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REPORT A SEAL ADOPT SIGN IN WINTER APPEAL

Threats to seals are mainly from human activity. Here we explore some of those threats, with links to further reading for each one.

Air pollution

The Climate and Ecological Crisis

Human-induced climate change and the Earth’s 6th mass extinction is undoubtedly among this generations greatest issues.

It not only threatens human civilisation but all aspects of life on Earth.  We have reached a critical tipping point, with unequivocal evidence presented in the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Climate Change insisting, we must remain below 2°C of warming or else we risk tipping off a chain of unpredictable and catastrophic extinction events.

The increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events as a direct result of climate change has a horrific impact on our native seal population. Large waves during storm events impact otherwise safe pupping grounds, resulting in grey seal pups being swept from their rookeries.

Water pollution

Water Pollution and Habitat Destruction

Ireland’s long history of human inhabitation has had a devastating effect on the landscape with native woodland coverage plummeting from 80% to less than 2%.

This change in land use has significantly impacted our precious waterways, estuaries and coastal ecosystems. Unfortunately, agriculture accounts for 53% of all water pollution incidents, according to AgriLand Ireland. Excessive nutrients and the absence of riparian buffers (vegetated riverbanks) result in agricultural runoff containing valuable top soil, fertilisers, pesticides and other pollutants entering waterways unabated, destroying precious ecosystems. These pressures combined with Urban Runoff, Forestry Clear-felling, Wastewater Management and countless ‘missed’ sewerage connections are heavily impacting the health of the ecosystems that wildlife like seals rely on for survival. Our year-long research study into the Nitrate concentrations of our local River has shown that the Ounavarra River is heavily impacted by chronic nutrient toxicity. SRI works with local farmers to protect our waterways, sequester carbon and restore habitat throughout the Habitat Restoration Project.

Unsustainable Fishing

Unsustainable Fishing

We call this planet Earth, yet 70% of it is surface is water. We rely on our oceans for food, transport and our specialised climate, yet we continue to exploit almost every unprotected ecosystem.

According to the United Nations, 90% of global fish stocks are overfished or depleted. There are an estimated 4.7 million fishing vessels worldwide, hauling in an estimated 171 million tonnes of fish each year. Seals, like other marine mammals, rely entirely on seafood, they do not have the luxury of dietary choice as we do.

By 2020, the UN aims to end overfishing and conserve at least 10% of all coastal and marine areas. As consumers, we drive the fisheries industry. To protect our oceans and future we must stop supporting unsustainable fisheries, moving towards a plant-based diet.

By 2020, the UN aims to end overfishing and conserve at least 10% of all coastal and marine areas. As consumers, we drive the fisheries industry. To protect our oceans and future we must stop supporting unsustainable fisheries, moving towards a plant-based diet. 

Plastic Entanglement on a grey seal at Brideshead

Entanglement

Although banning single-use plastics is a step in the right direction, The Ocean Cleanup reported that 44% of marine debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch came exclusively from the fisheries industry. Aptly named, non-biodegradable ‘Ghost Nets’ continue to catch and kill marine species for hundreds of years.

Sadly it is not just waste nets that cause harm to marine species. It is estimated that globally bycatch represents 40.4 percent of global marine catches. Bycatch refers to non-target species such as Tristan and many other seals rescued by Seal Rescue Ireland.

Plastic Pollution in a landfill

Plastic Pollution

According to the United Nations, plastic waste kills 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals every year, that is over 3,000 animals per day!

Plastics enter our waterways through urban drains, during flooding events and when shipped to countries with lax waste management protocols. Plastics, often covered in toxic residues, are a major threat to marine species that often perceive them as food.

Our research has revealed that our seals have been directly impacted by both larger plastic debris and microplastics.

Human disturbance of great seals at Brideshead

Human Disturbance

We know seals are adorable; no one loves them more than our dedicated team! But seals, like humans, need space. Seals are semi-aquatic which means they NEED TO HAUL OUT on land to rest, digest and re-oxygenate their blood. Although they appear lazy, they are in fact incredibly agile predators. When seals are disturbed (especially pups) it disrupts their natural behaviour, causing stress that often leads to mothers abandoning their pups.

It is important to know SEALS ARE PROTECTED under the 1976 Wildlife Act.

It is prohibited to harass or disturb them.

Please remain 100m away from any wild seals you see and call our rescue hotline 087 195 5393.

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