The Seal Project was set up to monitor and reduce negative impact factors affecting grey seals and raise awareness of the importance of protecting this globally rare species.
Give wildlife space. Do not feed wild seals. Be kind.
An emaciated and feverish male grey seal pup we lifted off the beach in South Devon this year as part of a British Divers Marine Life Rescue call out.
Since January 2019, our small, self-funded team of volunteers have been monitoring grey seal activity in Torbay with a focus on Brixham Harbour and the immediate surroundings. Our intentions are to continue documenting and analysing grey seal behaviour and population dynamics in order to better understand how we can protect the recovering population. We are qualified British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Marine Mammal Medic volunteers with full time jobs. Our unique experiences, passions and skill sets have combined to create The Seal Project. Our research, community engagement efforts, and equipment is all voluntary and self-funded and feeds into national databases.
Our core team Sarah, Lee and Duncan.
About The Seal Project:
Grey seals are a globally rare species with an estimated population of just 300,000 across the Atlantic. The UK hosts around 38% of the global population. There are fewer grey seals than African elephants in the wild. Our waters are crucial to the survival of this species. If we want to enjoy African elephants on safari, we expect local people to look after them on our behalves and we must do the same for globally rare grey seals on our patch.
We continue to monitor a recovering population of grey seals which temporarily gather in the Brixham area during the Winter months. During this crucial period they breed for the next season and moult. We have observed that grey seals often utilise the human-made breakwater and wave screen in Brixham Marina to rest and re-oxygenate their blood before their next hunt. We aim to collect comprehensive evidence of their behavioural patterns to determine the most effective way to protect them in this busy harbour environment. By using the analysis of our observations and data, we’ll continue to engage community groups, organisations and authorities to inspire a collective effort to share our marine environment with the transient population of curious and intelligent wild marine mammals. Negative human impact factors such as coastal human activity, marine litter, increased visitors during the summer months and wildlife tourism excursions potentially threaten seal welfare. Through research, education and community engagement we will raise awareness of the need to protect our globally rare seals while increasing research opportunities in Torbay.
Watch our 5 minute Short Film here .
When we reach £1,000: We will deliver a free Seal Conservation presentation at a Brixham Primary School.
- £2,000: We will deliver a free Seal Conservation presentation at a Brixham Secondary School /College.
- £3,000: We will deliver two free Seal Conservation presentations, one at a Paignton Primary School and one at a Paignton Secondary School/College.
- £4,000: Our team members will brave a MID-WINTER SWIM FOR THE SEALS! and deliver a free Seal Conservation presentation at a Torquay School/College.
- £5,000: We will have enough funded to begin our Seal Conservation Roadtrip visiting schools throughout Devon delivering our message tp many great young minds - the future of marine conservation.
What We Require:
-£500: Branded Gazebo for educational outreach.
-£350: Remote cameras for monitoring seals on Brixham wave screen 24/7.
-£500: Merchandise for events such as, clothing, tote bags, calendars, cards, stickers etc.
-£300: All-weather gear to keep volunteers warm and dry during winter monitoring.
-£100: Hard drive to store data and SD cards for cameras.
-£200 for storage racking for equipment.
-£1000: Annual expenses for volunteer welfare on the project such as fuel, food and drink.
-£150 for 2x spotting monoculars.
-£2000: Survey boat including annual fuel and maintenance (match funded*).
-£150: Life jackets.
-£300: Projector and pop-up screen for presentations at schools, community groups and businesses.
Total £5350. We guarantee every pound we receive will go directly towards The Seal Project’s Conservation efforts in and around Torbay.
*We will match every pound raised toward the survey boat.
Our drone surveillance capture a magical experience two kayakers had when Flame a juvenile female approached them.
With our 600mm photography lenses we can study seals like Flame from a safe distance to prevent potential for disturbance.
A fantastic turnout at our Seal Talk supported by the Fishcombe Cove Cafe and Rob Hunt on live music.
Showcasing the dynamic environment of a grey seal in Brixham Harbour. We aim to further understand behaviour and and how best to protect them during their visit to Torbay.
About Our Local Ecosystem:
Torbay hosts a rich variety of coastal habitats and marine species in its designated Marine Conservation Zone and numerous Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It’s many land and marine diverse habitats have been recovering in recent decades with improved water quality enabling some species to re-establish themselves. Biodiversity is essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem, which not only keeps us alive, it is fundamental for a profitable fishing industry and thriving tourist income.
