Keep clear to protect seals along North Tyneside's coastline

Wildlife experts are urging people to keep their distance from seals found at the coast.

Monday, 13th August 2018, 6:17 pm
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 6:22 pm
Three seals are released from the care of Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth back into the sea. Picture by Jane Coltman

Blue Reef Aquarium’s marine rescue centre has seen an increase in the number of seals requiring medical treatment this year.

More than 30 grey seals have been brought in since November, and staff are starting to treat a number of common seals as well.

Three seals are released from the care of Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth back into the sea. Picture by Jane Coltman

Officials at the Tynemouth-based aquarium are urging people to keep away from any seals spotted on the borough’s beaches or at St Mary’s Island.

Mark Sand said: “We have had the busiest winter so far at our marine rescue centre and the summer is shaping up to be similar.

“A lot of the seals we have seen this year have had issues stemming from human interaction. We had one caught up in a fishing net, which caused a really deep cut to its neck, and without our help it would have died.

“Some of them, especially younger ones, have come in because people have got too close to them on the beach and the mother, who will be watching from the sea, has abandoned them and they are too young to survive on their own.

“Seals spend two-thirds of their time on land so there is nothing to worry about if you see one. People should stay away from it, don’t feed it and don’t try to put it back in the sea.

“Only if it stays there for more than 12 hours or has signs of injuries, should you call us, the RSPCA or the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).”

Staff at the aquarium were left shocked and angered at footage earlier this summer of youths being filmed throwing rocks at seals at St Mary’s Island.

Mark said: “We work really hard to protect these animals and survive as best they can so to see someone intentionally hurt them was hard to see.”

The rescue centre released the last three grey seals under its care last week at St Mary’s Island.

Celine, Meatloaf and Axl had received treatment for between eight and three months before being healthy enough to be released back into the wild.

Mark said: “We’ve let them swim together and socialise for the last couple of weeks before releasing them. We’ve ensured they have had as least contact with humans as possible and that they don’t associate food with humans.”

Each of the seals has been tagged so if they are rescued again, their medical records can be traced back to Blue Reef.

Terry McKeone, head of seal rescue, said: “It has been a long, hard journey to get here, but we are delighted to see Celine and the boys go.

“There is not a better feeling than seeing seals who would have likely died without treatment back being healthy and in the wild.”