Fal and Helford – Maerl 

Fal and Helford Maerl 

Maerl is an unusual type of red seaweed. It forms hard, brittle nodule shaped structures and requires sunlight to grow. 

Maerl beds are formed of a complex tangle of fragments of live and dead maerl. 

There is nearly 10 kilometers squared of maerl beds in the Fal and Helford Special Area of Conservation. 

The impacts of historic extraction, scallop dredging and trawling are still present in the Fal and Helford maerl beds as the habitat recovers very slowly. 

 

What does maerl do for us? 

Biodiversity 

Maerl beds provide a home, place to reproduce and a safe nursery for many species, including some rare and endangered ones. 

9 fish species reproduce in the Fal & Helford maerl. 

3 fish species use the Fal & Helford maerl as a nursery. 

Food from wild caught fish 

Healthy maerl beds support many commercial species, ensuring a continuing supply of the fish we eat. 

26% of wild caught fish and seafood species in the Fal and Helford are associated with maerl. 

Maerl beds in the Fal and Helford can support up to 160,000 juvenile queen scallops. 

Human happiness and wellbeing 

Clear, clean seas rich in biodiversity provide greater opportunities for recreational activities and other benefits for people’s happiness and wellbeing. 

 

How can we help maerl beds in the Fal and Helford? 

Voluntary no anchor zone 

Maerl is very fragile, anchors can cause significant damage and bury live fragments. 

It takes a very long time for maerl to recover from damage as it grows less than 1mm a year. 

 

 ReMEDIES project information 

Reducing and Mitigating Erosion and Disturbance Impacts affecting the Seabed. 

The LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES project (LIFE18 NAT/UK/000039) is financially supported by LIFE, a financial instrument of the European Commission. 

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Natural England and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.