Grey Seals
© Jack Versiani Holt

Increasing concerns over seal safety on Yorkshire coast

Date posted: 21 September 2020

As lockdown has encouraged staycations this summer and more of us have headed to the coast, there’s been increasing concerns for the safety of marine life. In the midst of seal pupping season, it’s even more important to give mothers and their pups plenty of space.

Grey Seal pup
© Graeme Cresswell

On the Yorkshire coast, there have been reports of beachgoers getting too close to seals on the shore. Dogs off their leads, low flying drones and people trying to take ‘seal selfies’ all risk distressing the seals and putting both the animals and beachgoers in harm’s way.

When distressed, seal mothers often abandon their pups to fend for themselves, putting their lives at risk.

Earlier this summer we set out a list of things you can do on your visits to the coast to protect wildlife and give them the space they need. Remember to look, but don’t touch! Maintaining a distance of at least 100m gives the seals the space they need, whilst also allowing you to watch them mother their pups and rest.

Matt Barnes, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager for the North East at the Marine Conservation Society, spoke to the BBC about his concerns: “Seals are very vulnerable to disturbance, which upsets their routine of feeding and digestion, increases their use of energy, raises their stress levels and means they are more likely to injure themselves”.

Seals often make their way back to the shore to recuperate after hunting for food, so making sure to keep noise levels low, dogs controlled on a lead and stay at least 100m away is really important.

Getting too close to the seals for a picture, or even chasing them back into the sea, causes immense stress. This forces them to use unnecessary energy, making it difficult for them to rest on the shore and nurse their pups.

Any mother in the wild will be protective of their young. Acting responsibly around these animals ensures both their wellbeing and yours too. Although they may seem fairly docile, seals are wild and very strong animals.

If you are concerned about a seal’s welfare please contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

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