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  • Rob Whitney

Safeguarding Our Seas | Lessons from Lundy

Blue Marine Partners with North Devon Moving Image CIC and School Students to create Lundy No Take Zone Documentary.

The best lessons are learned outside of the classroom. In this instance, on an island. 11 miles off the North Devon coast.

During the spring of 2022, Robert Irving was busily preparing for the Lundy Marine Festival, a summer-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the island’s Marine Protected Area (MPA). At the core of the MPA, off the island’s east coast, is a No Take Zone, covering approximately 4 km2, which was the first to see all commercial fishing activity banned for reasons of marine conservation.

As a part of the Anniversary Celebrations, Robert had arranged for academics across the country to convene on the island to help gather new data about the impact that the MPA had had on the marine ecosystem. In addition, he wanted to find out what impact the No Take Zone had had on the non-fished lobster and crab populations within it (when compared to the fished populations in the surrounding area) since its designation in 2003.

Wanting to document the whole summer’s celebrations, he approached North Devon Moving Image CIC, a local community interest company, and Blue Marine to produce a short film showcasing some of the highlights of the Lundy Marine Festival. A memento of an important historical event for the island.

North Devon Moving Image (NDMI) is a community filmmaking organisation that aims to provide filming opportunities for young people in North Devon; recognising the lack of opportunities in the area.

Gathering a crew of 8 students aged 14-18, Directors Gareth Alvarez and Rob Whitney set about planning the logistics for taking these youngsters, the filming equipment, and camping gear, to a remote island in the middle of the Bristol Channel. An exciting prospect, but also a bit of a health and safety nightmare, running it as a school trip!

Shortly before the group were due to depart on the island’s ferry the Oldenburg, a last-minute meeting was arranged to discuss details and filming requirements. By this point Blue Marine had been approached to help fund the film. And recognising an opportunity to capture many influential people in one place, and the chance to record what impact the country’s longest established No Take Zone had had on fishing at the island, the brief quickly changed. Blue Marine were keen to obtain the footage and wanted a proper documentary focusing entirely on the effectiveness of the No Take Zone at Lundy, and the data acquired from the new potting surveys.

This was an opportunity too good to miss.

So, just days before departure, what was to be a simple film produced by aspiring teenage filmmakers, more than likely shown in a quiet village hall somewhere, was suddenly transformed into a full-scale documentary to be used to lobby Parliament!

No pressure.

The crew could be forgiven for never hearing of Highly Protected Marine Areas before, or a No-Take-Zone. Growing up in Ilfracombe, they’d definitely seen lobster and crab before, but had no idea what a Sunset Cup Coral was, or how significant the East Coast of Lundy was. Not just for the island itself, but also for the rest of the UK.

Being an active fishing town, the students at The Ilfracombe Academy knew of the trials and tribulations faced by the local fishers. Now they were about to learn about the politics involved and how contentious these restricted areas can be.

For many, despite being only a mere 11 miles away, this was their first visit to Lundy Island. Now it was to become both their home and classroom for a whole week. From valuable lessons in filmmaking, to marine conservation and biology, to history, Lundy was no longer just a vista on the horizon. It was the experience of a lifetime. And a place where they’d develop a lifelong connection.

In what other classroom can you observe Puffins from the cliffs, walk amongst ruins with horses, swim in crystal clear waters with Atlantic Grey Seals, see Sika Deer up close, learn about the environment from experts in their field, and watch the sunset from atop a lighthouse? Can you imagine a more exciting place to go on your first film shoot? Camping and exploring an island with friends in the heat of summer.

It’s almost a chapter out of a Famous Five story.

And all the while, whilst providing this unique opportunity for these young people, NDMI’s Directors were conscious of the fact that they had to deliver a documentary on a subject they knew nothing about and were completely unprepared for.

Perhaps it was this naivety coupled with a natural curiosity that helped disarm people during the interviews, allowing them to be open and candid about their experiences with the No Take Zone. Perhaps it was a desire to tell the story from the fishers’ perspective. Or perhaps it was the magic of Lundy Island itself. Something happened on that island that could never have been anticipated.

“After my time on Lundy Island I have progressed my filmmaking skills by following a media course at GCSE. I have since worked on multiple film projects and found success in most of them. Lundy taught me many new interesting ways of acquiring footage, and I look forward to where I end up next.” ~ Charlie

“The once in a lifetime opportunity that I and others got to experience in 2022 on Lundy was something that I’m never going to forget as it changed my life and career options massively. For me, Media Studies wasn’t something that I had even considered taking as a GCSE until I got the chance to work behind the scenes on such an amazing project and see the incredible work that went on, but also the ecology that was happening at the same time, which is what I personally am now very interested in and I look forward to seeing where I go next, having had such a special, unique experience on Lundy.” ~ Phebe

“Since our time on Lundy, I’ve learnt an amazing number of new things about the No Take Zone, local wildlife and marine life. Since then, I’ve worked on many filming projects with NDMI and look forward to what the future holds. I would like to work on more nature projects like the No Take Zone documentary, as I find this very rewarding.” ~ Tyler

Lessons were learned by everyone. Important lessons. About marine conservation. About fishing. About communication. Collaboration. And sustainability. Looking ahead to a better future. By safeguarding our seas.

Lundy held the key to it all.

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