A representative of Scilly’s commercial fishermen says seal pups found abandoned on the islands shouldn’t be rescued and sent back here for release.
Nick Jenkins was speaking at yesterday’s Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority meeting, where members heard that the population of seals on the islands could now be up to 2,000 individuals. That’s based on research by Cornish seal expert Sue Sayer.
Scilly’s fishermen have agreed in the past not to cull seals, which can interfere with fish catches, but Nick said rescued animals were still causing problems for the industry.
He says pups that had been picked up and sent to the Gweek seal sanctuary in Cornwall had become tame. When they’re subsequently released back in Scilly, they can’t be scared away from the fishermen’s gear.
Nick felt these animals shouldn’t be rescued and should be put down humanely instead.
Rob Seebold from Natural England said there was some anecdotal evidence that tame seals could be a problem but pointed out that they were also a protected species in the UK.
And Committee Vice Chairman Tim Allsop said some seals he’d seen in Scilly had been tagged from rescue sanctuaries as far away as France, so they tended to travel long distances anyway.
Even though the seal population appeared to be large here, Tim said it was probably seasonal, because they were “coming here for their winter hols” to escape poor weather in their usual homes in North Cornwall.
They disappear as soon as Scilly’s beaches start being used by tourists from May, says Tim.
Committee Chairman Andy Guy noted Nick’s concerns but said more work needed to be done to understand the problem before any changes could be made.