MANY seals have seen on West Dorset beaches over the past few years, including in Lyme Regis, but the public is urged to give the animals space.
The Seal Alliance has launched a new government-backed campaign to ‘Give Seals Space’ and reduce the impact that human disturbance can have on these vulnerable marine mammals.
The Seal Alliance warns that getting too close to seals can lead to their injury or death, even up to several months later. Seals are vulnerable to any kind of human interactions, either deliberate or unintentional.
The ‘Give Seals Space’ signs and leaflets will raise awareness of the simple steps the public can take to protect them. It features four steps:
- Keep well away from seals – use a camera zoom or binoculars – so that they can’t smell, hear or see you
- Keep dogs on a lead when in an area where seals might be present
- Never feed seals
- Take all litter home
Young seals are most affected by disturbance and only 25 per cent are likely to survive to the age of 18 months in a bad year.
If people are being noisy or startle the vulnerable animals by getting too close, this wastes their energy, meaning young pups struggle to haul out of the water to rest and digest their food.
Female seals are heavily pregnant or pupping during the summer and getting too close or disturbing them can lead to seals stampeding on rocks, which prove fatal to both mother and pup.
The impact on seals can also be invisible but results in mothers not being able to build sufficient fat reserves so they cannot feed new-born pups adequately.
Sue Sayer, of the Seal Research Trust, said: “I have witnessed bleeding, grazed flippers, ripped-out claws and gashed bellies that leave blood trails across the rocks after a stampede. Seals need our help so please keep yourself downwind and your dog on a lead.
“If a seal is looking at you, it has been disturbed, so please move further away. Use your camera and binoculars, stay quiet and out of sight. If we follow these simple rules we can enjoy watching seals for longer and without harm – a win–win for both people and seals.”
The campaign is a timely reminder as the public go out for walks, take part in water activities or fly drones as lockdown measures gently ease.
The Seal Alliance is urging the public to exhibit special caution as seals have ventured further inshore on beaches and coastlines that have become quieter during lockdown.
Andy Ottaway, of the Seal Protection Action Group, said: “Our precious coastal wildlife is coming under increasing human pressure. We need to be aware of the harm we can cause by getting too close to our seals and the often tragic consequences when we do.”
More information can be found here.