The sea is the dominant influence that both unites and divides the islands and contributes to the AONB’s character. The tranquil shallow interior sea contrasts with the churning seas below Hell Bay on Bryher or around Peninnis head on St Mary’s. Scilly is a landscape that changes every few hours with the ebb and flow of the tide. As the tide retreats, the islands ‘grow’. The distances between them recede and the proportions of the archipelago are transformed. At high tide, by contrast, the islands are half submerged and the sense of separateness and isolation is marked. The Green Marine Wildlife Guide is essential Scilly reading about our actions and awareness of marine wildlife.
Scilly is a Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of European importance. The special features of the SAC include atlantic grey seal and shore dock. The islands also feature a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for seabird breeding colonies of European significance.
The tourist industry thrives on a range of activities such as specialist boat trips including sea safaris, seal and bird watching trips, fishing, diving and yachting. The islands’ beaches are a valuable habitat for wildlife and for recreation.
Recent research into Scilly’s marine environment includes:
- An AONB-funded survey of the fauna and flora of 100 marine sites
- Seabird surveys, including regular monitoring of the SPA breeding colonies, by Natural England, RSPB, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Isles of Scilly Bird Group and various universities
- An AONB-funded survey of the islands’ atlantic grey seals;
- Natural England’s annual monitoring of the health of Scilly’s seagrass beds
- Development and implementation of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Conservation Strategy 2009-2013
- Research into Scilly’s historic seascape, including the Lyonesse Project (2008-2011) designed to evaluate the nature and significance of Scilly’s drowned prehistoric and historic landscape
Special features of Scilly’s seascape:
- Clear waters support a unique mix of flora and fauna
- Nationally and internationally important species include resident populations of atlantic grey seals, resident and migratory birds, seagrass beds, visiting pods of dolphins and porpoises, as well as the occasional sun fish and basking shark
- Drowned landscapes that include prehistoric field systems, settlements and ceremonial sites;
- The coast supports a thriving maritime community. The islands’ quays, jetties, moorings and winter boat parks are used by local tripper boats, fishermen, local leisure craft and visiting yachts.