Towards the end of 2018 Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) Rangers Sue, Marion and Kate spent two days carrying out intensive training with IoSWT staff Nikki, Darren M, Phil, Rhianna and Vickie; covering survey protocols, recording, photographing as well as hands on data processing. 

Matching seal fur patterns is child’s play but the systematic study of patterns at varying angles in changing conditions can be very challenging. To enable independent retrospective verification of each seal’s identification, rigorous protocols need to be followed systematically.

Seal photo ID is one of the most powerful yet non invasive scientific research methods, as it reveals information on movements, site fidelity, fecundity, mortality as well as life expectancy.

There is much to be gained by formalising seal photo ID in Scilly, a Special Area of Conservation for seals and CSGRT are keen for the IoSWT team to build upon the opportunistic foundations begun during CSGRT survey work conducted between 2008 and 2016 across the islands.

To date around 50 seals have linked the Isles of Scilly to Cornwall and Devon in England as well as to southwest Wales and northwest France each with a different visit pattern.

The islands already have their own seal celebrities: ‘Snowdrop’ is one of only three seals known to have pupped in Wales and England; young adult male ‘Tick’ was first seen in Scilly but he routinely commutes from the north to south Cornish coast around Lands End; ‘Back r’ commutes to North Cornwall and back to Scilly, whilst Triangle Lobster (first identified in the IoS) visited France before pupping on the Lizard the following year.

These celebrities will help us all to create shared resources to enable people of all ages to discover the amazing secrets of our charismatic seals.

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust Team hope to start collating Scilly data on a regular basis to add to CSGRT's ever growing database and scientific research; so watch this space! 

During our first year of survey work there have been many ups and downs; largely as a result of the weather and sea conditions preventing us from carrying out a number of surveys, but more recently Covid-19 has also thrown a spanner in the works.  To find out more about the Seal survey's and what we've discovered so far take a look at our 2019 article "The Secret World of Scilly's Seals" written for Scilly Now & Then. 

To find out more about our nationally important Atlantic Grey Seals head on over to Scilly's Special Species