Monday, 4 March 2013

Is pair-trawling endangering Ireland’s seals?

February 2013. The Irish Seal Sanctuary (ISS) started monitoring the number of dead seals washed ashore around the coast of Ireland about one year ago. Previously there were no records for the numbers of dead seals found on Ireland's beaches. In just 1 year The ISS has uncovered some disturbing cases. 

It was reported last spring that a number of seals came ashore in Tramore suffering from wounds consistent with gunshot wounds. A full post-mortem was necessary to reach this conclusion. These animals had to be euthanised on the public "Blue Flag" beach by a vet. ISS put out a fresh appeal before Christmas 2012 for any more reports and quickly heard of many more bodies being found along the South- East coast of Ireland.

And it isn't just seals, but numbers of dolphins and Porpoises have been found as well which were communicated to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary
Not only are all marine mammals protected under National and European law but Ireland was declared a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary in 1991 by then Taoiseach Charles J Haughey.

ISS called for these deaths to be properly investigated by the authorities to try to determine cause of death. Some of the bodies recovered showed signs that the deaths were not natural. One had its hind flippers tied up with rope. Others appeared to have been decapitated. Many had damage to their heads inconsistent with decomposition. However without proper veterinary examination it is not possible to state how these animals died. We wrote to several Irish Ministers offering to assist in investigations and seeking meetings to discuss this issue, however ISS was referred from one department to another. Clearly this is not an important matter for them.

Pair trawling
While ISS received reports of dead seals from all around the country, more than thirty washed up on the south-east coast. This coincides with pair trawling activity for Herring and Sprat in the same area. In the UK it was acknowledged that pair trawling for bass endangered small cetaceans such as dolphins and porpoises. This practice is now prohibited within twelve miles of the coast in UK waters. ISS request the Irish Government to do likewise to protect marine mammals. Sprat and Herring can be caught outside twelve miles.

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