A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Seaquest and Saving Our Dolphins

Overview


Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seaquest Southwest Programme is taking action to conserve Cornwall’s enigmatic bottlenose dolphins by stepping up its research programme, joining forces with the Lizard Watch Point, and getting our local population on Britain’s wildlife map.

Seaquest volunteers surveying for marine life, photo by Dan Murphy

 



At the end of July, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seaquest Southwest Project came to the Lizard. The Project had a training event booked in with local Lizard Watch Point volunteers; to learn the methodologies and skills to carry out Seaquest effort based surveys for marine megafauna such as dolphins, porpoises and whales. Expecting to only be joined by one or two keen naturalists, our Seaquest Project officer Matt Thurlow was blown away to find the room full of enthusiastic volunteers - local people keen to learn more about their surrounding environment and do their bit to record and protect it.

Dolphin surfing, photo by George KarbusSeaquest Southwest is a citizen science marine recording project run in conjunction with Devon Wildlife Trust which relies on people like those at the Lizard Watch Point to achieve its aims. For over 20 years the Project has been recording the distribution and abundance of our most charismatic marine wildlife; including dolphins, sharks, whales, porpoises, seals, sunfish and much more. The project incorporates sighting records sent in by the public with structured surveys conducted by trained volunteers, to better understand and monitor these species around the South West. Only with evidence-based records of occurrence, behaviour and ecology can we act to better protect and conserve these wonderful animals around our coasts.

Seaweed, what do you know?

SeaweedHave you ever eaten, drank or bathed in seaweed? You might not think so but the chances are you have done all three. Seaweed is surrounded by a stigma founded on that nauseous smell clouding every beach you visited in your childhood. What I hope to show you is that seaweed can be both beautiful and useful. We have been using seaweed for thousands of years and new uses are still being found all the time.
Learn a little more about these amazing algae’s. Have a read through the facts below and I can guarantee you’ll be amazed.

History- The earliest archaeological records show that humans have been using seaweed for over 20,000 years. Amazing when you consider that grain is only thought to have been used for the past 11,000 years.
UK Species- There are over 7000 red, 2000 brown and 1000 green known species of seaweed in the world. Around 7% of these species can be found along the shores of the UK.

Stars at Lizard south Point – seals and people!

Cornwall Seal Group’s photo identification work (based on every seal’s unique fur pattern) enables us to track seals for life. In 2014 this work was championed by three incredible volunteers at Lizard South Point (LSP) who collect daily data all year revealing amazing information.

Key by Terry Thirlaway

Key by Terry Thirlaway

Whilst seals are at LSP all year, their numbers peak in the summer and drop in the winter. Almost half haul out to digest their food whilst resting on offshore rocks. Over three quarters are adults and most of the year there are more males, but during the spring moult this changes and females outnumber males.
The Lizard team took on the challenge of identifying their seals and are incredibly good at this. ID tells us that most seals at LSP are passing through, using the habitat like a service station on a seal motorway running between Skomer in SW Wales, the Isles of Scilly and Looe in SE Cornwall as 28 seals link LSP to 12 other sites.

Brush by Alec Farr

Brush by Alec Farr

Whilst no seals stay all year, ten are identified for more than half the year and these seal stars feature highly in stories our volunteers share with visitors. For example ‘Key’, who clearly hasn’t read her seal handbook that says she should leave LSP to have her pup elsewhere, has broken the rules not once but twice. ‘Brush’ turned out to be a seal I rescued on the north coast as a pup and who gave birth herself at LSP in 2015 at the age of six.

For more information please visit www.cornwallsealgroup.co.uk

Published: May 2016
Author: Sue Sayer Chair of Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (Charity number 1162936)

Stirring up a storm

Sea foamThe seas around Gunwalloe are home to the wrecks of the Santo António, a Portuguese ship wrecked during a storm almost 500 years ago, and the San Salvador, a Spanish ship wrecked over 300 years ago. Inspired by recent stormy weather I headed down to Dollar Cove at Gunwalloe to see if anything interesting had been washed up (although note I was neither expecting or hoping for a ship). Before I even got down to the beach I noticed that sea foam had been blown up to the footpath. Sea foam is created by the agitation of seawater, which is why it is often associated with stormier sea conditions.

Taking a look beneath the waves

Natural England and Cornwall Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority joined forces recently to get a unique underwater view of the seas around the Lizard.Lizard Point - Simon Lewis, www.westcountryviews.co.uk

i. The Big Blue, Lizard Point.

Walking from Lizard village along the coast towards the most Southerly Point, there are some fantastic places where you can find yourself high above the sea with a 180 degree view of nothing but blue. This is one of the things that I have loved about the Lizard for many years, but what lies below that wonderful blue expanse?

Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) and Natural England have recently been carrying out some survey work around the Lizard to better understand what is beneath the waves, and importantly, how healthy it is. The sea around the Lizard is a Special Area of Conservation as it has some of the best examples of underwater reef habitat in the country. Surveys of this fantastic marine environment first took place 7 years ago, and last month it was time to go back and have another look...Camera equipment

ii. Camera equipment being deployed over the side of R/V Tiger Lily

The Crawfish Comeback

Waters around the Lizard appear to be playing an important role in the recovery of an iconic crustacean from a population crash that threatened it with near-extinction in the 70’s and 80’s.

Crawfish under a rock crevice. Credit: Natural EnglandCrawfish under a rock crevice. Credit: Natural England

Crawfish are a warm water species that are at the northern limit of their distribution in British waters. Although they may appear to resemble the more familiar Lobster, in fact the two are not that closely related. Unlike lobster, crawfish are golden-orange in colour and are covered in spines. They lack the familiar large claws of the lobster, instead being equipped with spikey front legs and long antennae. These beautiful crustaceans were once far more common around our shores, having been brought almost to extinction in the UK due to extensive overfishing by potting, scuba diving and netting in the 1970’s and ‘80s. Crawfish are identified as in need of protection, and are a Species of Principal Importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
Crawfish are long-lived, mobile animals, that can grow up to 60cm in length and are known to migrate large distances over the seabed. They are typically found occupying rock ledges and crevices at depths beyond 15m. They regularly live to at least 15 years of age, and some individuals have been known to live much longer.


Crawfish: Dr. Keith Hiscock
Crawfish: Dr. Keith Hiscock

Crawfish mate in the summer, and females carry the fertilised eggs externally for between 6-10 months. Females carrying eggs (known as ‘berried hens’) can be found in Cornish waters, but more commonly they will move to deeper waters offshore to overwinter while the embryos mature. Larvae are also carried into Cornish waters by warm ocean currents, so populations here may depend in part on the health of stocks in the Bay of Biscay and the coast of Spain.

Time flies when you are having fun. Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust

2018 was a landmark year for Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT).
People: We now have three rangers: Amazement and Discovery Ranger (Marion Beaulieu), Seal Research Ranger (Katie Bellman) and Creativity and Activity Ranger (Emily Pollitt) thanks to our funders and incredible donations. We won two prestigious awards from ‘Cornwall Volunteers’ and a ‘Cornwall Sustainability Award’. Sue’s leadership was recognised in print by Bob Earll’s book ‘Marine Conservation: People, Ideas and Action’. In 2018, we delivered 50+ seal talks; 20+ training sessions and 29+ Seal Squad stalls engaging just under 7000 people.
Data, policy and planning: We recruited 14 seal Photo ID Hubs across the SW including one on the Roseland. Decentralisation helps our future sustainability and seal conservation at a local scale. In 2018 alone, CSGRT received 3481 seal records, processing an incredible 113,616 photos from 347 different volunteer recorders and 4 systematic PIP teams (7 LISPIP; in addition to 3 STAPIP, 4 CASPIP and 4 POLPIP boat surveys across a 115km stretch of cornwall’s north coast) covering 282 different locations across Cornwall, Devon and the Isles of Scilly. This included 66 surveys of the key Roseland sites by Rob Wells and Kath Wherry and almost daily surveys by Veronica Toft on the estuary side. CSGRT’s evidence base gave seals a voice in 12+ major consultations this year and our data went to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative; 5 Gyres’ Trawlshare (microplastics) and Pinniped Entanglement Group. Our combined photo ID team effort ‘Pinnipeds, people and photo ID’ has been accepted by the JMBA.
Seals: 2018 also saw the return of Septimus to CSGRT – a seal we knew in life and the third longest dead in Cornwall. Other celebrity seals included ‘Locket’ swam to St Ives Bay at 19 weeks old having been born on the Lizard. ‘Lucky Star’ was finally rescued on 01/10 by Sue and Dan Jarvis (BDMLR); ‘H chair’ swam from West Cornwall to Lundy; ‘Wings’ made it Cornwall 2: Wales 1 pup; ‘Windy Dog’ beachmastered having gone missing for four years whilst ‘Millie’ returned after an absence of nine years. In contrast eight seals from 2000 were re-identified in 2018.

Nudgers distinctive fur attern by Sue Sayer

Value added Lizard

Bronze Age Boat Replica built at FalmouthAncient mariners, trade networks, ritual compulsion & a unique product revered through millennia before its final fading from use around the time St Keverne became a parish: part of the story I promised in an earlier episode of this Blog¹. Read on, if you must.

On occasion it is interesting to run time backwards & dream up scenarios out of which condense the realities of today. We are helped in this Dreamtime by factors we can't ignore but there is scope for the imagination to suggest things which might later be disproved. It's called the Scientific Method & is universally used to posit theories whose demise allows better theories to replace them. The rest of this article might be viewed in that light.