SCUBA diving is a useful tool for the study of underwater habitats, and has been widely used to conduct surveys of the sublittoral zone Survey work generally falls into two categories, basic habitat description, for example the UK Marine Nature Conservation Review (MNCR) - Phase I, or Seasearch, or detailed habitat and community descriptions, for example the MNCR - phase 11 Phase I surveys are intended to provide coverage of large areas and have successfully been conducted by volunteer divers They can be used identify areas of interest which may warrant further study, or provide ground-truthing for remote sampling techniques such as side-scan sonar In the UK, a extensive sublittoral survey programme is currently handed by the government and data is collected by professional biologists and by volunteers participating in Seasearch

The Isle of Man has no equivalent to the Marine Nature Conservation Review (MNCR), and there have only been two documented coastal surveys, one on the Calf of Man, the other at a few selected sites Information from the remainder of the Island is patchy, but indicates the presence of unique habitats, such as maerl, and a Modrolus modrolus bed Manx fauna and flora records also list benthic species which are nationally rare

Recently there has been a considerable increase in activities which may have a deleterious impact on marine life around the Isle of Man Hydrocarbon exploitation and transportation has increased dramatically, whilst areas of the coastline are being developed for tourism and sewage treatment Hence a survey of Manx marine habitats was a priority This abstract describes a phase I survey of sublittoral habitats around the Isle of Man which was conducted by volunteers from recreational dive clubs

The survey was co-ordinated by PEMBSAC and handed by local businesses A recording form, (a simplified version of the MNCR Site and Sublittoral record sheets) was prepared to enable non-scientists to describe habitats easily and quickly Volunteers were asked to divide their dive into a series of habitats and then to give details on each using a series of response boxes For example, recording the percentage area the habitat occupied by each of 16 types of substrata such as bedrock, boulders or cobble, or to indicate the presence or absence of features such as worm casts This approach was similar to that used by Seasearch (a volunteer survey programme run by the Marine Conservation Society on behalf of the MNCR), but requested specific habitat details in a format that could easily be entered into a database Divers were asked to draw a map and a dive profile so that sites could be relocated, and were encouraged to record the dominant species present Participation was sought by contacting divers through local clubs, by posters, and newspaper articles An incentive of $5 was offered for each completed form as a subsidy towards costs Data was either collected during the course of standard recreational dives or as part of survey expeditions Completed forms were returned to PEMBSAC and the data entered into a database (Microsoft Access TM), which was set up to allow quick and flexible querying

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