Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust


Mission Statement

Dedicated to protecting our vital economic, social and environmental assets - seals and the sea. We support a large network of dedicated volunteers and staff to photo ID seals, monitor and protect our crucial marine environment.


We love seals and the sea! Grey seals are our globally rare species. Each seal has unique fur patterns. We’ve recorded individual seal stories since 2000 to inform conservation. CSGRT protect our economic, social and environmental assets (seals & the sea) from many threats (disturbance, pollution – microplastics/lost fishing gear, climate change and habitat loss) by supporting a huge dedicated volunteer team monitoring seals regionally. What we learn we share with statutory agencies, non-governmental organisations, related charities and the public to make a difference!

Program Details

Seals are amazing – iconic and charismatic but also at risk. Photo identification enables us to recognise hundreds of individual seals by eye.
Meet our seals:
  • Ghost. A world record breaking mum - 16 pups in 17 years on exactly the same beach!
  • Lucky Bunting. Seriously injured by entanglement, we rescued her, giving her a second chance - she has since had her first pup.
  • Lewis. We’ve tracked him since he was born in 2000 and discovered he commutes 285km between N Devon and SE Cornwall.
  • Tulip Belle was first identified in 2001. She’s had 4 pups in the Isle of Man and returns to Cornwall, 450km away, in between.
Everybody loves to see a seal in its natural habitat. Children squeal with delight and it creates a memory for the whole family. But ours in the UK need protection as they are one of the rarest seal species in the world. Even with 34% of the entire world population, there are still more red squirrels in the UK than grey seals.
What we do really works. Our charity's aim has always been to give seals a voice and to protect them. We do this by finding out as much as we can about our seals and their movements in a non-invasive way through photo identification. In 20 years, Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust have processed over 1 million photos resulting in 72,000+ IDs. We know that seals we first met in 2000 are still alive in 2020.
We all depend on seals to balance our marine ecosystem. This is essential to make the oxygen we breathe. They are also our globally rare wildlife tourist attraction helping diversify coastal economic prosperity. Our project improves the quality of coastal marine habitat by raising community awareness and motivating action to reduce issues caused by lost fishing gear, microplastics, household chemicals and disturbance.
In 2019, our Marine Rangers connected with more than 12,000+ people in our amazing pop-up marine centre at 159+ events. We want to inspire everyone to take daily action to make our seas safer for all marine life and people. CSGRT share data on seals, birds, dolphins, microplastics, entanglement and disturbance globally. This informs planning, policy and legislation to protect our oceans.
The more people that help to protect our endangered seals, the more memories seals will continue to create for your children, their children and their children’s children.
Seals are at risk
Our Marine Rangers work hard to protect the ocean to help seals thrive. Seals face many challenges and need us to represent them. Our seal skeleton 'Septimus' proved human impacts can be shocking and cumulative. (#SeptimusSomeSeal recently featured on Springwatch with our patron Gillian Burke). There are many threats like climate change, chemical/pharmaceutical pollution, accidental bycatch, prey redistribution, microplastics, disturbance injuries and entanglement. Help us to help more seals like Lucky Star. We rescued him from his hideous entanglement with our partners British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. He is one of around 100 different entangled seals identified every year.
Our patch, our watch, our duty!
It’s our 20th birthday! CSGRT is a multi-award winning, evidence-based conservation charity. Our citizen scientists routinely survey seals on their local patch. This helps us to learn more about grey seals, a globally rare marine mammal for which the UK has a special legal responsibility to protect (JNCC). We do this by engaging global partners.
People matter to us
We need people to conserve seals. Our dedicated team have achieved major conservation successes from ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ protection for grey seals (making it a criminal offence to disturb them) to setting up the ‘Seal Network UK’ with DEFRA.
Our volunteers say:
  • “I love making seal survey ID albums. Thanks for keeping me involved during COVID-19 – seals have been my sanity!”
  • “Your rangers are great - enthusiastic, encouraging and helpful - giving constructive information and guidance”
  • “I have really enjoyed your high-quality series of online conference talks”
  • “I love my volunteering with seals best, as you make me feel my contribution is worthwhile and my skills appreciated”.
Photo ID means every seal counts
Each seal’s fur pattern is unique and like a human fingerprint can help us to track them for life. Photo ID is one of the most powerful research tools for studying seals. It is a non-invasive technique revealing information about their biology, ecology and life histories. We encourage everyone to send in their seal sightings from the SW (Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) to Photos are a bonus. They help us confirm if it is a grey or common seal; male or female and sometimes who it is and their back story! Our pioneering work has made our grey seals the most intensively studied in the world.
Our rangers make a difference to ocean conservation and seals
Our pioneering work has led to better protection for seals sites. It has added to knowledge about individual seal lives and their habitat use. More importantly, seals have returned to habitat that had been lost through pollution and disturbance.
Key learning outcomes from our work show that:
  • Our seal sites are like service stations on seal motorways. Seals stop off to rest on their way to somewhere else. If disturbed, they just move on
  • Only a few of seals seen at a site will stay there for several months. They will use the site as their base from which to forage. Each seal has a different combination of summer and winter sites
  • Each seal takes a different route around the oceans which it repeats seasonally. Seals from Cornwall have visited north and south Devon, Dorset, Somerset, the Isle of Man, Wales, France, Ireland, Belgium and Holland.
Primary Issue
Secondary Issue
Copperleaf Cottage Phillack Hill Phillack
Hayle, Cornwall TR27 5AD
United Kingdom
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