by these losses, but relieved that so many were saved in such difficult and traumatic cricumstances.
Sea Life's senior biologist Rob Hicks, who coordinated the rescue mission, said its success was testament to the valiant efforts of everyone involved.
"All worked tirelessly to help save the Sanctuary's residents, and spirits were buoyed throughout by the tremendous help received from the fire brigade and the incredible support from the local community.
"People who were following events on the news turned up in droves bringing flasks of tea and coffee and sandwiches and ready to pitch in and help."
Rob also praised Matt Ford, of Specialist Wildlife Services, who also joined the evacuation operation and has temporarily re-homed some of the animals at his facility near Heathrow.
Penguins, sharks and green sea turtle Ernie have bee re-homed at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre. Seals and otters have moved to Scarborough and thousands of fish have been relocated to the Sea Life London Aquarium and Weymouth Sea Life.
The damage to the Huntanton Sanctuary is still being assessed, but is substantial.
It will be weeks if not months before it is able to re-open again and welcome back its thousands of residents.
For more information contact Mark Oakley 01202 440040
Astonishing Discovery Down Under
A species of jellyfish not seen for more than a century has surfaced off the Australian Sunshine Coast, and is now being studied at the soon-to-be new Sea Life centre in Mooloolaba.
The incredibly rare Crambione Cookii was last seen by American scientist Alfred Gainsborough Mayor off Cookstown, Queensland in 1910.
His detailed sketch was until now the only record in existence, and helped jellyfish expert Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin, of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service, confirm identity.
Ironically, it was another jellyfish specialist, aquarist Puk Scivyer, who chanced upon the animal while releasing a rescued sea turtle.
Puk had been recruited by the Sea Life network to take charge of a new jellyfish exhibit planned at UnderWater World aquarium in Molooloba, which will be re-launched as Sea Life, Molooloba next month after a $6.5 million redevelopment.
“As soon as I saw it I realised it was a species I’d never seen before,” said Puk, “but to then discover I was the first person to see this species in over a hundred years was just incredible.”
The Crambione Cookii will not appear in the new exhibit, but will be observed closely behind the scenes to learn as much as possible about it and afterwards donated to the Queensland Museum.
Nothing is known about the species, and marine scientists are baffled as to how it could have evaded notice for more than a century…but Sea Life aquarists will now be on the look-out for more whenever they venture off-shore.
_New Sea Life Resident Is A Real Dictator_
A newly-arrived fish called Napoleon is stirring things up in the ocean tank at Blackpool Sea Life Centre.
A Napoleon wrasse, a metre-long tropical reef dweller with a reputation for ruling the roost, he has upset the hierarchy in the Centre’s showpiece display.
One of the biggest of his species to feature in the UK, he will grow to twice his current size, but already he is big and feisty enough to challenge the resident tropical sharks for ‘top dog’ status.
“Napoleon wrasse are like underwater generals,” said displays supervisor Scott Blacker. “They like to cruise over the top of the reef inspecting all the other residents and seeing off predators with a steely glare or a threatening charge.
“Our Napoleon has already set up territory in the middle of the display and let all the other residents know who’s boss.”
An endangered species, Napoleon wrasse have been targeted by fishermen supplying the live food market in China, and have also been easy targets for spear-fishermen.
“Cyanide and dynamite fishing have also taken their toll,” said Scott, “and because these fish don’t become sexually mature until they are five to seven years old, they do not reproduce quickly enough to make up for the losses.”
In common with other wrasse species they are all born female, with a dominant female undergoing a dramatic sex-change at about nine-years-of-age if there are not enough males around already.
Blackpool’s Napoleon is around 10-years-old, so has probably only been a boy for a year or so.
He was collected under special license from the coast of Australia so that Sea Life can try and establish a successful captive-breeding programme which could provide a vital lifeline if the wild population is driven close to extinction.
There is a possible partner for him in Belgium, but since Napoleon will live to be 25 to 30-years-old, his new keepers are content just to let him settle in before they try any match-making.
Ironically, though humans have put their future in peril, Napoleon wrasse are notoriously friendly with divers and generally inquisitive about humans.
“Our Napoleon is no exception,” said Scott.
