Why Dead Seals Wash Up On Our Shores & How to Help!
During the winter months, reports of seal death’s increase dramatically. Just recently a photo of a mysterious sea creature was discovered on the beach near Barna Pier in Galway, Ireland, on November 12th. Leaving passers by and internet users baffled. It was another dead seal.
We are glad to hear that ORCA Ireland (The Ocean Research & Conservation Association), who are based in Cork, have been in touch with the person who sighted this creature, and identified the seal. They have also confirmed it has been removed from the area.
Although it is very upsetting to see a dead seal, it is quite common to find dead seals on the beach at this time of year. This is due to stormier sea conditions.
Ireland’s coastline is home to two types of seal: the Common Seal and the Grey Seal. Common Seals tend to be smaller, than their Grey Seal cousins. Common Seals have shorter snouts, and more cat like features. Grey Seals are larger and have longer snouts, giving them a dog like appearance.
What Causes Seal Deaths?
Seals have a variety of dangers to face at sea and reasons for mortality vary widely. In Irish Seas, seals are apex predators and are not hunted by other animals, so the main dangers they face are by-products of human activity.
Exhaustion & Injury
Due to climate change, our weather is becoming stormier, and more erratic. A healthy adult seal can hold its breath for up to 30 minutes in the water. Younger seal pups, and adult seals who are weak from fighting against stormy seas, illness, or injury, will not be able to achieve this, and can drown, or starve if they cannot hunt for long periods.
Seals can pick up various viruses and bacteria through wounds or through their food. Water pollution can cause skin irritation or even lesions that can be quite painful. Exposure to continued water pollution is known to reduce our seals immunity, causing exposed seals to perish from very common seal illnesses.
Plastics, Entanglement’s & Collisions
Plastic ingestion is also a major cause for concern; last year one of our seals was very ill and had to be euthanized. Later in a post-mortem examination, a crisp packet was found lodged in the seal, preventing it from ingesting food properly. We have also seen first-hand some very severe seal injuries that are consistent with boat rudder collisions. We have rescued numerous seals who have had very severe injuries from being entangled in nets or fishing lines. So we know first hand the importance of documenting these encounters & creating awareness with the public.
Ways You Can Help to Reduce Seal Deaths in Ireland!
Stop Plastics Entering the Sea
Take part in beach cleaning days, or pick up any plastic’s or finishing lines you see on the beach. Try not to buy single use plastics, re-use any plastic containers you already have, and don’t forget to recycle!
Please Remember Seals Need Rest! Even healthy seals need rest and actually spend about 60% of their time on land. This is so they can re-oxygenate their blood before returning to the water. So, if you see a seal resting on the beach, please keep a distance of 100 meters and keep your dog on a lead. If they feel threatened Seals become distressed and will try to return to the sea before they are ready. If they have not rested, they could drown or injure themselves on rocks while they flee!
Watch out for Seal Pups!
Grey Seal pupping season is in full swing at the moment. You might have spotted some of these little fluffy pups yourself. Grey seal pups spend their first few weeks on land, and have a fur known as Lanugo. The lanugo fur is not waterproof, and is very heavy when wet, so if a seal pup enters the sea with Lanugo fur, it can drown. Seal mothers leave their pups on land while they hunt nearby and return to nurse and fatten up their pups regularly. The pups fur keeps them warm while they build up enough blubber and grow strong enough to enter the sea and hunt for themselves.
Please keep your distance from pups and keep your dogs on a lead. Seal mum’s are often nearby, and your presence will cause them to get scared and abandon their pups! We also don’t want the seal pups to get into the sea before their ready!
Dead Seal Database
Seal Rescue Ireland are compiling a Dead Seal Database, so that we can help track and analyse the health of our Irish Seal population. We also wan to track the reasons for their deaths wherever possible. Many seals who have been in care have been tagged, so when you find a seal, please take a photo of this tag & ID number. Seal Rescue Ireland have their own Blue Flipper Tags & ID numbers for all of our seals in care, so that they can be identified if they are spotted in the wild. We work with several different Rescues and Marine Conservation Organisations. We share our data and track seals sightings, hunting & mating areas, migrations and deaths. This data may be vital to protecting our Seal populations in the future. If you see a dead seal. Please report it, look for a tag, give a description and take a photo (if you feel up to it).
Report Seals in Danger
If you see a seal injured, in danger, or wish to report a dead seal, please call our
24 Hour Rescue Line: 087 195 5393
To support our life saving seal rescue service – why not adopt rescue seal pup here: www.sealrescueireland.org/product/adopt