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“Getting important


environmental messages out there and seeing the results when people make positive changes to their everyday lives.”


Nigel Mortimer ESTUARIES OFFICER


What is your role? I help look after the estuaries in South Devon; the Dart, Sal- combe-Kingsbridge, Yealm, Erme and Avon. It’s my job to help keep them clean and healthy, protect local wildlife and check that any building work won’t affect them negatively. I also help the wider community understand about and care for their local waterways.


How much wildlife is there in


our estuaries? Lots - you’d be surprised! The Dart alone has otters, birds, crabs, shell- fish, seals and the occasional visiting dolphin. Innumerable smaller crea- tures including snails, shrimps and worms support the complex food web! We also have two species of sea grass (marine jungles of flower- ing plants where fish and other sea creatures feed, breed and hide).


What threats do the wildlife


need to be protected from? There are many kinds of pollution – some have a traceable source into the estuary like sanitary products flushed down the toilet or plastic straws and bags dropped on the quayside. Some excesses can wash from the land, like fertilisers and pesticides from farms and gardens, and cleaning products from busi- nesses and households. So much lies beneath the surface of the water and because it’s unseen we tend to forget about it. It can be a fragile en- vironment that only time can heal.


What is the advice to home-


owners? Most importantly – consider the


disposal of all your waste carefully. Don’t throw anything down the toilet except toilet paper and recycle as much as possible. Try and use environmentally degradable clean- ing products - it’s often just small changes that make a huge difference - when we all make them.


Are you pleased there’s more awareness now about environ- mental issues such as plastics? Absolutely. Children are demanding to be taught about it in schools, shops are boycotting plastic bags and big chains are swapping plastic straws for cardboard ones. It all helps.


What do you want to see in the


future? Healthier, cleaner waters in our riv- ers, estuaries, mud flats and oceans.


What are you working on at the


moment? We have a bit of a problem with Pacific oysters, which have gone truly wild along some of our shores. They have settled (on mass!) on a couple of the Yealm’s beaches so people can’t access the area. We need to work out why and try and reduce the numbers.


How did you get into this work?


I studied Marine Biology & Ecology at St Andrews University and then worked as a countryside ranger in Scotland. I managed marine aquariums for a couple of years then came back to the South West to take up the role of ‘estuary officer’ for the Kingsbridge-Salcombe Estuary.


What is the best part of the


AONB job? Getting important environmental messages out there and seeing the results when people make positive changes to their everyday lives. Many get actively involved with our work, doing beach cleans and helping with local projects. I take every opportunity to educate people, from business owners to dog walkers. It’s good when I can talk to children as they’ll be the ones looking after this beautiful land- scape in the future. I love working in this stunning part of the world, sometimes I have to stand still and take it all in for a moment.


What marine animal would


you be a why? A dolphin as they have the ability to move gracefully in the water and they’re quite intelligent so I’d be very aware of what’s going on around me.


What would you say to David


Attenborough if you met him? Wow - keep fighting the good fight. We may all be saying the same thing but when it comes from someone as famous and well liked as him – people listen.


What two celebrities would you invite to your dinner


party? David Gilmour from Pink Floyd and Steve Backshall, the wildlife presenter.


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