Website offers divers a visual guide to Malta's marine life
Amateur divers and snorkellers often find themselves spotting exotic sea creatures without quite knowing what it is that they've seen.
Now a newly-launched website is hoping to make it easier for people to identify the marine life they come across during their adventures beneath the waves.
Seastuff.com provides a visual guide to all the most common marine life found in the seas around Malta and Gozo, with the most common sights - mullet, sea bream and wrasse - listed first.
50 different forms of marine life are listed in the database, ranging from more recognisable species to creatures like the frightening-looking (and curiously named) fried egg jellyfish. Each species is listed with a photo, detailed description and video of them in action underwater.
The site is the brainchild of UK-based marine biologist Bob Earll, who has been visiting Gozo together with his wife Louise since 1972.
"Over 110,000 divers visit Malta each year, and there are probably several hundred thousand people who enjoy snorkelling. The site is designed to answer the simple question of ‘what is it?’, but also provide information on the species that describes how they go about their lives," Dr Earll said. "The idea is to show people what they actually see and encourage their interest."
In addition to the database, which Dr Earll says will eventually be expanded further, the site also offers tips on how to spot marine life, how to snorkel and what you can do to protect the ocean.
Dr Earll enlisted the help of fish expert Frances Dipper, local diving instructor Julia Jagoditsh, videographer Luke Adshead and photographers Gill and Russell Bennett to create the site. The site also has the backing of local marine biologist Alan Deidun.
"The aim is to expand the website to include different locations around the world," Dr Earll said. The marine biologist is banking on the generosity of supporters to help him keep the site afloat while he seeks long-term sponsors.
But he's also eager to hear from regular users who stumble across the site. "We're very keen to get feedback on the site, as we anticipate that it will be used in many ways," he said.