Journey from an Exmoor Stream to the Atlantic Ocean - HARBOUR

The HARBOUR, where the boats moor and gently rock, can be a rich area for marine life. At Ilfracombe the harbour is protected by the big Atlantic swells by a stone peer. A variety of habitats exist here, attracting a myriad of marine species. The pier walls provide surfaces and crevice havens for some, whilst rock reefs and weed zones provide habitat for others. The open sand and gravel areas can provide homes for flatfish and even rays where as the open water above can appeal to shoaling, fast swimming predatory species that cruise by.

Sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)(<100cm) are one such species of fast swimming predator, preferring the open water. They are prized by fisherman as are powerful fish that feed on bait fish such as sandeel and smelt.

Below on the seabed, with their exotic looking, fan-like, pectoral fins are tub gurnards (Trigla lucerna)(<75cm). These intriguing looking fish have also adapted strengthened fin rays that lend as legs or feelers which are used to probe the sand for food.

Also on the seabed one can encounter rays gliding with their flattened wings. One such ray is the thornback ray (Raja clavata)(<100cm) This species has spines on its back and possesses powerful jaws that can easily crush the shell of a shore crab that makes for a tasty meal.

These rays are in fact sharks that are related to the more easily recognised lesser spotted dogfish (Scyliohinus canicula)(<100cm) that spends most of it's time dozing until it's hunger demands a more active approach to finding food.

Look out for the common lobster (Homarus gammarus)(<50cm) These impressive looking crustaceans with huge, powerful claws hide in rock hollows, but emerge, displaying their armoury, and cruise the seabed in search of food.

Here at the aquarium we carry out frequent fish feeds daily, mixing it up to make the environment as natural and as stimulating as possible for the animals in our care. Attend one of our feeding demonstrations and enjoy a chat with one of our fish keepers. These experienced staff are on hand to share their knowledge and enhance your visit.