“He likes to hold his head above the water to have it stroked, and really seems to enjoy a bit of human company.”
That could be great news for those taking advantage of the Sea Life centre’s special new ‘Snorkel with Sharks’ attraction…which enables them to get underwater with the Ocean display residents inside a special cage.
“Napoleon has no fear of people and will provide our snorkelers with some really amazing close encounters,” said Scott.
Divers Use Wig to Distract Fishy Hair Nibblers
Tropical fish with a hair fetish have driven divers at Manchester Sea Life Centre to distraction!
Lead diver Myke Bell and his colleagues who escort visitors on dives in the Centre’s ocean tank, are having their hair constantly nibbled by a pair of tropical ‘scrawled filefish.’
Now, in an effort to distract their tormenters so they can concentrate on supervising their guest ‘Sea Trekkers,’ they have started taking a mannequin’s head and wig for a dip with them.
“At least a couple of times every day we will suddenly feel the tug of tiny teeth on our hair,” said Myke.
“The filefish eat sea grass ansd algae in the wild and I guess they must mistake our hair for marine plant-life,” he added.
“It doesn’t hurt, but it’s impossible to ignore, and we really need to stay focused on looking after our guest divers, so now we’re using the wig as a decoy.”
And luckily for Myke it appears that filefish prefer blondes. The golden real-hair locks of his decoy keep them happily occupied while he escorts visitors in special suits for their stroll on the seabed.
Scrawled filefish are found in tropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, and in the wild are notoriously shy with divers.
“I confess I thought they’d lost their own heads when the dive team came up with this crazy idea to keep the filefish at bay,” said Sea Life boss Neil Crittenden, “but it really works, and has become a real talking point for visitors. The only other option would have been to have Myke shave his head.”
Myke, 28, is no stranger to underwater hair issues however…and the file fish are a minor irritant compared to the last fish which took a liking to his dark wavy locks.
“I used to dive regularly at another Sea Life Centre, and a huge bowmouth shark called Betty just wouldn’t leave my hair alone.
“At least with the file fish I don’t have to worry about losing my scalp too.”
Cuttlefish Breeding Success is Boon For Scientists
Researchers investigating a true miracle of nature have received a welcome boost with the birth of dozens of baby cuttlefish at Brighton Sea Life Centre.
A batch of cuttlefish eggs laid by adults that were themselves born at the centre have begun to hatch out.
The 25 babies so far emerged are the attraction’s first ever ‘second generation’ offspring, and they will make perfect subjects for an on-going study by the University of Sussex.
“We usually get eggs brought in from the wild by fishermen who find them attached to lobster-pots or anchor ropes in the summer months,” said curator Carey Duckhouse.
“We already have about 30 babies from eggs that came to us that way, but our latest babies are from eggs laid by our own captive reared adults, which is really exciting.”
Cuttlefish have the ability to rapidly change their skin patterns to camouflage themselves.
“In less than a second a cuttlefish can view its surrounds and alter its skin pattern to achieve the perfect camouflage,” said Carey.
“We have provided a special laboratory in the Centre which University researchers are using to learn more about how the cuttlefish brain passes such swift and precise instructions to its body.”
Led by neuro-scientist Dr Daniel Osorio, the research is designed simply to advance knowledge about one of nature’s most extraordinary phenomena, but has been closely followed by the Ministry of Defense.
“If the process can be simulated by computers it’s not unfeasible that one day computer-linked cameras mounted on military vehicles could feed continuous data to colour-shifting receptors on the vehicles’ skin,” she said.
The Brighton research has already shown that cuttlefish at rest on a variety of surfaces not only accurately mimic different shades of light and dark, but even the microscopic pattern of the tiniest grains of sand.
“They adopt the pattern most effective for hiding them from specific predators, from the distance those predators are most likely to attack,” added Carey.
“They are genuinely amazing and fascinating creatures, and the fact that we are now captive-rearing them means we can provide plenty of subjects for the University’s research and rotate them regularly to ensure they suffer no ill effects.”
It also means plenty of cuttlefish babies for Brighton Sea Life visitors to admire and to marvel at.
Rare Turtle Babies Surprise Sea Life Team
After the Prince George snaps…another very special baby has been posing for some historic pictures.
