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Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 12:39 UK
Divers' Shellfish Code introduced for Dorset
A lobster. Courtesy of Richard Yorke.
Divers who take too many lobsters could be threatening the marine ecosystem

The underwater life of the Dorset coast is being threatened by divers taking too many shellfish, according to conservationists.

Dorset Wildlife Trust is concerned that some divers are collecting large numbers of the marine animals.

The trust maintains this is putting the wildlife balance in the reefs at risk.

Divers who take too many lobsters, crabs and scallops could be depriving fellow divers of the chance to see these creatures alive in the wild.

A king scallop. Courtesy of Mike Markey.
Dorset's scallops 'may be tasty, but are better seen alive'

Animals such as wrasse [brightly coloured marine fish], conger eels, cuttlefish, rays and sharks depend on shellfish for food, so there is also a 'knock-on' effect when numbers are reduced.

Julie Hatcher, marine awareness officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: "We are worried about the sizes and numbers of shellfish, especially scallops and lobsters, which are being taken by recreational divers.

"While taking a plateful for their dinner might not be a problem, collecting enough to fill their freezer and feed the whole street is clearly not acceptable."

The area between Portland and Swanage is recognised for its diverse rocky reefs and ledges, and shellfish are a major component of reef wildlife communities.

Removal of too many and of undersized animals could affect the structure of these marine ecosystems.

Divers' Shellfish Code
Limit your catch. Act responsibly by only taking enough for one meal, not enough to fill your freezer.
Size does matter. Be aware of the legal minimum catch sizes and please only take animals well above the legal size limit.
It is illegal to sell your catch unless you hold a commercial fishing licence.
It is illegal to take lobsters carrying eggs or if they have a 'V' notch in their tail; it is sensible to leave all breeding animals alone. Larger individuals produce more offspring, so leave any really big shellfish that you see.
Source: Dorset Wildlife Trust

A Divers' Shellfish Code is being launched at the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve, as part of the Selfish Shellfish Divers Project, and will be distributed free from the slipway at Kimmeridge Bay throughout summer 2010.

It is hoped that following the code will help ensure there will always be plenty of shellfish around for divers to see.

Julie added: "Britain's marine life is some of the most interesting and diverse in the world.

"Scuba divers are among the privileged few who get the chance to see it first hand in all its glory, but there are a few individuals who risk spoiling it for everyone by being greedy.

"Lobsters and scallops may be tasty, but they're even better seen alive on the seabed."

Contact Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01929 481044 for your free, waterproof code, including legal minimum catch sizes.

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