Sharing seal successes

We love celebrating….we certainly have a lot to shout about from 2023!

Our Seal Research Trust (SRT) Annual Report ‘Seals SW’ is out and it makes a great read (with lots of lovely photos to enjoy too.) Click here to discover our epic 2023 achievements!

We definitely punch above our weight! Seals SW highlights what a massive team effort we make, given we only have 1.5 full time equivalent paid people in our charity.


Thankfully we are now self financing, so no longer reliant on winning grants which are time consuming and stressful. It is with deep gratitude (and pockets) that we routinely and unapologetically thank all our public, private and voluntary funders. Our One Stop Sealy Online Shop, Wild Seal Supporter and Adoption Scheme and wonderful Corporate and Private Donations make this possible, with 100% of profits heading into seal conservation activities.

SRT 2023 Key Funders

Charity Achievements and Activities

In 2023 SRT delivered 740 activities (including 245 across the UK and 80 globally) involving 29,183 people. This is more than ever before! We ended the year with 18,313 social media followers, which is 1654 more without any paid marketing. Volunteers delivered 69 talks, 20 workshops, 11 stalls/events, 217 field engagements, one 8 month exhibition, 8 school sessions, 20 Photo ID Project day long project surveys, 322 meetings, 27 reports, 12 Seals SW Sessions 12 Seals SW Newsletters, 4 Wild Seal Supporter updates, 2 new resources (our Climate Change film and leaflet) and 63 media coverage events.

SRT’s brand new Climate Change film

Utterly incredible people

SRT now have 47 Photo ID Catalogues, which were active in 2023, covering seals from the Isle of Man to France and South Wales, as well as the Channel Isles to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The catalogues are run by incredible volunteers led by our dedicated and wonderful Photo ID Hub Coordinator Kate Williams. These teams communicate with each other through our free Facebook Workplace Platform. This allows our volunteer network to share new seal IDs, so we can make matches between the different Photo ID catalogues. We also share engagement wording, approach and tone, to help us with effective conservation actions avoiding duplicating effort and reinventing wheels. We are hugely grateful to every single one of our amazing volunteers who are too numerous to name individually.

We are nothing without our inspiring volunteers. Thank you all!


In total our extensive SRT team organised, delivered and participated in 740 activities in 2023, to give seals a voice and share key conservation messages with a much wider audience by delivering more events online than ever before. We engaged 1894 0 to 16 year olds; 371 17 to 24 year olds and 26,918 25+ year olds. This shows just how much our volunteer team have stepped up, been empowered and taken on the role of public engagement. It has been wonderful to see key volunteers thrive, stepping out of their comfort zone to be wonderful ambassadors and advocates for the seals they love so much.

One of our face to face talks delivered by volunteers Peter and Andrea


We were very excited to expand our partnership with the Field Studies Council (FSC) to create a second new course in 2023 for their online Ecoskills programme. Our volunteers Charlotte and Terry Carne supported by Ranger Lauren, ensured SRT had stalls at 11 events. As part of the national Operation Seabird events SRT turned out in force at St Ives, Godrevy, Looe and Falmouth in 2023. We were delighted to attend the Screech Owl Sanctuary’s two British Wildlife Days, as well as appearing in the crowds at St Piran’s Day, Redruth and at Butterfly Conservation’s AGM. It was an honour when Harriet Tatlow asked if she could run another fundraising event on behalf of the Carbis Bay Hotel for SRT.

Operation Seabird Day in St Ives

Of particular note was the public engagement forced upon BDMLR, CWT Seaquest and SRT’s Pentire Hub Team. Over 15 days, 35 different volunteers signed up for 75 shifts, covering 232 hours to keep this pair safe. Whilst on site, volunteers engaged with at least 837 members of the public visiting the site, asking them to keep back from the cliff edge, watch quietly and avoid access to the beach at low tide. We were all delighted to see a very fat moulted chonk pup wean from its mother on day 15. This was a miraculous team effort with a fabulous outcome for all.

Thankfully the Pentire pupwatch saw this tiny pup moult into a healthy, fat chonk!