This week-old Roti Island Snake Necked Turtle is one of two born in a special breeding facility at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham.
The species is one of the rarest in the world and the surprise appearance of the two Birmingham babies brings the total captive population to just 250 worldwide.
“That’s more than the population left in the wild,” said Curator Graham Burrows.
“The species is confined to a tiny area in the middle of a single small island, Rote Island, in Indonesia, and was hunted almost to extinction for the pet trade,” he added.
“It has been protected since 2001, and with luck the population will recover.
“If it doesn’t, captive reared animals like our two new arrivals could be used for reintroduction to give the species a vital last lifeline.”
The freshwater turtle sanctuary at the Sea Life centre has several species, and has already successfully bred another endangered species the Indian Spotted Turtle, and several Pink Bellied Short Necked Turtles, a more common species from Australia and New Guinea.
Most were hatched out in the sanctuary’s incubator, but Graham and his team had no idea that one of their adult Roti Island turtles had actually laid eggs.
“She must have buried them in the sand in the tank, and the first we knew of it was when we came in one morning and found these two youngsters swimming around,” said Graham.
Bid To Combat Cyanide Fishing
A project championed by Weymouth Sea Life Park biologist Chris Brown aimed at curbing the deadly practice of cyanide fishing has been launched today (Monday, July 1st).
Though illegal in most countries, the use of cyanide to catch live fish for both the ornamental and food markets is still widespread in parts of East Asia.
Now, for the first time, a test developed by a Portugeuse University research team has made it possible to find out if a fish has been exposed to cyanide…without having to kill and dissect the fish first.
The 40-plus strong network of Sea Life centres around the globe begins random testing of newly acquired fish stocks from today, in a bid to staunch this cruel and destructive trade.
“Cyanide fishing has decimated fish populations and killed huge areas of coral reef from the tropical mid-Pacific right across to east Africa,” said Chris, who is based at the network’s main collection centre at Weymouth Sea Life.
“Fishermen squirt the poison into the corals to stun fish, enabling them to make quicker, bigger and more lucrative catches, even though most of the fish caught will often be dead by the time they reach port,” he added.
The test developed by Dr Ricardo Calado at Portugal’s University of Aveiro, involves transferring a fish into artificial seawater, leaving it long enough to pass waste, and then sampling the water for a specific by-product of cyanide.
“A positive result will tell us if the fish has been exposed to the poison, which might mean it was caught using cyanide but may simply mean it was taken from an area where the poison has been used by others,” said Chris.
“Either way, it will enable our suppliers to track the delivery back to source and identify the holding facility they were first housed at.
“Everyone we work with wants to stamp out this evil practice and already polices the supply chains vigorously, but without having a representative on every single tiny fishing boat it has been impossible until now to be sure that cyanide has not been involved.
“For the end purchaser, a cyanide-caught fish can appear perfectly healthy, and then die mysteriously days or weeks later.”
Chris, who is based at Sea Life’s main collection breeding centre in Weymouth, Dorset, was shocked by the extent of the problem when he travelled to China earlier this year in search of sustainable supply sources for the Sea Life chain.
“In some coastal collection centres I saw tanks full of newly-delivered reef fish which the fishermen who landed them freely admitted they had caught using cyanide,” he said.
In spite of being the world’s largest aquarium chain, Sea Life’s own import of wild-caught fish amounts to less than 0.003-per-cent of the global catch, most of which goes to the hobbyist market.
“Because many of the same original collection points and wholesalers are involved, however, we believe our project will help clean up supply lines for everybody,” said Chris.
“In the first six months we will report positive tests to our suppliers in confidence, to give them the opportunity to take action to ensure there is no repetition.
“If we get further cases from the same supplier and we’re not satisfied enough is being done to identify and sanction the culprits, we will simply drop them,” he added.
Samples currently have to be sent to Portugal for testing, but Dr Calado’s team is working on a simple ‘field-test’ which will enable checks to be made in any location.
The test was developed using clown fish, and may still need fine-tuning to be equally effective for all species, but the samples from Sea Life will help Dr Calado’s team apply any necessary refinements as they are processed.
