Sea Rangers offer long term protection for shipwrecks

09 Aug 2023 | Dan Benham

This month our Sea Rangers have been out in the North Sea monitoring protected shipwreck sites for the fifth consecutive year. As in previous years, when monitoring these sites our Sea Rangers are looking for any activity that could disturb these precious sites, including illegal salvaging of historical artefacts, unlicensed fishing, or anything else that might damage the sites or disturb the biodiversity that these wrecks support. For the Sea Ranger Service, this is now the fifth year working with the Information and Heritage Inspectorate to monitor and protect these special sites, an achievement we are proud of. 

Talking about our continued work in this area, our CEO and Founder Wietse van der Werf says this; 

“We are pleased to say that this is the fifth year we have been monitoring these protected maritime heritage sites. Having Sea Rangers out on the water helps to preserve these historic locations for future generations.” 

Here are some specific stats about our wreck monitoring work…

How do shipwrecks attract underwater wildlife?

As well as the need to protect some of the historic wreck sites as valuable cultural heritage, there is also the need to conserve underwater biodiversity, as shipwrecks provide a safe habitat for underwater plant and animal life. Some forms of marine plantlife prefer solid surfaces to grow on, including seaweeds, corals, and sponges, and so wrecks provide the perfect environment for them. Interestingly, all these forms of plantlife use these sunken structures for their survival in a different way. For example; Corals such as Sea Pens, attach themselves to the structure of the wreck and extend their polyps to capture plankton from the water, whereas sponges rely on the water moving through tiny pores to filter tiny organisms and plankton from the water, in order to give them nutrients. To read more about marine plantlife, including Seagrass, read another of our recent articles. 

Once such plantlife has started to grow on wrecks, this creates a good environment to attract small underwater animals like fish, crustaceans, mussels and barnacles. In addition to providing food from plant life, the small, tight spaces that shipwrecks offer mean they make a good place to live, reproduce and shelter from larger predators. Crabs, lobsters and seahorses can often be found on wrecks in the North Sea, in fact studies across the whole of the North Sea show that at least 200 animal species live in these waters.

​​When asked about her thoughts on our wreck monitoring programme, our First Mate Josefien Krijgsman said this:

For me the most important part about conserving the wreck sites is the ecosystem in and around it. It is home to a lot of fish, corals and other organisms. It is a safe haven for them and should be only looked at and not disturbed, and that is what we are here to support with.”

Hear from our crew

For our new Sea Rangers this has been the first assignment they have worked on since completing their initial training. Speaking about her experience monitoring wrecks Christa van Oorschot had this to say:

“Many people do not realise that a lot of history lies on the bottom of the sea. As Sea Rangers we contribute to preserving this history so that we can keep learning from it, and protect it for generations to come.”

Speaking about the progress that the new Sea Rangers have made, the captain during this period Jan-Willem Tetteroo said this;

“The past two weeks the Sea Rangers have learned a lot and had a very steep learning curve. It is great to see that they are now able to set, lower and adjust the sails by themselves without needing any help. I am eager to see the progress they will make on our next watch together.”

We look forward to seeing how the Sea Rangers progress over the next few weeks, continuing their work at sea.