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Warning disturbing seals could have fatal consequences

Warning disturbing seals could have fatal consequences

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 12:10pm 22nd July 2019.

Shocking footage and photos have emerged showing seals being bitten by dogs and harassed by walkers in places such as Cornwall.

Experts have put out a warning not to disturb the marine mammals around the Duchy's coast as it can have a harmful impact.

A new report recalled 'Please Do Not Disturb!' highlights how protected seal populations are suffering chronic disturbances from human activities, deliberate or accidental, often causing serious injury and with potentially fatal consequences.

The researchers say that these disturbances can come from motorised vessels, divers, jet-skis, kayaks, paddle -boarders, wildlife watching tours on land or sea, anglers, walkers, dogs on and off leashes, drones, light aircraft, helicopters and even commercial wildlife photographers.

People trying to feed seals is also of growing concern.

Now there are fears things could get worse as the summer holidays start and visitors flock to the coast.

seals being harassed

"Our seals are under increasing threat from deliberate killing, climate change, over-fishing, toxic pollution, entanglement in nets, ingestion of plastic and serious injury from collisions with vessels.

"We need to give all our precious marine wildlife, including seals, more space.

"The cumulative impact of all these threats, along with these growing disturbance issues, is placing these wonderful animals at serious risk."

Andy Ottaway, Seal Protection Action Group

seals harmed by human disturbance

The report warns that repeated disturbance can do serious harm to individual animals, through stress and even serious injury while fleeing human presence or from attacks by dogs.

It says disturbance can also impact at a local and national population level by reducing breeding success, abandonment of dependent pups and even premature death.

"Many communities benefit financially from tourism and the kind of reliable wildlife watching that seals provide.

"However, we need to take care and must reduce already high levels of disturbance, and soon, or those environmental, social and economic benefits could soon disappear along with our seals."

Sue Sayer, Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust

seals being harassed

Now campaigners want to see more protection of essential habitats for seals through the expansion and enforcement of effective voluntary Codes of Conduct at a local level.

They say changes to national legislation are needed to regulate the growing wildlife watching tourism industry and ensure it is conducted both responsibly and sustainably, following 'best practice'.

The Seal Alliance have written to Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove, asking for a meeting with Defra officials to discuss how this might be best achieved.

The report has been funded by the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) and the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) for The Seal Alliance.

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