Public asked to report seal activity as eight wash up dead in East Cork

Public asked to report seal activity as eight wash up dead in East Cork

While it was not possible to determine the cause of death for the dead seals, there are a number of common causes such as climate change, aggressive storms, coastal erosion destroying their habitat as well as getting caught in fishing nets. Ardnahinch, Cork 10.02.21. Pic: Seal Rescue Ireland

Eight dead seals have been reported to Seal Rescue Ireland after washing up in East Cork in less than two weeks.

Some of the dead seals have what looks like bullet holes in them.

Executive Director of Rescue Seal Ireland Melanie Croce, who has been head of the organisation for four years, said while she had heard anecdotal stories, she could neither confirm nor deny that they were relevant in these instances.

"The problem is they are washing up decomposed and it can be hard to determine the cause of death." 

Ms Croce said that it was the remit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to investigate the circumstances of the deaths, but said as an organisation they were understaffed and underresourced.

Despite this, Melanie expressed delight that NPWS was in the process of setting up a Wildlife Crime Unit to investigate all kinds of wildlife crimes including illegal snaring, hunting or hedgerow destruction.

While it was not possible to determine the cause of death for the dead seals, there are a number of common causes such as climate change, aggressive storms, coastal erosion destroying their habitat as well as getting caught in fishing nets.

“Bycatch is when the seals get caught in the nets, there have been four seals in the South East that have washed up with scarring from the nets or with some netting still attached to them.” 

In relation to stories of seals being shot at sea, Melanie said that it has happened in the past.

Ms Croce said a necropsy needed to be done on the animals to fully determine the cause of death and said it could be the case that scavengers had caused the death or damage to the washed-up seal.

Seal Rescue Ireland has begun to collaborate with Orca Ireland and the NPWS, sharing their database of dead seals in order to get a better picture of what is happening.

"While we are involved in rescue and rehabilitation of seals, we also work in conservation and research and so this information is very important to us,” Ms Croce said.

The Executive Director of Seal Rescue Ireland appealed to the public to report any seal activity to them, whether it is a dead seal washed up on the coast or a sick, injured or orphaned seal.

“We would ask people to report these things to us, but do not approach a live seal as they can get scared and run back into the water and if they are on land, they are on land for a reason.” 

The organisation has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 087-1955393 and a trained volunteer will be sent to help.

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