“Once the formula is perfected for all species we will urge other aquarium operators to follow suit,” said Chris, “and with everyone on board we think we can start to stem the supply of cyanide-caught fish to the ornamental trade.”
Perhaps even more alarming however is the little-publicised trade in cyanide-caught fish for the live food market.
Some estimates place the quantity of live fish supplied to this market per annum at around 35,000 tons, with Hong Kong restaurants and food markets accounting for 60-per-cent of the total.
“Most authorities confirm that cyanide is used frequently to cater for this demand,” said Chris, “but it is doubtful that consumers realise they are being willfully dosed with cyanide.”
Chris and Dr Calado are both hopeful that the impact of the new test for aquarium fish will raise awareness of the ‘food fish’ problem and force health authorities in the affected regions to act to stem that trade too.
“There is also a considerable health risk to the fishermen themselves,” said Chris, “I have heard of boys as young as 11 and 12 equipped with bottles full of poison and hopelessly inadequate protection from getting dosed themselves.
“In contrast, there are also many fishermen who use sustainable methods and do their best to actively protect reefs, and it is these practices we want to support and encourage.”
Something In The Water! 24 June 2013
There must be something in the water at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre…which is in the grip of an unprecedented baby boom.
In the space of three days no fewer than six baby thornbacked rays, a brood of baby Malawi cichlids and hundreds of baby guppies and tetras have been born.
Delighted displays staff are also nurturing dozens of baby Upside Down Jellyfish, and now a pair of South American ‘Oscars’ have begun busily preparing a nest.
“We took more ray eggs out of our main display tank this morning, and at least 20 of them seem to be fertile,” said curator Christine Pitcher.
“It’s the right time of year for a baby boom, but I don’t recall ever having so many youngsters appearing at once before,” she said.
“It’s the ultimate endorsement for our husbandry techniques and the quality of water and theming in our displays,” she added, “which makes it even more pleasing.”
The tetras and guppies share their tank with a trio of Cuban crocodiles, but are too tiny to attract the attention of these stealthy predators.
“You have to look for a while before you spot them,” said Christine, “but once you get your eye in you can see literally hundreds.”
Christine and her team are also still hopeful that their largest resident Aphropdite the nurse shark may soon follow suit and produce off-spring after a recent flurry of mating activity with male Hercules.
“That would certainly be the ‘happy event’ of the year,” she added.
Seal Saved By Facebook - 24 June 2013
A simple Facebook alert led staff from Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary to the rescue of an abandoned one-day-old seal pup.
Social media proved its worth in the animal welfare arena when dog-walker Keith Stockdale was told about the stranded pup on the beach at Heacham in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“I was out walking my husky at 6.30am like I do every morning when this woman approached me and told me there was a stranded seal pup further up the beach,” said Keith.
“I went and took a look, but didn’t want to get too close with the dog.”
Knowing the Sanctuary would not yet be open he pinged a Facebook message to displays supervisor Kieran Copeland.
It read: “Hi mate, hope u get this. Seal pup heacham south beach half way along the huts. But walk straight down turn towards Snettisham you will come to it. Calls when it sees you.”
Sure enough Kieran and colleague Hollie Stephenson soon found the forlorn youngster, and after satisfying themselves it’s mum was nowhere to be found, carried him back to the Sanctuary.
“At such a tender age he will need to be tube-fed a special fish soup for a couple of weeks before we can wean him onto whole fish,” said Hollie.
“He seems pretty healthy overall, so we’re confident we’ll be able to fatten him up over the next few months and get him fit enough to face life in the wild.”
Ironically, Kevin’s life-saving Facebook message came just hours after the Sanctuary was featured on national television, in an item which closed with other rescued books being freed back into The Wash.
Heacham man Keith, 43, who runs Stocky’s Lawn and Garden Machinery in nearby Terrington St Clement, was amused to learn he had found a worthy new use for social media.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever received a rescue alert via Facebook,” said Kieran.
Pregnant Shark Rescued by Sea Life Pair - 11 June 2013
A pregnant four-foot-long smoothound shark has been rescued from a storm drain at Portland by marine experts from Weymouth Sea Life Park.
The shark had swum into the drain at high tide and found itself trapped when the tide receded.
