A CORNISH seal conservation project with a big connection to Looe has received a £75,000 boost for its work.

The Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust is among the first in the country to be given money as part of the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The Trust’s ‘People Protecting Precious Places’ project will help members of the public to have amazing experiences with seals, and learn more about the marine mammals without having an impact, as well as contributing to research.

The project also aims to:

• Create ‘Watching Seals Well’ resources such as a website, signs, and leaflets

• Gather critical research evidence about human interaction with seals

• Tell seal stories to motivate us all to ‘Give Seals Space’ and be ‘Seal Friendly’

• Develop the next generation of marine conservation leaders

• Create opportunities for #SealSmiles to improve fitness, mental health and wellbeing

After a challenging year for the Trust, its director Sue Sayer describes the grant as a game-changer.

“This will help transform peoples’ relationship with seals and help us all to share our seas successfully so marine life can thrive. It is our best chance to protect seals by raising awareness about ways to enjoy our coastline AND help seals.

“We are hugely grateful to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund from the Heritage Fund UK for making this happen. And we are delighted to shade the Green Recovery Fund ‘blue’ showing that it is inclusive of our critical marine environment.”

A significant part of the Cornish research into seals has been carried out in Looe. Volunteers with a local group have been monitoring seals in Looe Bay and on Looe island for almost 12 years, logging thousands of individual records. Their research has shown how grey seals are prolific travellers, returning to spend time in Looe Bay each year as they move between other parts of Cornwall and the Devon coastline. The Looe group marked the occasion of their 100th seal survey at the end of 2019.

Across Cornwall as a whole last year, the Trust’s 370+ volunteer citizen scientists processed over 120,000 photos for individual seal identifications – work which will help everyone learn more about the globally rare grey seal species.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is described as a key part of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Today, Defra has announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted - 800,000 in total - and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:

“These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

“I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”