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Diving down (and standing up) for the marine creatures I love


As well as my interesting job working in the web team at WWF, in my holiday time I have been able to dive in some pretty special places. Scuba diving lets you see a very different and beautiful part of our planet, the underwater world. Almost everything looks, sounds and feels different when you’re under the surface. The colour and temperature of the water change as you dive deeper, and the types of fish and other marine creatures you encounter differ a lot from the surface down to the deep.

Loggerhead turtle, Funchal, MadeiraLoggerhead turtle, Funchal, Madeira © Neil Gunn / WWF-UK

I saw this first hand on a recent trip to Madeira, a small group of islands out in the Atlantic. On the same day we saw loggerhead turtles resting at the surface of the sea about half a mile out, and then when we went deeper saw moray eels, arrow crabs, grouper and bream, as well as some Madeiran stingray. On a separate boat trip we saw a number of Bryde’s whales, including a mother and calf.

Image of a Madeiran stingray, Funchal, MadeiraMadeiran stingray, Funchal, Madeira © Neil Gunn / WWF-UK

Every time you dive you see something different, so it’s always a great reminder of the wonderful variety of nature. I’m very worried to read, and hear from my colleagues, that there is growing evidence climate change is affecting marine creatures, including a lot of the ones that I go diving to see. It seems that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and ocean are having two negative effects. The first is that global warming is leading to rising sea temperatures. This is affecting the distribution of some habitats and species and may well be driving more intense storms that can severely damage coral reefs and other delicate habitats. The second is that the oceans are a huge carbon sink. It seems they are absorbing more atmospheric carbon, causing increasingly acidic conditions which affect the development of marine creatures with calcareous skeletons, like crustaceans and corals.

Image of black moray eel and arrow crab, Funchal, MadeiraBlack moray eel and arrow crab, Funchal, Madeira © Neil Gunn / WWF-UK

The underwater natural world is under threat from a number of sources caused by people, from overfishing, to pollution and damage by boats. I’m very sad to hear that it looks like we have to add climate change to the list of threats we’ve caused.

I’ve decided that it’s time I did more to try to protect the undersea world which I love. We’re helping to organise a trip to Westminster in June, so that people can speak to their newly elected MPs and ask them to do more about climate change while they are in power. I’d never really thought to ask about that before, but now that I know it’s going to affect the creatures I love going diving to see I’ve decided it’s time to act.

If you’d like to do the same, to stand up for the things you love, then I know you’ll be making a difference. There are more details and a sign up form for the climate lobby on the main website (my day job!).

Hopefully I’ll see you in Westminster on 17 June.

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