More progress on Seal Mutilation

Seal numbers in the Forth and Tay area have been plummeting, partly because of corkscrew injuries


Seal numbers in the Forth and Tay area have been plummeting, partly because of corkscrew injuries

MARINET reported on this website four years ago about hundreds of dead seal carcases being washed up on Norfolk beaches suffering from corkscrew like injuries, some beheaded, most with deep diagonal linear lacerations of even spacing along their torsos, this appearing to have been brought about by mechanical means.

At that time various possible causes were suggested, such as boat propeller contact, Greenland Shark attacks, contact with the blades of the machines used for trench cutting to lay cables in the seabed and suction of their bodies into the intake of dredging vessels.

Since then, over a hundred of similarly lacerated seal carcases have been washed up on Scotland’s shores. There could me many hundreds more that have not appeared along the shoreline or reported. Seal numbers have been plummeting in the Forth and Tay area, partly due to ‘corkscrew’ injuries.

Now evidence from research performed the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University have discovered the high probability that the seals could have been slashed to death and beheaded by being sucked into a type of propeller used in shipping and offshore industries by the animals becoming trapped between the propeller blades and the casing. Such ducted propeller systems, used mainly in the offshore industries, are employed to make vessels more efficient at low speeds.

This finding has prompted a powerful plea from a coalition of 26 wildlife and conservation groups for a Scottish, UK and International worldwide ban of the use of ducted propeller systems as fitted on some workboats. The coalition have written to the Scottish and UK governments reminding them that they are breaking the law by not ensuring the safety and protection of these seals.

The shipping industry has opposed a ducted propeller ban, and complained it had experienced difficulties engaging with researchers on the issue. The UK Chamber of Shipping is due to meet with the Government’s Marine Scotland in early November, but so far there is no evidence that the UK and devolved governments plan to act to stop these gruesome deaths.


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