Growing concern over rise in deaths of grey seals

Atlantic Grey Seal (George Ledger, Consett)
Atlantic Grey Seal (George Ledger, Consett)

In the next few weeks, grey seals return to the Berwickshire coastline to give birth to their pups.

After a few weeks, these pups head off to sea to prepare to live an independent life but some will turn up on beaches along the coastline as they learn to swim and feed.

In circumstances such as this, their mother is usually not too far away.

As this is perfectly normal members of the public who spot any young seals basking along the region’s coastline are being asked not to panic and to simply leave them alone.

The biggest risk they face is from disturbance so owners are asked to ensure that any dogs are kept under control and away from any young seals.

The Northumberland Wildlife Trust is also asking for help from anyone who may come across a dead seal during a visit to the coast.

As the Atlantic grey seal is a notified feature of the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site (EMS), because of the international significance of the Farnes population, it is important that numbers are monitored.

There is growing concern over an apparent rise in the number of deaths, but this has not been formally monitored.

The wildlife charity 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 (MMO) to investigate the cause of seal deaths along the coast.

Some are shot off the Northumberland coast, 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.

Should a member of the public find a dead seal, it would be really helpful if they could contact Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust on: 0191 284 6884 or email him at steve.lowe@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.