24 hour hotline to protect Cornwall's seals which are being injured and spooked
Environmental groups in Cornwall have launched a 24 hour hotline to help protect native seal populations from being spooked or injured.
The hotline was set up following concerns that the number of seals being rushed into the sea, because of disturbances from people or boats, has been on the increase.
Many seals are being injured by motorboats and heavily pregnant mothers panicked by boats or explorers and sent dashing across rocks that can prove doubly fatal, while babies can be abandoned and left to starve, the groups warned.
With the seal pupping season in full swing the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, RSPB, and Cornwall Seal Group, have set up the Marine Disturbance 24 hour Hotline and Coastal Code of Conduct on how to enjoy the coast and still watch out for the wildlife living on our shores.
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Sue Sayer, coordinator of Cornwall Seal Group said: “At worst, seals have been hit by fast travelling boats or slashed by propellers, but most of the negative effects that people have on seals are far less obvious or even invisible. A panic reaction is associated with a flight response and hormone release.
“A seal on land may rush to the relative safety of the sea and this changes their ideal resting routine and upsets their energy budget. A seal that hauled onto land on a high tide, may be woken by the smell, sight or sound of people, only to find that the sea is now far away, forcing it to rush over rocks and boulders, ripping out claws or gashing its belly as it goes.”
She said seal mums may be scared away from their pups, who then end up starving to death.
She added: “If you are out on the water – watch the reactions of any seals you see. If they are repeatedly looking at you – you are already too close. If seal moves to the sea, you must back away to avoid them rushing to the sea and so being affected by your presence.”
She advised sailors and fisherman to main a slow, constant course and stay around 50m from the seals.
Cornwall Seal Group has shown, at their main study site, that the frequency of ‘worst case’ incidents of seals being flushed into the sea has increased from one every 8.5 minutes to one every 7 minutes. This is not sustainable, it warned.
To find out more, Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) have set up a website www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/coastalcode.
You can also call its 24 hour Marine Disturbance Hotline on 0345 2012626.