Giants discovered on Looe Island!

Friday 8th September 2017

Giant goby photo by Matt Slater

On a recent Cornwall Wildlife Trust survey of marine life on their Looe Island Nature Reserve, marine experts were thrilled to discover a rare species lurking within the island’s rockpools.

The giant goby is the largest species of goby to be found in UK waters growing to a whopping 27cm maximum length. Few people have heard of this elusive species which dwarfs all other gobies, but its UK stronghold is in Cornwall and South Devon, with increasing numbers of records being made each year. This discovery, the first for Looe Island, further highlights the amazing marine life found in Cornwall’s only Marine Nature Reserve.

Giant gobies are warm water marine fish which range from the Mediterranean, along the Atlantic coasts of Spain and France and north as far as the South West of England. It is possible that we may witness an extension north of this species’ range due to climate change in coming years so it is particularly important to survey them.

Giant gobies are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 so it is illegal to disturb them without a Natural England Licence. Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer for Cornwall Wildlife is the proud holder of a licence to humanely capture and study this species.

Matt Slater said,

“We have carried out surveys in lot of locations around Cornwall and I am starting to be pretty good at thinking like a goby and predicting where they are likely to be, but it is still a real thrill to discover a new population of them in a new site!”

Giant gobies have never been recorded before on Looe Island as far as we are aware. In one pool two small giant gobies were found and in another pool, one giant was discovered measuring 23cm (9 inches) in length.

Giant gobies are chunky, robust fish and are members of a large family of rockpool fishes all having distinctive, fat rubbery lips, tiny scales and two dorsal fins. Gobies are well adapted to life on the shore and the giant goby can be distinguished by its size and it's fleshy, lobed pelvic fin which is used as a suction pad.

The annual Looe Island survey, which is carried out in August, was well attended this year by a range of local naturalists, Cornwall Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers from Looe Marine Conservation Group. As well as carrying out a fish survey of rockpools other surveys were completed by Cornwall Seal Group. This included surveys of seals, birds, and butterflies as well as monitoring of the rocky shore. The records collected all help to understand, manage and protect the island’s wildlife.

Looe Island Nature Reserve is a truly special place home to an amazing array of wildlife, all thriving in this secluded and unspoiled corner of Cornwall.

To arrange a visit to the island please visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/looeisland
If you would like to get involved in helping out on shore surveys please email shoresearch@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk