The biggest seagrass restoration project ever undertaken in the UK has begun off the Llŷn coast this week.
Throughout August, one million seeds will be collected off the coast at Porthdinllaen as the pioneering project makes waves to tackle the global climate and nature crisis.
Launched in north Wales last summer, the Seagrass Ocean Rescue project aims to plant five million seeds across ten hectares, with the support of communities in Pen Llŷn and Ynys Môn by 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 together with communities to deliver this ambitious seagrass restoration project in north Wales.
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 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to carry out this work. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is one of several funders which also include Garfield Weston Foundation and The Moondance Foundation.
This month Seagrass Ocean Rescue will collect approximately 1 million seagrass seeds at Porthdinllaen with the help of local volunteers.
The seeds collected this week will be planted at sites on Anglesey and Pen Llŷn next year. The project has already planted over 100,000 seeds this Spring at selected sites on the coast of Pen Llŷn. The project is designed and delivered with the local community and the sites selected based on input from local people and ecological considerations.
Seagrass has the potential to play a vital role in our response to the climate and nature crisis. Healthy meadows are critical for biodiversity, they provide nursery grounds for commercially important fish such as cod, and habitat for a range of species from octopus to seals. Seagrass is also important in tackling the climate crisis as it is very effective at absorbing carbon and healthy meadows can help protect communities from the impacts of coastal erosion and help improve water quality.
Julie Rostan, ocean restoration advocacy and policy manager at WWF Cymru, said: “We are really excited about the project which is making big waves to tackle the global climate and nature crisis.
“It is vital that we bring this incredible habitat back to Welsh seas and harness its huge potential to help us mitigate the impact of climate change and restore marine wildlife.
“Not only can seagrass help transform Welsh seas, but we hope the project will cause a ripple across the planet and act as a blueprint for future seagrass restoration on a global scale.”
Nia Hâf Jones, Living Seas manager at North Wales Wildlife Trust, added: “The Seagrass Ocean Rescue Project is an incredible opportunity for people of all ages to get actively involved in marine conservation efforts here in north Wales. It’s been really fantastic to see the people involved in this project already becoming so passionate for seagrass and its conservation.
“Through our Ocean Rescue Champions and Mentoring Scheme we’ve been providing young people in north Wales the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge, skills and confidence to become passionate advocates for seagrass. We’re particularly proud to be working with these young people who are in-volved in every stage of the project from seed collecting to planting to engaging with local communities”.
Alison Palmer Hargrave, SAC officer at Pen Llŷn a’r sarnau, said: “Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation is home to some amazing marine life.
“Habitats such as seagrass are so important as they provide a wealth of benefits including production of oxygen and providing essential nursery grounds for fish that feed local fisheries.
“Working in partnership with local communities and those that use and manage the area is a key element of the Seagrass Ocean Rescue project.
“It is essential that this works not only for seagrass but for those that work and live in the area. This project not only provides opportunities to get involved in the project but also to help steer the project by getting involved in the stakeholder group.”
Wales Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS will visit Porthdinllaen on Friday and said ahead of her visit: “It is exciting to see the Seagrass Ocean Rescue project launching in Wales. Seagrass is an understated hero that provides a vital habitat for wildlife, filters our water, protects us against floods, and acts as an incredibly efficient carbon storage system.
“Our programme for government commitment to saltmarsh and seagrass is reflective of their importance to Welsh biodiversity and the need to tackle the climate emergency.”
This project aims to showcase the benefits that community-engaged conservation can bring and connect people with the sea. Through the Ocean Rescue Champions programme young people (11 to 16 years) from Ynys Môn develop skills to be leaders in their communities for practical conservation and com-munity engagement. They will take an active part in the seed collection & safeguarding the restored seagrass meadows for future generations.
The project is still seeking further input and involvement from the public. Engagement with the community is ongoing to agree where within these areas is most suitable for the seagrass to be planted. To find out more about the north Wales seagrass project please visit the North Wales Wildlife Trust stand at the National Eisteddfod of Wales (5 to 11 August) in Boduan, Gwynedd.