We always do our best to present exciting, interesting and informative input about seals in multiple ways. Our delivery teams got some lovely feedback in 2023, some of which is listed below:

  • I watched your wonderful Zoom talk this evening. Thank you so much. Most informative
  • I really admire the work you do, dedication, energy, positivity and devotion. SRT are my role model
  • I am absolutely in awe of everything you do and I learned so much
  • I’ve just watched your seal video and it is superb – a great watch, super informative and so supportive of good behaviour traits around our wildlife. I am pretty humbled to be honest and you’ve set a very high bar for the rest of us
  • With all you have going on, you still are kind enough to think of others. How much kinder and richer this world would be with more people like you
  • It was a completely new take on a topic that has been heard many times before
  • I just received the Pentire summary . Wow, it’s fantastic. Some really interesting findings. I’m going to have a good read through it over the next couple of days but just wanted to say a huge thank you to you all for the support and guidance we get as a Hub
  • The boat surveys are fantastic days with inspiring people. The amount I learn every trip is awesome
  • Thanks so much for reaching out, the furry toy seal has safely been delivered, as well as the information leaflets. I am so incredibly impressed with this group and all the work everyone is putting in to bring awareness to the grey seals, it really shows! Since I’ve received the pamphlets all of my friends have learned many facts about seals. I only wish there was more I could do for them from Oregon, USA

Seal demographics

On average 9.2 seals were recorded, ranging from a minimum of no seals observed to a maximum of 458 seals counted during a single survey (down from 557 in 2021 and 519 in 2022). Of seals that we were able to classify according to their age, 66% were adults and 34% juveniles, moulted pups or white coated pups. Only adults can be reliably sexed, so of all adults that we could confidently sex 56% were males and 44% females, which is exactly the same proportion as recorded in 2021 and 2022, despite our huge survey effort and datasets. White-coated, maternally dependent, grey seal pups (WCPs) were recorded on 581 occasions at 39 different locations around the southwest. Our observations included 25 records with 44 harbour seal sightings (down from 85 in 2021 and 29 in 2022).

Fat healthy moulting chonk floof ball pup

Photo ID

Our PID Hubs continue to be highly productive, processing an incredible 105,235 photos in 2023 into 1,899 survey albums. This enabled SRT to generate a total of 11,409 seal identifications, of which 84% were re-identifications (which is surprisingly consistent compared to 87% in 2021/22 and 86% in 2020). 34 have been identified for at least 20 years. In total, 3,175 unique seals were identified. We continue to partner with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network and in 2023 4 dead seals were identified from their carcasses.

We said ‘goodbye’ to wonderful mother Swims

Human interactions

SRT 2023 data included 732 sightings of 126 different rear flipper tagged, rehabilitated seals (around 2% of seals observed) from all around our southwest coast. Seals having experienced or still experiencing entanglement were recorded 732 times (2% of all seals observed). In 2023 13 different seals were recorded as hooked, ranging from apparently single or multiple hooked adult seals to moulted pups in need of rescue. One definitively bycaught seal was found in St Ives Harbour in unfortunate circumstances. There were 155 serious disturbance incidents. In total, level 3 disturbance affected a shocking total of 1,328 seals in 2023.

Unlucky circumstances for any seal to get bycaught

Giving seals a voice

SRT used data from our amazing volunteer citizen science network to submit evidence to 35 policy and planning consultations. It was an honour to be asked to draft the Seal Protection Parliamentary Debate speech for Sarah Olney MP delivered on 27/06/23 in Westminster Hall. You can watch this here. In 2023 SRT were co-opted to participate in the Wildlife and Countryside LINK (WCL), providing seal expertise to the Marine Mammal, Marine and Bycatch Groups. We later became full members.

SRT continue to use our unique dataset to campaign to get seal disturbance made an offence (as it is with whales and dolphins), either by adding seals to the Wildlife and Countryside Act or by adding the word ‘disturbance’ to the Conservation of Seals Act.

In July 2023, we created an open group on our Facebook Workplace platform to enable volunteers to share their actions and successes of the Flying Rings campaign. This was kick started by a highlight of 2023, which was the rescue of local celebrity ‘Wings’ from her flying ring in St Ives harbour by British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Please sign the 2024 petition to ban flying rings toys.

Wings proved a better conservationist than any human, going viral with over 1 million hits online!


S107 ‘Square blobs Alien’ re-identified for the first time in 16 years on 26/12/23 at West Cornwall and S119 ‘Star skateboard’ re-identified for the first time in 20 years on 07/12/23 at West Cornwall. Where have these two gorgeous (and instantly recognisable) females been for so long?

2023 started with the momentous news that our Founder and Director Sue Sayer had been awarded an MBE for her services to wildlife conservation and protection in the King’s first New Year’s Honours list. The year ended with Sue’s Investiture where she received her MBE from King Charles III on behalf of the entire SRT team!

Chairlift (Sue’s first ever Re-ID’s seal from 2000) met the King!

We hope you agree our Seals SW Team are incredible and make a real difference to seals across the SW, UK and beyond. For more information, enjoy our 2023 Annual Report here.

Remember we can’t do this without you all! Any donation, no matter how small makes a big difference with us, raising awareness about what seals need from us as good neighbours! Please consider donating whatever you can afford to help seals in 2024 and beyond!