Our knowledge of our seas comes in part from decades of research by many organisations, but this is only a limited view of our marine wildlife. So much more information can be gleaned from people who spent time in the marine environment, if only people realised the importance of their own or their family’s stories.
Historical marine ecology is a scientific field where photographs, archives, news etc. are used to better understand the historic changes our seas have faced over time and this can establish a baseline against which conservation efforts can be measured. The value of these seemingly frivolous accounts is highlighted in a project which documented the loss in the diversity and reduction in size of fish in the Florida region, by collating photographs from fishing competitions from 1950s to present days. The change is striking just in the visual sense, when you look through these pictures.
Much work to conserve our marine populations has been limited to reversing declines to life as it was in the lifetime of those helping to conserve and this has been subject to a phenomenon known as “Shifting baselines”. We tend only to perceive the loss that we’ve seen not the loss from the generations which have gone before. The idea is best described by the person who coined the term, Daniel Pauly himself
Closer to home we know of many regular wildlife sightings and fisheries which have changed (some examples being whaling, basking sharks, oysters, salmon, etc), but we would like to know more from your personal/family accounts. So we’re asking for your help. As part of a project we’ve developed within the online resource Peoples’ Collection Wales we’d like to collect people’s memories of coastal wildlife and environments in Wales. We’re looking for memories of our seas from your childhood, stories you heard from your parents or grandparents, family friends or even more recent experiences that stand out in your mind. These can take the form of written or voice recordings of stories, uploads of photographs, and/or pictures of memorabilia, or other coastal items. As well as being valuable for marine conservation the information will also become a collection for everyone to view online.
We’re hoping to collect information such as
- Stories/photos relating to marine/coastal wildlife stemming from work, holidays, life at the coast
- Fishing catch records
- Records of wildlife sightings (one off or timings when see each year)
- Regular coastal wildlife occurrences.
- Pictures/memories of the coast before development
- Memories/pics of what you used to find washed up on the shore or in living in rock pools
- Memories of the numbers and types of breeding/roosting birds in an area
- Memories of incidents relating to the sea (pollution/storms/spillages etc) and its effects on wildlife.
If you have some memories or know someone who does, please spread the word and get in touch with us. If you’re part of a community group where a few people would like to offer items/stories then please get in touch too.
You can also leave your memory and details on our Living Seas Wales website collection.
We’ll leave you with the chance to see and hear some of the stories we’ve collected so far (a HUGE THANK YOU to the contributors).
Peter Williams provides us with an excellent insight into life during WWII and his community’s part in the herring run in 1950s. He also describes his legacy - the dying art of willow lobsterpot-making.
Kevin Hawke shares his dive logs, documenting the wildlife he was seeing under the waves in the 1990's.
Gwyneth Peters originates from Holyhead and remembers how her family managed to eat well from the sea during WWII.
Steve Palin recounts a vivid memory from Porth Dafarch in the 1960s when as a child he holidayed with his family and swam in what sounds like an eel-soup, there were so many.
Ben Stammers relates a snapshot of his conservation work at Cemlyn when the wardening encompassed looking after the last roseate terns to breed there in the 1990s and having to deal with egg-collectors amongst other tasks.