St. Mary’s Seal Watch (SMSW) is a non-profit community conservation organisation set in up 2014 by local residents. As regular visitors to St. Mary’s Island, its founders having seen first-hand the desperate plight of the wildlife as it struggled to find respite on what should be the protected habitat of a nature reserve, were moved to do something to help. Years of poor management had created a culture of repeated close approach by visitors to the resting birds and seals scaring them away or preventing them using the island to fulfil essential natural behaviour. This resulted in the nature reserve never reaching its full potential. To improve the conservational value of St. Mary’s Island the team of dedicated volunteers generously give their time to protect and preserve this natural habitat and the wildlife that makes it home.
Our growing team of friendly and informed volunteers aim to minimise the anthropogenic (human) disturbance to the seals and birds on St, Mary’s Island.Trained and experienced seal wardens work to reduce disturbance levels by
- providing positive public engagement
- providing information on seal biology, behaviour and disturbance issues.
- facilitating responsible wildlife watching and guidelines on best practice when visiting.
- Catalogue seal activity throughout each season
- Record numbers of seals using the haul out site.
- Record site fidelity (frequency of returning seals) – using photo identification.
- Prove functional linkage (showing the movement of seals from one haul out site to another) – recording and reporting tag numbers which are logged into national and international data base.
- Work with other research and conservation organisations.
- Collect data on levels and frequency of disturbance.
SMSW works closely and proactively with the community and statutory bodies to maintain the delicate balance between visitors to the Island LNR and the welfare of the wildlife it supports.