True Travel Times
In September 2022, the True Travel team took a trip to the western coast of Scotland, where our Foundation partners, Seawilding, are based. After spending three days immersed in the intricacies of their marine restoration methodology, the passion, determination and resilience of Danny, Seawilding’s founder, and the team was evident in abundance.
We spent time listening to the tales of their successes, learning about the biodiversity of Loch Craignish and getting hands on with seagrass replanting ourselves. It truly was an eye-opening experience, one that brought us all together in mutual admiration, and now Molly Kinnaird, True’s Head of Europe, recounts how she felt during her time at the HQ.
Loch Craignish is wild and northerly on the Argyll Coast, a Global Hope Spot, designated in celebration and as recognition of the world class natural riches and marine biodiversity here. So it is little wonder that in just an hour spent on sea we passed islands with grazing wild goats and endemic water vole species over 4,000 years old. In the sky gannets, the largest birds in the northern hemisphere, dived for lunch at sea and a pair of white tailed eagles hunted for supper.
However, Loch Craignish used to hum with even more life than this. Seafarers remember having to travel at two knots to navigate the kittiwakes birds playing on the water. You could snorkel for native oysters and you could dive for scallops. Salmon would return each year up the Loch and into the freshwater. Their bodies are each uniquely shaped through 2,000 years of genetics to navigate the river they need to get up and their gills depositing the eggs of mussels along the way.
So many of these ecosystems have now been destroyed, food chains disrupted and some species even wiped out of existence. First came the trawlers, scooping up what they could sell from the sea bed and leaving the rock soil lifeless, a sea equivalent of a wildfire. Then came the sea farms spilling their pesticides into the sea, polluting the water and further degrading vulnerable habitats.
Seawilding are tackling the fallout on the local environment with a long term plan to reintroduce everything to its former glory and it all starts with seagrass. Under the sea, seaweed and seagrass take the role of forests, the oceans lungs and habitats that enable species to flourish and return or maintain the places they call home. The return of more fish hunting or hiding in the shadow of sea grass should lead to more otters darting through sea kelp and other species rejoining the food chain. With the number of migratory species living here, it won’t just be Loch Craignish that sees benefit, the work of Seawilding could extend its positive impact to the Arctic. Oh, and a seagrass meadow acts as a carbon sink from the moment a seed sprouts.
If a seagrass meadow is not project enough, the team are looking to return half a million native oysters to the Loch. They arrive by Royal Mail, each the size of the finger nail but within a year each carrying the ability to filter 50 litres of water. Sequestering carbon and filtering water to further potential for fish nurseries and spawning grounds.
The long term picture is exciting. So exciting that the men can’t control their smiles when they talk about what they are working on. From their shed on the banks of the Loch they work endlessly. Buoyed by the chance that if they are successful, they won’t need to maintain this environment because it will simply maintain itself.
Conservation takes the form of many things and requires many attributes. It is local protest and determination with the capacity to change the world. It is bold and it is beautiful. On Loch Craignish the Sea Wilding conservation project is a hearty mix of ambition, community and science. It is passion and patience driven, completely without ego. It is a protest that could change not just Loch Craignish but all four corners of the world.
Changing the world takes time and not all heroes wear capes, some wear wetsuits. Changing the world takes seagrass, oysters, Danny, Will and Phillip.
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