AN ambitious project is underway to plant the biggest seagrass project ever undertaken off the Pen Llŷn coast.
100,000 seagrass seeds are being planted at Penychain, with the support of the community with the overall aim to plant over 5 million seagrass seeds, restoring ten hectares of seagrass meadow by the end of 2026.
Seagrass Ocean Rescue, managed by WWF in partnership with Project Seagrass, Swansea University, North Wales Wildlife Trust and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau SAC, are working with communities to deliver this ambitious seagrass restoration project in north Wales. The project launched last August when Seagrass Ocean Rescue collected seagrass seeds at Porthdinllaen with the help of local volunteers.
In December the project was granted a marine licence to conduct restoration trials and thanks to National Lottery players was awarded a £1 million grant.
Julie Rostan, ocean recovery advocacy and policy manager at WWF Cymru, said: “The UK has lost up to 92 per cent of its seagrass in the last century. It is vital that we bring this important habitat back to Welsh seas so it can help us mitigate the impact of climate change and restore marine wildlife.
"We are excited to get started on the planting in Penychain this week with the local community who are at the heart of the project’s design and delivery. This restoration programme is hugely significant as it will act as a blueprint for future seagrass restoration across the UK and globally”.
Dr Richard Unsworth, lead biologist on the project at Swansea University and director of the conservation charity Project Seagrass, said: “At the heart of our approach to restoring seagrass is community engagement. It is vital to the success of the project to choose sites that not only work from an ecological perspective but also have the support of the local community.
"We will start planting at Penychain where we know seagrass has grown previously. We hope to restore a thriving meadow to benefit nature and people. We are delighted to be supported by the local community who we hope will become custodians of the future seagrass meadows”.
Nia Hâf Jones, Living Seas manager at North Wales Wildlife Trust, said: “The Seagrass Ocean Rescue Project in north Wales allows us to inspire and empower communities to play an active role in seagrass restoration in north Wales. This is a really exciting time when some of the seeds that would have been collected by young people and community groups over last summer will be re-planted. It’s been incredible to see how people already involved in the programme have so quickly become confident advocates for seagrass and its conservation – and we’re only just at the beginning!”
Charlotte Keen, Blue Carbon engagement officer at North Wales Wildlife Trust, said: “The Ocean Rescue Champions programme delivered by North Wales Wildlife Trust is giving young people of north Wales the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge, skills and confidence to be passionate advocates for seagrass. The young people are not only helping with the practical seed collection and planting but also in engaging local communities as well.”
Sky Ocean Rescue funded the first seagrass restoration project in Pembrokeshire and have contributed to the development of the north Wales project.
Andrew White, director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, said: “This is a project for today’s and future generations with its community focus, the restoration of marine habitat and significant role in addressing the climate emergency. We’re thrilled to see it pass such an important milestone.”