Grey seals are one of the rarest seal species in the world… Did you know that there are more African elephants in the world than grey seals! The UK has around 45% of the world’s population, so we tend to take them for granted, but we have a moral and legal obligation to protect them on behalf of the rest of the world. In 2008, there were around the same number of grey seals in the UK as red squirrels!
Most grey seals are found in Scotland, but they occur all around the English and Welsh coasts, from the Farne Islands in the north east, Donna Nook in Lincolnshire, all around the SW coast, on the Isles of Scilly and all along the west and north coasts of Wales. Seals in Cornwall are part of a Celtic Sea population, spanning five nations; France, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire.
Cornwall’s seals haul out all year round, on more coastal sites in the Winter months and Spring when the seals are breeding a moulting and on more offshore rocky islands during the Summer, their offshore foraging season.
In the last century, seals were hunted and culled, but their numbers are always going to be limited by their prey species. In Cornwall, the population appears to be stable. Despite this, seals around our shores are facing an ever increasing list of threats, such as prey depletion, disturbance on haul outs, entanglement in nets, shooting and killing, coastal developments, habitat marginalisation, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, marine litter, underwater noise, chemicals including oil and natural predation.
Each seal has a unique fur pattern from which it can be identified. Cornwall Seal Group have been building up a catalogue of seal images since 2000 and so far 76 seals have been identified in St Ives Bay and at 22 other sites, from as far away as Skomer in Pembrokeshire, Morte Point in north Devon, The Isles of Scilly and Looe in SE Cornwall. There seems to be a seasonal element to their movements around our coasts.
To become a volunteer & take part in the Looe Marine Conservation Group’s monthly seal survey on Looe Island, please contact us.