Outcry over dead seals at Northumberland tourist hotspot

Dead seals at a Northumberland beauty spot have sparked outcry as tourists flock to the county’s coastline in the peak summer months.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 02 August, 2019, 24:30
Stock picture of Bamburgh beach. Picture by Pixabay

Concerns have been raised over seal carcasses on the beach at Bamburgh over the past month, which one resident says have not been cleared promptly.

He said three separate bodies on the beach were removed by local people as nothing was done, despite them being reported to the local authority.

He said: “Why is Northumberland County Council letting us down by not responding to remove dead seals from the beach that are being reported to them on their official action line?”

A dead seal on the beach at Bamburgh

However, a council spokesman said: “Generally this is an issue of land ownership and the council only has responsibility for coastline up to Amble.

“We can and do dispose of carcasses that are washed up on our beaches and are in public areas and we do sometimes deal with animals on others’ land.”

In the case of the beach at Bamburgh, the landowner is the Bamburgh Castle Estate.

But James Boulton, of Savills, who represents the Estate, said that the county council had not been in touch with the Estate over these recent reports of dead seals and that he couldn’t remember the last time there had been any contact along these lines.

Dead seal at Bamburgh beach

He also said that carcasses had been dealt with by the local authority in the past and the understanding was that its team would usually sort it out, although anecdotally there had been occasions when the Estate had to organise removal.

“We would encourage the council to continue to be helpful,” Mr Boulton added.

What to do if you find a dead sea mammal

Northumberland County Council’s website provides guidance on what people should do if they find a dead seal, whale, dolphin or porpoise, asking them to report it on 0345 600 6400, providing details of its location, any signs of injury or cause of death, state of decomposition and any photos.

It adds: ‘The council will report the incident to the relevant bodies and will liaise with them to agree the removal of the carcass wherever practicable.

‘The remoteness of some of our beaches means that access can sometime be very challenging, especially with large and heavy animals. It may not always be possible to remove the animal straight away.

‘The public should be advised that some of our coastline is on private land. In certain circumstances, the council may remove the animal but this may not be possible due to certain legalities, land ownership and access.

‘Dead seals must be reported to the council, regardless of where they are found. The council will then contact the landowner to remove it or make efforts to remove it themselves (for costs).’

Another landowner responsible for beaches in Northumberland is the National Trust.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “We care for 13 miles of beaches in Northumberland, keeping them clean and safe for visitors to enjoy.

“We work with partners along the coast to do this and urge members of the public to report sightings of dead seals to 0191 208 5676.”

In the UK, the area above the high-water mark belongs to whoever owns the adjacent land, while the majority of the foreshore – the area between the high-water mark and the low-water mark – belongs to the Crown Estate.