Divers scour the sea bed off Norfolk’s coastline at Hunstanton and West Runton for new species

Divers from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), are carrying out in-depth marine surveys off parts of the east coast to search for new species.

From the estuaries of Essex to the east coast of Scotland, enthusiasts will be diving from boats and carrying out shore dives to gather data on rare and threatened species of seaweed.

This week, they'll be in East Anglia, diving at Orford Ness tomorrow, West Runton on Wednesday and Hunstanton on Thursday.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt from the Marine Conservation Society, said seaweeds are vital to us.

'Seaweeds provide alginates that are used in toothpaste, cosmetics and paints,' he said.

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'Algae is a vital food source for many coastal communities, and in the UK we eat samphire – that makes a wonderful salad with lemon and olive oil.

'Seaweed is also a rich source of iodine, which is otherwise deficient in many tropical developing countries diet.

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'Different weeds are used in gelling, water retention, and emulsifying procedures.

'But in the ocean they are also very beautiful, ranging from dense kelp forests on shallow reefs all around the UK, to deeper red calcareous fields of coral like maerl in Cornish waters.'

Suffolk-based Rob Spray, one of the divers taking part, said leisure divers often become supporters of marine conservation efforts after seeing the amazing biodiversity off our shores.

'Some divers are even lucky enough to make some historic findings,' he said. 'Last year, divers in Norfolk discovered what is thought to be the world's largest underwater chalk reef, just off Sheringham.

'We hope to give experts from all around the UK a taste of the North Sea's fantastic biodiversity.'

Dr Solandt said the Norfolk chalk reef could be the first of many east coast finds.

'Who could imagine that such a wonderful habitat exists, little more than a stones throw away from a busy Norfolk town,' he said.

'Only with the support of the members of the public can we really protect hidden gems like the chalk reefs of Sheringham.'

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