Grey seal pup suckling on Mum

Why Is Human Disturbance A Problem?

Please DO NOT approach, touch, harm or harass a wild seal as this is dangerous, harmful to the seal, and illegal. Seals are protected species under both EU and Irish law (Wildlife Act, 1976).

Seals must spend time on land to rest, moult and rear their pups. When walking along Ireland’s coastline, taking part in water activities or flying drones please be aware that seals rely on the coast as their habitat. Approaching them can cause stress, injury, or cause mothers to abandon their pups. As lockdown measures gradually ease, we urge the public to exhibit special caution, as seals have ventured further inshore on coastlines and beaches have become busier since the lockdown, meaning disturbance is at an all-time high. If you are ever in doubt, please remain at least 100m away, keep dogs on a lead and call our rescue hotline for advice.

Seal Rescue Ireland is a member of the Seal Alliance, an international collaboration of organizations dedicated to the protection and conservation of seals. In April 2021 the Seal Alliance launched the campaign ‘Give Seals Space’ across the UK and Ireland to help protect seals from human disturbance. The campaign includes infographics to raise awareness of the simple steps the public can take to protect these vulnerable marine mammals.

Sea Swimming – What to do when you encounter a Wild Seal.

Advice from the Seal Alliance on Wild Seal encounters while sea swimming.

Seals are curious animals and learn through play (especially young ones) using their muzzle and mouths to explore their surroundings. They are a predator and have sharp teeth so accidents can easily occur when humans enter their habitat.


  • Avoid deliberately seeking out seal encounters when swimming as seals and their habitat are protected by both EU and Irish law.
  • Do not swim in known seal areas or near colonies (especially during certain times of the year – pupping, mating or moulting season).
  • If a seal appears, keep moving and don’t be a point of interest for it.
  • Stick to the shallows.
  • Direct contact is uncommon but if approached remain calm and keep moving away slowly, do not follow it, attempt to touch it or seek interaction.
  • Stay alert.
  • Avoid contact and wear a wetsuit.
  • If in doubt, best get out.
  • Give seals space.

Short Film: Grey Seal/Wild Swim

By Duncan Kenny, The Seal Project

Check out this incredible film by our good friends at The Seal Project in Brixham, South Devon. Their committed team of volunteers works around the clock to research and conserve their local, transient seal population, while educating the public and engaging them in conservation activities. Their film Grey Seal /Wild Swim, examines the human/aminal interaction and guides us into a more caring understanding of our interactions with these elegant, wild beasts.


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