By Andy Hargreaves


Scilly’s professional boatmen are being praised by the Cornwall Seal Group for their sensitive approach to wildlife tourism.

Sue Sayer, Chairman of the organisation, believes that many tourists visit Scilly because of the opportunity to view the seals.

Here, her team have noticed how the boats on seal watching trips appear to keep their distance. That doesn’t happen everywhere in the UK.

Sue says it makes sense for boat operators not to scare the seals off, because people are paying to see them.

She says that the boatmen respect the seals’ space and that means the animals feel safe and appear unconcerned by their boats.

The last seal survey was undertaken in May but funding has now dried up.

Sue says the group relies on volunteers including qualified pathologists who have been collecting data on the causes of seal deaths.

Last autumn, unusually high numbers of dead seals were recorded in Cornwall.

The mammals move between the mainland and that means the islands’ colony is likely to be affected. Sue wants islanders to report any sick or dead seals as her team try to identify the cause.

There’s been speculation that algae toxins or 2014’s severe storms are to blame, and Sue says some commentators suggest that the deaths are down to human pharmaceuticals, which create hormonal problems when sewage is flushed into sea inhabited by seals.

Some experts also blame the by-product of commercial fishing with the UK having the highest rate of entanglement by seals in fishing nets.

Scilly is a special conservation area for the mammals and there are similar sites in Pembrokeshire, Lundy and in Northern France.

As the seals travel around, any locations where seals from Scilly spend time would be connected and could also gain the same protection status. That’s why Sue wants islanders and visitors to pass on pictures so the movements of individual seals can be mapped.

Sue says the best photos for identification are side-on photos of the patterns of spots on the seal’s neck or body. You can send your pictures and details of where the seal was seen and whether it had pups to