Coastguard officers were alerted to its presence when they spotted people trying to catch it with a line and hook baited with a mackerel head.
“He warned them off and then called four our help,” said senior aquarist Jen-Denis Hibbitt, from the Sea Life displays development department in Weymouth.
Jen-Denis and colleague Anna Russell raced to the scene and waded chest deep to catch the shark and – after checking it was okay – release it back into the sea.
“It was heavily pregnant female, probably due to give birth very soon,” said Jean-Denis.
He added that many native British sharks would be close inshore at this time of year and many would be pregnant females like this one.
He and Anna were horrified to learn someone had been trying to hook the shark, which he said had suffered minor damage to a fin as a result.
Happily the shark swam away to deeper waters where it could soon produce anything between four and 15 off-spring.
“We would naturally urge anyone else who might come across a shark in similar difficulties to help it back out to sea if possible, or call their nearest Sea Life centre for help,” said Jean-Denis.
“No-one need be afraid of them,” he added. “Few sharks, even of the big tropical species, are actually a danger to people, but certainly our native British species are all perfectly harmless.”
Smoothounds feed mainly on hermit crabs, lobsters and shrimps and grow to a maximum of about five foot.
Turtle Fitted With Dive Belt! - 20 May 2013
A sea turtle with a damaged spine has been out with its own dive-belt to help it swim underwater.
Green turtle Ali is one of five now living at the Weymouth Sea Life centre after being hit by boats in Florida Keys and suffering back injuries which left them unable to dive.
“All five had weights glued to their shells to help them submerge, but Ali’s shell is so badly damaged the weights won’t stay attached,” said curator Fiona Smith.
Now Ali has been fitted with a specially tailored dive-belt, made by the centre’s own dive-suit supplier Portland-based O’Three.
“It has pockets for the weights, to act just like a diver’s weight belt,” said Fiona.
“Attaching weights direct to the shell means keeping the turtle out of water long enough for the resin to dry. With a harness like this we can adjust or replace weights in a matter of seconds.”
Ali was rescued in the spring of 2002 at Palm Beach, and as well as a badly damaged shell was also discovered to be riddled with tumors.
In spite of his woes, Ali was such a feisty individual he was named after heavyweight boxing legend Mohammed Ali.
He and fellow casualties Sharky, Gumbo, Josie and Cracker were originally rescued by the Florida Turtle Hospital.
Staff there devised the weight system to restore their diving abilities, but were only able to watch the results from above…as their home was a converted swimming pool.
“It was not until we got them into our ocean tank with its big windows and underwater tunnel that we could see some of them were swimming at odd angles,” said Fiona.
“We have been regularly adjusting their weights ever since to try and correct their buoyancy.”
The fitting of Ali’s new belt coincided neatly with the launch of a major sea turtle conservation month at Sea Life centres across the UK.
Christened ‘Turtle Fest’ the event highlights the growing threats to turtles from pollution, fishing bycatch and tourism development.
And it is raising funds to off-set the running costs of a new £250,000 Sea Turtle Rescue Centre on the Greek island of Zakynthos, built with donations from Sea Life visitors.
'Turtle Fest' runs from May 13th to June 2nd in most centres and also features special talks, quiz trails and childrens’ activities.
Follow the link below to see how the Daily Mail covered the story online.
Oil Be Seeing You…! - 16 April 2013
An unusual rescue mission for Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary culminated today in the successful release of five guillemots, a razorbill and a puffin from Bempton Cliffs.
All were victims of a mystery oil spill which also affected some seal pups and led to new patients in the Sanctuary’s seal hospital.
Though not usually involved in bird rescue, Sanctuary staff did a sterling job of cleaning up their avian patients and administering a charcoal-based concoction to help absorb any of the foul liquid they had swallowed.
Today’s ‘take off’ was testament to the dedication of the hard-working displays team.
Senior aquarist Todd German is pictured readying the recovered puffin for launch, while our second picture shows two of the guillemots following close behind.
Singing For Sea Turtles - 26 march 2013
Dorset band Paint It Blue has been plucked from relative obscurity to headline at a charity concert in Greece this autumn.
