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


2017-08-30 10:22:23

Netted seal rescue

While out on a routine seal survey in West Cornwall, Sue Sayer and Kate Hockley from Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust spotted a young juvenile seal on the edge of the group hauled out on the beach that was entangled in monofilament net, which had caused an open injury over the back of its neck. BDMLR was alerted and a rescue operation was started.

Due to the nature of the location, access is only possible by abseiling, while also bearing in mind that the rescuers would need to get down on to the beach so carefully and quietly that the seals would not spot them and be disturbed back into the water before they could reach the target animal. Two local expert climbers were also called in to help manage the safety aspect of the abseil for the rescue team, which comprised of Sue, BDMLR’s Welfare Development and Field Support Officer Dan Jarvis, and Animal Care Curator Tamara Cooper from the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.

This is not the first time these five rescuers have had to do this, and have developed this highly specialised technique over several years. The team managed to get down on to the beach without the seals spotting them, while other BDMLR Medics remained on the clifftop above with Kate to monitor the operation and help with crowd control.

Dan, Tamara and Sue stealthily approached the seals, taking care to allow the nearest ones to move towards the sea as they started to become aware of something happening. Luckily, as the target seal was on the far side of the group and slightly away from the others so did not notice until the rescuers were upon it.  Tamara restrained it using a towel. Once under control, Sue and Dan inspected the wound caused by the net wrapped around its neck and quickly cut it free using a recurved knife. The wound was then cleaned and treated with antiseptic swabs and covered with a protective barrier spray before the seal, a male, was released. It headed straight for the water to join the others.

Before leaving the beach, the team did a quick beach clean – removing several plastic bottles as well as a few pieces of net, buoys and other debris, giving the seals a safer, cleaner place to haul out as they returned.

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