Watch out for aliens at the seaside

BEACH goers in Northumberland are being urged to keep a look out for aliens among the sealife.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN) have joined forces to raise awareness of non-native species along the shoreline and ask people to help record them.

Creatures such as slipper limpets, veined rapa whelks, Chinese mitten crabs, wakame, wireweed, Japanese skeleton shrimp and Pacific oyster have all come into UK waters aboard commercial vessels, plastic debris and other drifting materials.

And the MCS has warned that they are having an adverse impact on habitats, species and ecosystems.

Emma Snowden, from the society, said: “Alien marine species are dwelling in the space that our native species would usually inhabit, meaning UK wildlife like crabs and shrimps are quite simply being squeezed out.

“We know they are here, but what we need to establish is the full extent of the damage that they can cause and how we can combat it.”

Wireweed, a type of brown seaweed, takes over rockpools and the seabed so native seaweed has less space to grow, while the Chinese mitten crab burrows in muddy estuaries and weakens banks that have been built up to create flood defences.

Any information about the invaders will help build up a picture of where they are and the sort of disruption that can be expected to try to find ways to address the problems.

To track them down download a non-native species guide at www.mcsuk.org and then report sightings at www.marlin.ac.uk/rml