The up-and-coming Bournemouth-based blues band will appear in early September in Zakynthos, at the special invitation of Greek wildlife group Earth, Sea & Sky.
Zakynthian and Earth, Sea & Sky founder Yannis Vardakastanis has seen the band three times on visits to the South West and become an ardent fan.
“Yannis has been working with Sea Life centres to build a rescue centre for loggerhead turtles,” said Paint It Blue singer songwriter Hannah Robinson.
“He tells us there’s a strong blues following on the island and is convinced they will turn out in force to support a live show.
“We’re very excited about it, and delighted that ticket proceeds will be helping the new rescue centre,” she added.
Hannah and her fellow band-members - virtuoso guitarist Pete Quintin, harmonica player Ed Fish, drummer Marcin Dyba and bassist Albert Dyba - also hope the event will help boost the band’s fan base back in the UK.
“Yannis is confident lots of UK holidaymakers on the island at the time will also attend, so we’re hoping to make lots of new friends and maybe line up a few future dates back in blighty, outside our usual patch.”
Having been together for more than five years now, and followed up their acclaimed debut studio album with a live album released last year, Paint It Blue have a strong following in the south west and have recently been making inroads in the capital.
Their debut album made Blues In Britain’s ‘Best of British CDs’ list in 2010, and a year later they won the Cooltura Music Awards, performing to a sold-out crowd at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Zakynthos hosts the biggest concentration of loggerhead turtle nests anywhere in the Mediterranean – as many as 2,000 in peak years - but the tourism boom of the last four decades has had a devastating impact.
“Numbers are in decline and without better protection the turtles could disappear from Zakynthos altogether within the next ten years,” said Yannis.
“Only 811 nests were recorded in 2012, one of the lowest ever tallies, and only 500 actually hatched, mainly because of bad weather, but a few were also damaged by humans.
“Every adult loggerhead of breeding age is becoming more and more vital to the long-term survival prospects of Mediterranean loggerheads.
“Until now though, any adult turtle injured by fishing gear or pleasure craft has had to travel to Athens for treatment and care, a journey of more than eight hours.” he added.
The new Rescue Centre in Gerakas at the island’s southern tip, built by Earth, Sea & Sky with funds donated by Sea Life centre visitors across Europe, offers one glimmer of hope.
“As well as being able to offer care and rehabilitation on location for injured turtles, it is raising awareness of the problems they face and educating holidaymakers to help prevent them from adding to the problems,” said Yannis.
Paint It Blue’s charity performance will take place opposite the new facility in Gerakas on Wednesday, September 4th.
Sea Life centres are helping foot the band’s travel bill and Yannis is providing them free accommodation for the duration of their stay.
There are also plans to produce a DVD of the event with a donation from every sale providing a further boost for the new rescue centre.
Special chips have been cooked up to go with some of Britain’s rarest fish. - 22 March 2013
The strikingly marked undulate ray was once widespread in the English Channel, but overfishing has made it one of our rarest native species…now confined to a small pockets off southern Ireland and the coast of Devon and Cornwall.
Protected since 2009, fishermen are obliged to return any they catch safely back to the sea.
Now, a determined effort to establish a healthy captive-bred population is underway, spearheaded by marine expert Jean Denis-Hibbitt, at the breeding and research facility at Weymouth Sea Life Centre.
“We had a number of mature undulate rays in Sea Life display tanks across the country,” he said. “We are micro-chipping all these adults plus a few at other aquariums and have created a stud-book to help pair-up unrelated adults to produce genetically sound offspring.”
Jean-Dennis is pictured microchipping one of two 18-month-old juveniles born to an adult pair which have occupied the Bay of Rays display at the Weymouth attraction for many years.
“We have so far micro-chipped 33,” said Jean-Dennis, “and have a few more juveniles waiting to be chipped.”
The 8mm microchips are smaller than those used by vets on cats and dogs, and each has a unique 14-digit number. Jean-Denis’s stud-book records the date and location of chipping, the parents if known, weight and width.
The Sea Life network hopes to expand the programme to include another 16 centres in continental Europe.
“Ultimately our aim is to establish a thriving captive-bred population which could feasibly be used for re-introduction should the wild population fall to a dangerously low level,” said Jean-Denis.