These habitats provide vital shelter, breeding grounds, and feeding opportunities for many special marine flora and fauna species such as seagrass, scallop, cuttlefish, seahorses, ocean sunfish right up to the larger marine mammals such as grey seals, common seals, common dolphins and harbour porpoises.
An increase in human appreciation and engagement with our coastal waters, a greater awareness of the importance of healthy coasts, and our ability to document and share this information with each other through social media is pathing the way for positive recovery of certain species in Torbay. Recovering marine species in Torbay may also be linked with changes to habitats outside of our waters. These changes can influence the food chain at all levels. Where habitats change, the associated species can migrate to find key habitat containing food and shelter.
The slowly recovering population of transient seals in the area is a great sign of improved marine ecosystem health from pollution and increased water quality. Healthy seal numbers are indicative of thriving prey items (otherwise the seals would have died or left) which is a great sign for the fishing industry and our tourist economy alike!
We are very fortunate in Torbay to have such a contrast between a busy port and serene natural habitats. We aim to better understand their transient behaviours and share with local industry and the community to create opportunity for humans and wildlife to co-exist safely and sustainably.
Interesting project Information:
Grey seals are a mobile species which travel year round. There are a handful of exceptions to this in Torbay where individual seals have been habituated by humans and had their behaviour changed for life. Habituated seals are often observed in close proximity to humans begging for food. This is not their natural behaviour and is a direct result of the negative impact of human interaction.
One of the numerous signs placed by The Seal Project in association with Torbay Council and Torbay Harbour Authority this summer to help reduce negative human impact factors affecting grey seals in Torbay and surrounding area.
The wave barrier at Brixham Marina is a series of wooden and concrete fixed platforms which rise and fall with the tide designed to protect the marina berths from Northerly inclement weather. The platforms are protected by small walls on three sides. This gives the seals additional protection from the weather where seals can rest, digest and replenish oxygen stores and offers safe escape into deep water at all tide states. Another protective factor of the wave barrier is that it cannot be accessed from land by foot. This reduces the opportunity for disturbance by humans during critical seal resting periods. The marina is busy with transiting vessels, and the bustling fish quay is less than 50 metres away to the west, however, grey seals have adopted this location for hauling out in recent years. Hauling out is when a grey seals rests on land. They can also rest by bottling (bobbing on the surface with just their head/nose visible) or logging (floating horizontally) and rest for periods by sleeping on the seabed or under water in the shallows. Like seals all around the UK, grey seals in Brixham predominantly rest at low tide and are more active at high tide.
The marina operators (MDL Marina), the Harbour Authority and The Seal Project are working together to protect the grey seals during this period. Berth holders are informed about restrictions applied to minimise potential for seal disturbance. Information signage has been placed on the breakwater and around Brixham harbour. We are planning to place additional signage at either end of the wave barrier to encourage water users on approach to keep their distance from resting seals. Remote cameras are in place to record all activity on the wave barrier and assist with data capture for seal identification and behavioural purposes. With this data aim to identify returning seals in 2019 and further understand the male/female grouping positions around the wave barrier and establish ratios between visiting adults and juveniles. The Seal Project representatives speak with local marine users both commercial and recreational to raise awareness of the need to give wildlife space and give regular talks to the community about grey seals and our coastal environment. Without protective measures and awareness campaigns we risk unmanaged access to the wave barrier area and an increased risk of harm to the seals through disturbance at numerous sites.
Wild animals adapt to continuously changing environments over which they have no control. Both humans and wildlife share these same environments, and both parties must continue to adapt to sustain mutually beneficial healthy ecosystems for all. As the human population and use of land and marine environments increase, wildlife rich habitats are negatively impacted. This is a major global factor in the both the decline in wildlife and the movement of species between areas.
In a time of global ecological crisis, it is essential we influence and act to preserve species which inhabit and visit our delicate coastal environments. Humans must adapt to overcome these issues by applying transferable skills to sustainable methods of land and marine use. Heritage, customs and traditions are important to coastal villages and towns and communities. Finding sustainable solutions to reduce environmental challenges will protect our communities.
Help us to support the community in protecting our globally rare visitors. If you would like to discuss further any of the content in this document or would like The Seal Project to present at your event, school or organisation please get in touch.
Duncan - Mobile:07801249515
Sarah - Mobile: 07818034668
Please follow our Facebook Page for daily updates of the gorgeous seals of Torbay.
- Tracy Muir
- Karen Tibbs
- Deborah McPeake
- Carl Reynolds
- Angelika Zang