Under the Surface

Under the Surface is the first episode of Cornwall's Climate Stories. Presented by beach cleaner Claire Wallerstein, it looks at how the huge rise in public awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution may have diverted attention from an even more urgent environmental problem affecting the sea - climate change. The film features interviews with marine experts talking about the impacts of a changing climate on Cornwall's basking sharks, plankton, seals and seabirds - but also looking at positive stories about local projects to restore the marine environment, which could help to protect us from the worst effects of climate change.

Watch the premiere with introductions to the team and Q&A session after the film here.

We are aware of issues playing interviews from mobile devices since recent OS updates. This will be rectified soon. Until then, please listen from a desktop if possible.

Dr Matthew Witt

Dr Matthew Witt

Associate professor in the natural environment, University of Exeter

Click below to listen to the full interview with Dr Matthew Witt, talking in greater depth about basking sharks, but also how climate change is affecting other species he works with – and how the focus on plastics among the public, politicians and academia may be distracting attention from other urgent environmental problems.

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James Doddrell

James Doddrell

Co-founder, ARC Marine Ltd

Click here to listen to the full interview with James Doddrell, giving a more detailed explanation of reef cubes and why he believes they are so urgently needed in a future world likely to see greater exploitation of and construction on the seabed.

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Fiona Crouch

Fiona Crouch

Life Recreation ReMEDIES project manager, Natural England

Click here to listen to the full interview with Fiona Crouch, talking in depth about the many benefits of seagrass, the urgent need to protect and restore it – and the challenges that will entail.

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Marianne Wootton

Marianne Wootton

Senior plankton analyst, Continuous Plankton Recorder (Marine Biological Association)

Click here to listen to the full interview with Marianne Wootton, talking in much fuller detail about plankton, the Continuous Plankton Recorder, and how crucial it is for policy to encompass plankton – which are undergoing huge changes, yet are the base of the entire marine food web.

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Mark Grantham

Mark Grantham

Chairman, Cornwall Birds (CBWPS)

Click here to listen to the full interview with Mark Grantham, talking in more detail about kittiwakes and the problems they face, how climate change is affecting birds in general – and what we can do as individuals to help lessen the impacts.

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Nikki Banfield

Nikki Banfield

Communications officer, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Click here to listen to the full interview with Nikki Banfield, talking about the many ways in which climate change is affecting both the animal and human inhabitants of the Isles of Scilly – and how the resourceful islanders are preparing to face the greater challenges likely to come in future.

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Ruth Williams

Ruth Williams

Marine conservation manager, Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Click here to listen to the full interview with Ruth Williams, talking about how the conservation world needs to urgently shift its dominant focus away from land-based solutions to embrace ambitious new models to protect and restore marine habitats – both to boost biodiversity and to protect us from the growing impacts of climate change.

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Sue Sayer

Sue Sayer

Founder of Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust

Click here to listen to the full interview with Sue Sayer talking in more depth about Cornwall’s grey seals and why they are so important, how climate change is affecting them – and also the potential for a high-tech solution to help seals that become entangled in fishing gear.

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Tim van Berkel

Tim van Berkel

Managing director, Cornish Seaweed Company

Click here to listen to the full interview with Tim van Berkel, talking about the amazing properties of seaweed and how it could help in the battle against climate change - and the challenges of running a seaweed business.

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What you can do

Help restore our seas in Cornwall and beyond

Cornwall-based NGO Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning on the ocean and climate change. Visit their site here to learn about how the climate crisis is affecting our oceans and sign their petition, calling on the UK Government - which will be hosting the  COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021 - to ensure the ocean is at the forefront of these crucial climate negotiations.


  • In the UK we export 90% of the fish we catch and import 90% of the fish we eat! If you eat fish, choose local-caught fish, which will have a much smaller carbon footprint – preferably caught using low impact methods such as rod and line or pot-caught crustaceans.
  • Use the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Good Seafood Guide to learn more about the different types of fisheries in Cornwall, the most sustainable choices, and some great recipes.
  • Eat only diver-picked scallops. Dredging for scallops can devastate seabed habitats.

Marine mammals, basking sharks and other sea life

  • Learn more about Cornwalls grey seals and how you can help them and watch them safely by supporting the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust.
  • If you spot a basking shark please report it to the Shark Trust.
  • If you find a live stranded marine mammal please contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546, who will send out trained medics to assess the animal and rescue/ rehabilitate where possible. You could also train to become a marine mammal medic yourself.
  • If you find a dead stranded marine animal please contact the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Strandings Network on 0345 2012626. It’s really important that these animals are properly recorded and, if possible, a post mortem carried out, to help understand the biggest threats facing them and drive the development of policy to better protect them in future.
  • If going on a marine wildlife watching trip, choose a responsible operator accredited with the WiSe scheme code of conduct to prevent disturbance of wildlife. If you are a boat skipper or other water user why not train with the scheme yourself?
  • If you’re interested in marine biology, support the Marine Biological Association, which sends out informative newsletters and also offers various training and volunteering opportunities.
  • If you’re a diver or snorkeller you could take part in the Seasearch project to map and record our coastal habitats and species.
  • Staying closer to land you could become a Shoresearch volunteer, helping the Wildlife Trusts to gather crucial data about our local intertidal zone marine life – and how it is being impacted by pollution, climate change and invasive species.


  • If you’re a boat owner/ user avoid anchoring on seagrass, but if there is no option (or if you don’t know where seagrass is), the Royal Yachting Association has produced some useful advice on how best to deploy and retrieve your anchor, as well as other ways of minimising your environmental impact while on the water.
  • If you witness significant run-off of topsoil or other pollution into water courses or the sea, please report it to the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060.

Marine plastic

  • Plastic waste causes huge harm to the marine environment at every level from whales down to plankton.
  • Half of all the plastic we use is designed to be thrown away after just a few minutes – yet it will persist for centuries in the environment. Plastic production it is also one of the drivers of the climate crisis.  
  • Cutting out plastic bottles, coffee cups, plastic straws, cutlery and other unnecessary single use plastics can make a huge difference to the amount of plastic being made and disposed of, potentially harming wildlife.
  • You can find loads more great tips about how to reduce plastic in your life here:
  • Check out the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition, a grouping of over 50 marine conservation and beach cleaning organisations, to find out about beach cleans and other activities near you.
  • If you want to organise your own litter pick on your local beach or anywhere around your area (remember that plastic litter from towns, cities and the countryside can all ultimately end up in the sea) contact Clean Cornwall, who can supply litter picking equipment and arrange waste collection.

To learn more about the organisations and projects featured in our film:

Basking sharks (Shark Trust)

Plankton (Marine Biological Association)

Kittiwakes (Cornwall Birds - CBWPS)

Highly protected marine areas (the Wildlife Trusts)

Cornish Seaweed Company

Grey seals (Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust)

Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Seagrass restoration (Ocean Conservation Trust)

Reef cubes (ARC Marine)

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Our carbon footprint

As a project to document the facts around climate change in Cornwall, we take our own carbon footprint very seriously and aim to tread as lightly as possible.

We operate in accordance with an environmental policy that covers everything from our transport (which accounts for the bulk of our emissions) and banking to data storage and battery charging.