Support our SeaWatchers! | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Support our SeaWatchers!

The Beach Observation Network SeaWatch-B aims to generate reliable long-term data on our North Sea beach and coastal waters using volunteering citizen-scientists. The generated data are crucial to study the environmental changes of our sea and beaches, such as pollution, climate change, overexploitation of ocean resources, etc.

The North Sea is constantly changing under the influence of natural causes and human intervention. Climate change, sea level rise, establishment of offshore wind farms and beaches being protected from a 1,000-year storm. Meanwhile, we notify ocean acidification and settlement of exotic sea creatures, increasing jellyfish populations and plastic pollution. But there is also some good news: North Sea water contains less polluting metals and oil, and dog whelks appear, after thirty years of absence, to have rediscovered our coast.

Yet, strange as it may sound, little or no reliable long-term data are available to comment on possible trends. As a result, we don't know the answer to questions like 'Are there more or fewer jellyfish than, say, fifty years ago?' The beach observation network Seawatch-B wants to help solve this problem with the help of citizen scientists. To this end, a feasible and scientifically sound measurement programme was developed.

In 2019, 20 volunteers were active for SeaWatch-B. These brought the number of measurement campaigns to 166, counting from the start of the beach observation network in June 2014.

The measurement results from June 2014 - June 2018 were bundled in the first SeaWatch-B report 'Hoe is de Noordzee eraan toe?' (in Dutch only). This shows that the Belgian North Sea is experiencing a more far-reaching impact by humans, primarily with the effects of climate change. Cold water species such as the common shrimp are decreasing in number compared to similar studies from 20 years ago, warm water fauna such as the poisonous lesser weever, the small hermit crab and certain exotics (American comb jelly) are becoming more numerous.

This report strengthens us in the interest of the measurements. SeaWatch-B continues to work on collecting long-term data, making trends increasingly clear.

Our support: development of SeaWatch-B, training of volunteers, development and management of the database, etc.

Your gift allows us to purchase sampling equipment for our volunteers and manage data and information resulting from beach observations. For example, a full set of equipment costs EUR 500 and this allows a volunteer to carry out a sampling activity, including fishing, weighing waste, determining the temperature of the beach water, measuring fish, etc.


More information about this programme, recent activities and images from previously observed beach findings are on display at the SeaWatch-B website (in Dutch only).