By Andy Hargreaves


Scilly’s seagrass beds are “exceptional” and amongst the best in the UK.

That’s the view of Dr Jim Bull, a volunteer researcher from Swansea University, who has been coming here every year since 2002 to measure the seabed around the islands.

The plant is an important indicator of the health of our marine environment, because it provides a rich habitat for a variety of sea life.

It’s the twentieth year that the study has been performed, and Jim says our seagrass beds are looking as lush and dense as ever.

And they’re as good as they were at the start of the study in the 1990’s, which is quite unusual, he says.

Around the world, particularly in the tropics, the plant is declining.

Jim says there was some concern here last year, because the seagrass “hadn’t really got going” after the winter storms early in 2014.

But he says that damage seems to have been reversed and the beds are “back to how they should be.”

However areas at Old Grimsby harbour are being damaged by increasing boat traffic and Jim says they’re “clinging on but suffering.”

Using fixed moorings can help, he says, because it avoids boats dragging their anchors in the beds, which causes the problems.

The other four sites being monitored are at Higher Town Bay off St Martin’s, Broad Ledge by Carn Near on Tresco, Little Arthur in the Eastern Isles and West Broad Ledge between Tresco and St Martin’s.

The density and length of the seagrass at each point is measured, and the types of organisms found there recorded.

But Jim says that doesn’t show the extent of the beds. He says they’d like to repeat the aerial photography they made in 2008 to see if that’s changing.