A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

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

Nudger the young adult male grey seal has been an entertaining highlight on Cornwall’s South coast this year after catapulting himself into the national news headlines by joining a kayaker on his ‘sit on top’. Four quavers (aka Nudger) was first recorded as he delighted those he chose to snorkel with back in August. He was identified from his unique fur patterns by Alec and Enid Farr and Terry Thirlaway, CSGRT’s dedicated volunteers at Lizard South. Four quavers got his ‘aka name’ Nudger after he joined the Looe Island Assistant Warden, Claire Lewis, for a swim. She had to repeatedly ignore his delightful and provocative attempts to nudge her into playing with him. His latest antics are more serious however, as he has been seen taking fish from boats as well as playing with pot lines at low water, even getting the thick ropes to spiral around his body in a worrying tangle. Nudger is doing what all young seals do, curiously exploring his world and learning through play. He appears to show no fear of humans and this will inevitably lead him into trouble. Nudger will not learn to behave around us if we encourage him to follow boats or feed him. If Nudger is to make old bones, then we need to be the ‘responsible adults’ around him, enabling him to remain a wild seal. If we care about him, which people obviously do, then we need to practice ‘tough love’: ignore his advances, keep our distance, avoid any interaction and never ever feed him. Only then will Nudger learn how to be an independent wild seal and have a chance of a long and healthy live. Please help keep Nudger wild!Nudger photo by Lynda Small
Massive thanks to everyone for helping in a multitude of ways. The reinforces the importance of our unique regional long term research data set. Huge thanks to everyone who has sent us records in 2018 and to all those volunteers who have helped out in a multitude of other ways. We are excited about our prospects and those of seals across the southwest for 2019…long may it all continue.

Published: Jan 2019
Author: Sue Sayer (Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust)