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Cornwall Wildlife Trust

"Seasearch is great fun and it gives dives a new purpose. By documenting the wildlife divers spot our volunteers are helping us with our vital conservation work. We are really grateful for the funding Sea-Changers provided, as this expedition would not have gone ahead without their support.”

Grant awarded - £990

Cornwall Wildlife Trust have coordinated the National Seasearch Dive survey work in Cornwall since 2002. In Summer 2017, with the help of Sea-Changers funding, they organised two weekends of Seasearch diving in which trained divers surveyed vital sites within Cornwall’s network of Marine Protected Areas, the Manacles reef Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), and the offshore reefs of the Newquay and the Gannel MCZ. 

Divers recorded all species and habitats encountered and photos and video were taken by experienced underwater photographers.

The data collected will be vital for the effecting monitoring of the health of the environment within these new Marine Conservation Zones.

Outcomes

Four dives were carried out with twelve divers taking part each day and each pair had at least one underwater photographer between them so their discoveries were well documented.

Highlights of the weekend included:

  • A very exciting discovery was that Crawfish appear to be making a comeback and recolonising our rocky reefs after decades of decline, with ten young Crawfish being recorded by one diver on just one dive. Crawfish became virtually extinct in Cornish waters following heavy fishing during the 1970s and ‘ 80s by both divers and fishermen.
  • Pink sea fans – a beautiful species of cold water coral which is nationally scarce is actually common on reefs off Newquay. The specimens seen by divers were very large and in great condition.
  • All of the divers recorded interesting sea slugs living beneath the Newquay Kelp forests. These bizarre and colourful molluscs come in a wealth of shapes and sizes.
  • Colourful anemones, cup corals, sponges and a huge diversity of seaweeds are also a bigfeature of the Marine Conservation zone, and every dive site was alive with spider crabs, lobsters, velvet swimming crabs and starfish.
  • And they were not alone. While recording the marine life divers were buzzed by a friendly grey seal. The MCZ is an important feeding and breeding area for this species.

The information gathered, images and video have been shared with the public to raise awareness of the importance of these sites, using social media, through press releases and by enlisting the help of Cornwall’s unique Your Shore Network of local marine volunteer groups.  All data collected has been shared via the National Biodiversity Network and the Marine Conservation Society.

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