British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2010-03-02 10:01:22

Oiled seal washed ashore at Whitby

Oiled seal pupVolunteer rescuers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue's North Yorkshire Team have been called out to an oiled seal at Whitby this morning (2 March). The call came in at 7.30am from a concerned member of the public. Medics arrived on site to find the young seal to be underweight, with an oily substance on its belly, and exhausted. The seal had come right up the beach, up a slipway and onto a footpath. The seal was rescued by volunteer marine mammal medics and transported down to Scarborough Sealife Centre for care.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) deals with over 300 stranded seals around our coastline every year and Yorkshire is one of the busiest areas of the UK.

"Every year seals are washed up covering oil and other chemicals, along with many other marine life like in Guillemots and Razorbills. These animals are suffering directly as a result of careless humans. Callers are surprised when they find wildlife covered in oily substances. Many people ask if there has been an oil spill somewhere and are astonished when we say no." said North Yorkshire’s Assistant Co-ordinator Ryan Walker.

"Chemicals get into the sea in different ways, the most obvious being oil from tanker spillages, which luckily do not happen that often these days thanks to double hulls on tankers helping to prevent leaks. To save money tankers used to wash their tanks out at sea, discharging oil and chemicals straight into the water. Again this happens less these days due to ports having washing facilities for this purposes and it now being illegal to do so. However, other such pollutants get into the sea from the inappropriate storage of oil and other chemicals on board smaller vessels where they get washed over board. Beach cleaning exercises undertaken by BDMLR volunteers in the past have found oil being kept in fizzy drinks bottles, yoghurt pots and various other inappropriate containers. These containers either breakdown or split when hit against rocks and you have a mini oil spill as a result. Many of these oils and chemicals which leak or which are spilt takes years to break down and will float round in the seas year after year causing problems unless washed ashore where they can then be removed." said National Co-ordinator Trevor Weeks.

"It only takes a teaspoon of oil on the breast feathers of an oiled guillemot to disable the bird. If it then preens the feather and digests the oil it could easily die as a result just from this small teaspoon of oil. The situation is better around our coast that it was 20 years ago, and the major hazards from tanker spills are less thanks to changes in the law, but how do you tackle the inappropriate storage of oils and other chemicals on small craft at sea? This is a lot harder and one which won’t be as easy to stop." added Trevor Weeks.

"Most boat owners are very responsible but it only take a few for there to be a problem. We hope that by bringing attention to this issue, those boat owners who are irresponsible will think more carefully about how they store chemicals on board their boats and make them more secure and safe." added Ryan Walker.

BDMLR attended the Sea Empress Oil spill in Wales, the Braer Oil Spill in the Shetlands as well as the Napoli in Devon and Dorset. Volunteer marine mammal medics help marine life up and down the UK coastline and train members of the public how to respond to stranded marine life like seals and dolphins around our coast. Anyone interested in becoming a Marine Mammal Medic with BDMLR should check out our . BDMLR is looking at organising a training course in the Scarborough area in the near future, people can email for more information. BDMLR is funded by donations and rely on donations to fund this valuable work around the country helping stranded seals, dolphins and whales.

Trevor Weeks
National Co-ordinator
British Divers Marine Life Rescue