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


2012-04-02 15:44:08

Cliff Rescue of Netted Seal

Netted Seal

On the evening of Saturday 24th March, the BDMLR out of hours coordinator was alerted to the plight of a juvenile Grey Seal spotted at a Cornwall haul out site on the north coast. Blue netting was wrapped around the seal’s neck and was trailing limply along its underside.

The following day a team of BDMLR Medics Simon Bone, Phil Jarvis, Tim Bain, Paddy Maher, Dave Jarvis, Lesley Jarvis, and volunteer climbers, Chris Howell and Phil Knight all gathered at the cliff top to plan the rescue of the entangled seal. Sadly as they clambered down towards the seal laden beach, the animal returned to the water.

On Monday a second team of BDMLR Medics Tim Bain, Dave Jarvis, Chris and Annabelle Lowe, along with volunteer climber Phil Knight and Sam Stewart, volunteer observer and photographer, watched for the seal's return.

Eventually the seal returned and settled onto the haul out site. The blue netting had further entangled the seal's fore flippers, so the seal needed urgent attention. Having waited for the tide to recede to give a better chance of resuce, the team and members of the public who were observing quietly looked on as the seals were spooked by two large bull seals fighting and most of the seals including the netted one charge into the sea again! Aaarrrgghh!

On Tuesday, hope was not lost and Sam Stewart returned for a Cliffside vigil but the young seal was not seen.

On Wednesday a member of public alerted the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek to a blue netted seal at the same location.  This time the netting had completely wrapped round the neck, fore flippers and torso of the helpless seal.  Dave Jarvis, BDMLR coordinator for Cornwall, was contacted and immediately a team comprising BDMLR Medics Dave Jarvis, Tim Bain, Chris and Annabelle Lowe went with climbing kit at the ready.

As the tide line was in a good spot and the seals were hauled out and gently snoozing in the mid day sun, the decision was made to act fast so Tim and Chris rigged up ready for the descent. Members of the public helped by keeping a low profile at the cliff top and keeping all noise to a minimum. The medics slowly and quietly began the descent down the rugged cliff face with the seals sleeping on oblivious to our actions; one false move may have caused them to charge to the sea again.

Once the duo were on the beach they hit the ground SAS style and crawled across the shaded section of the beach behind the resting seals. No one dared breathe at the cliff top as they watched the team advance toward the oblivious seals.  Suddenly as they move out of the shadows the seals spotted them and moved towards the sea. Tim and Chris chased in hot pursuit of the nettie and clambered amongst adult bulls, cows and juveniles and launched themselves towards the stricken seal.  Chris picked  his moment and jumped the seal, that squirmed out from under him, only to be grabbed by a quick-thinking Tim!

They paused for a few moments as the remaining seals safely passed them into the sea and then began cutting away the seal's manmade bonds. The cliff top audience cheered as she was released with her limbs free again.

Well done to all concerned as she went on to live another day.  This just shows that a little patience and a lot of skill goes a long way!

Annabelle Lowe
Cornwall Medic


2018-12-14 14:00:45
BDMLR Christmas Raffle has been drawn!

2018-12-07 12:29:20
Pilot whale mass stranding update

2018-12-06 11:27:01
Pilot whales restrand in Fife

2018-12-04 15:38:05
Pilot whales strand in Fife