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


2017-09-04 23:47:15

Seal injured with spear in Devon

On Saturday 2 September, BDMLR received a report of a seal with a large spear or crossbow bolt stuck in its back in Brixham harbour, Devon. Teams from HM Coastguard and BDMLR attended the scene and BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics went out on a boat kindly provided by the Harbourmaster’s office to assess the animal.

The adult female grey seal, was mobile and nervous of her surroundings, which made assessment difficult. However, the 2ft long spear could be seen sticking up out of her back near her pelvis and close to her spine, and it was also noted that there appeared to be little use of her rear flippers, raising concerns she may be paralysed. She soon disappeared from view and has not been resighted since, but we are deeply concerned for her welfare as it is likely she is also heavily pregnant.

BDMLR Medics in the area are on standby should she be found again – anyone who sees her can report sightings to our 24hr hotline on 01825 765546. BDMLR is working with the RSPCA and Police, as shooting seals with spears or crossbows is illegal. The circumstances surrounding how and why she was shot are still unclear, so witnesses with information are urged to come forward to help us piece together what has happened.

Sadly, this is the latest in a long line of incidents in South West England involving seals that have become habituated to being fed by people on harboursides or when returning to harbours from fishing trips. As intelligent and curious animals they soon learn to hang around in areas where this will happen to get themselves an easy meal, which then brings them into contact with watercraft, pollution and anti-social behaviour. Just a fortnight ago a seal in St Ives harbour, Cornwall was hit by a boat propeller and has also not been seen since, while seals in Newquay harbour have been spat at, had stones thrown at them and have been jumped on by youths on the harbour wall.

The local spearfishing community share our concern and have set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for a reward for anyone coming forward with evidence of who was responsible and also to provide funds for BDMLR and the treatment of the seal should it turn up again. You can make a donation to this fund by following the link here.

As soon as people stop feeding these animals, the sooner they will leave the harbours. The more this message is shared to spread awareness and educate people then hopefully we will have fewer distressing and upsetting incidents of this nature to deal with in the future. Please, let seals be wild!