Our Sea Forest

  • 2023
  • 30 mins

Our Sea Forest

  • 2023
  • 30 mins

Our Sea Forest

Narrated by Chris Packham

Aired on BBC1 for the ‘Our Lives’ strand, Our Sea Forest tells the moving story of how a once thriving kelp forest, home to a multitude of different sea creatures was lost, and its slow road to recovery.

Told through the eyes of Eric Smith, a 74-year-old free diver, this is a powerful story of hope. Eric has been diving in Sussex since he was 11 years old. He remembers a rich and vibrant ecosystem.

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries Conservation society, initiated a landmark ruling in 2021, consequently protecting over 300 sq. kilometres of seabed.

Filmed over three years, Our Sea Forest includes remarkable scenes as Eric dives with giant 40-pound sting rays, witness’s mussel beds return, and rare seabream breeding on the seabed again.

Kelp beds are a vital marine ecosystem.  Across the world they are in serious decline, undeniably making this a story of both local and international importance.

Catch up with this show on iplayer

A Sneak Peak

In one of the scenes we see Eric’s daughter Catrine firstly posting on their community facebook page, Sussex Underwater – GIVE THEM A FOLLOW. Secondly, she mobilises supporters to find cuttlefish eggs dislodged by a summer storm.

“We wanted to show people what was happening underwater, so it was no longer out of sight, out of mind.” – Catrine

Then, Catrine meets with Dexter Broad, an expert who’s been rescuing stranded cuttlefish eggs for many years.

“Where the kelp beds have disappeared, the cuttlefish no longer have nursery grounds to lay their eggs in, so they wash up on beaches” says Dexter. “Out of water the eggs would soon dry out and die, I just like to give them a chance”

Warning: this is a specialist job as cuttlefish eggs need a specially aerated, seawater tank.

In another heartwarming scene, Eric shares his love of the sea with Catrine, who confesses to not being a natural water lover. She nervously joins her dad in ‘his world.’

Remarkably, with hands held, they witness a beautiful mature female stingray, some 6ft long, gliding through the water off Bognor Regis. Sightings of these majestic rays have increased since the landmark ban.

The Big Wave Team head out with Eric and Catrine for a dive in search of kelp

More about the Sussex kelp recovery

Campaign film narrated by Sir David Attenborough

Sussex Kelp Restoration Project – 6 month update film

We support the work of the SUSSEX KELP RECOVERY PROJECT

Please check out their site and GIVE THEM A FOLLOW.

Made up of  a team of leading UK scientists, NGO’s, Sussex IFCA and local authorities including Adur and Worthing Council, The Sussex Kelp Recovery project believes the recovery needs to be monitored scientifically, that nature will run it course and that the kelp should restore naturally.

Our Sea Forest in the news


From diving under the waves, to riding them! Cornwall’s Wildest Wave was also made for BBC Our Lives strand in 2022. Click here to find out more – Cornwall’s Wildest Wave

‘Tom Butler is a big wave surfer. For the last ten years he’s ridden some of the largest waves in the world, but he’s been ignoring what’s in his backyard off Cornwall’s wild north coast’.


one man’s deeply emotional story about saving a kelp forest - The Guardian- Hollie Richardson
“Some people just make you feel better about the world, and Eric Smith, a 74-year-old free diver, is one of them… An inspiring tale.” - The Sun
“Hopeful environmental stories are few and far between these days, which makes this short film – about the recovery of a Sussex kelp forest that had been destroyed by trawling – so special to watch… It’s hard not to feel emotional…” - The Observer - Holly Richardson
“Sharp, climate-focussed documentary.” - The Guardian - Ammmar Kalia
"Diver horror after destruction of sea bed' - The Mirror - Sarah Wallis
"Father & daughter on why this seabed worth saving" - The Independent - Yolanthe Fawehinmi
Behind the scenes with the production team - Broadcast - Sarah Cunliffe & Nathalie Grace
“… remarkable story…” - The Daily Telegraph - Veronica Lee
"This beautiful, heart-wrenching and truly hopeful film..." - Outrage & Optimism
  • Producer/ Director :
    Sarah Cunliffe
  • Narrator:
    Chris Packham
  • Editor:
    Francesca Oldfield
  • Photography:
    James Blake
  • Underwater Photography:
    Paul Boniface
  • Underwater Photography:
    Nathalie Grace
  • Additional Photography:
    Martin Davies
  • Additional Photography:
    Gail Jenkinson
  • Additional Photography:
    Angus Peel
  • Additional Photography :
    Toby Russell
  • Additional Photography:
    Leo Scott-Batey
  • Additional Photography:
    Eric Smith
  • Additional Photography:
    Mark Sharman
  • Additional Photography:
    Sim Warren
  • Head of Water Safety:
    Andy Piers Morris
  • Water Safety Teams:
    Neville Blake
  • Water Safety Teams:
    Clive Mills
  • Water Safety Teams:
    Sussex Underwater Free Divers
  • Thanks to:
    Sean Ashworth
  • Thanks to:
    Henri Brocklebank
  • Thanks to:
    Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority
  • Graphics:
    Tim Varlow
  • Music:
    Ty Unwin
  • Music:
    David Mitchum
  • Post Production Picture:
    The Virtual Post
  • Colorist & On-Line Editor:
    Philippa Beazley-Swanson
  • Post Production Sound:
    Red Six Mix
  • Dubbing Mixer:
    Andrew Wilson
  • Sound Editor:
    Owen Peters
  • Production Manager:
    Katrina Chaloner
  • Production Assistant:
    Bobby Cross
  • Production Assistant:
    Amanda Fairey
  • Production Assistant:
    Natasha Maworera
  • Production Assistant:
    Izzy Green
  • Edit Assistant:
    Rhiannon Burton
  • Edit Assistant:
    Katie Taylor
  • Head of Finance:
    Kim Keys
  • Executive Producer :
    Emma Ross
  • Executive Producer:
    Mark Woodward
  • Commissioning Editor for BBC:
    Diana Hare
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