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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March 2005, 07:36 GMT
Call for divers to examine seabed
Seasearch divers at Strangford Lough
Divers do not need experience in marine gathering to take part
Amateur divers hope to unravel some of the mysteries of the deep around the shores of Northern Ireland.

Growing numbers of them are taking part in a major survey of the seabed to find out what is really there and how it has been affected by human intervention.

Little is known about much of the seabed surrounding Northern Ireland.

That makes it difficult to monitor how various plant and animal species are coping.

The project is a labour intensive task, taking teams of divers dozens of hours to cover small areas.

Strong tides, poor visibility and cold water around the coast mean that many of the dives are for short periods, adding to the difficulty of the logistics.

Claire Goodwin, Seasearch co-ordinator
Claire Goodwin said all amateur divers were eligible for the project

To ensure the project is completed in a reasonable time, Seasearch Northern Ireland, the charitable organisation running the project, are encouraging more amateur sport divers to come forward and help out.

Divers are given special survey forms to fill in after the dive. Then experts help them identify what they saw.

"Anyone that is a sports diver can come on the dives and get involved in Seasearch and they don't have to have any experience of marine recording at all," said Claire Goodwin, Seasearch co-ordinator.

"It is just as simple as them going down and seeing whether there is sand or mud or boulders or gravel on the seabed. Any species they can recognise is a bonus."

It is hoped that after several years, a detailed picture will be built up showing the complexity and state of the various habitats.

Areas being surveyed include species-rich habitats around Rathlin Island on the north Antrim coast and Strangford Lough, a special area of conservation on the east coast of County Down.

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