Group seeks help to monitor seal deaths

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A wildlife group is asking for help from anyone who may come across a dead seal along Berwickshire’s coastline.

There is growing concern over an apparent rise in numbers of Atlantic seal deaths but this has not been formally monitored.

The Northumberland Wildlife Trust is therefore working with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at University of St Andrews, the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site (EMS) and the Marine Management Organisation to investigate the cause.

Some are shot, some are diseased and some are thought to die as a result of injuries caused by contact with ship propellers and some of this can be determined by photographs rather than an expensive autopsy.

Living Seas officer Aurelie Bohan said: “This sounds like a particularly grisly project but it is an extremely valuable approach that visitors to the coast can help with. We hope this will increase reporting rates and help establish what factors have the greatest impact upon seal numbers.”

Should anybody find a dead seal, contact Aurelie on: 0191 284 6884 or email her at Aurelie.bohan@northwt.org.uk with details of the exact location and, if possible, a digital photo of the dead animal to help establish the cause of death.

Aurelie added: “This area has a huge role to play in conserving this species. It’s important that we know what is affecting that in both positive and negative ways.”

Now that the first seal pups have started making an appearance along the Berwickshire coast the public are asked to be vigilant. At just a few weeks old, the young pups head off to sea to prepare to live an independent life. Some will turn up on beaches as they learn to swim and feed.

In circumstances such as this, their mother is usually not too far away and it is perfectly normal behaviour, so the wildlife charity is urging members of the public who spot any young seals basking on the region’s coastline on their own, not to panic and to simply leave them alone.

The biggest risk seal pups face at this time is unnecessary disturbance, so dog owners are asked to ensure that their animals are kept under control and away from any young seals.