Calls for review of enforcement powers to protect seal colonies

THE MS for Aberconwy, Janet Finch-Saunders, has spoken of her alarm of the revelation by the North Wales Seal Research Organisation that up to 80 per cent of its rescues involve seals in trouble because they have been disturbed by people.

In a Written Question to Julie James, the minister for climate change, Mrs Finch-Saunders asked: “Further to the finding by North Wales Seal Research Organisation, what discussions has the Welsh Government had to determine whether stricter laws are required to combat seal disturbances by humans and dogs?

“The intervention comes as some 200 seals were occupying a beach at the Little Orme, Llandudno, as the breeding season gets underway.

“Videos shared on social media have shown people getting too close to the colony.

Commenting on the situation, Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “Since 2016, I have been proactive in protecting our local seal colony.

“We are extremely fortunate to have such a large colony of resting grey and harbour seals.

“They contribute to our unique environment, and have become popular attractions with locals and visitors alike, who maintain a safe distance.

“Disturbing seals can induce a stampede by scaring others into a domino effect, often resulting in a needless gash to their bellies or claws ripped out by the rocks.

“To avoid such a panic, we must all remember to keep a distance of 100m from hauled out and pupping seals.

“Having helped to design a local code of conduct in recent years, I continue to believe that education is the way forward.

“Given that penalties can be handed to dog owners under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, recent social media posts have underlined the need to review the situation to understand whether these powers are being adequately enforced.

“As the Wales Environment Link harbour porpoise species champion, I am leading efforts to have the Welsh Government evaluate the impact of modern society on the species.

“Interventions should be led by the data, so I would wish for the same approach to be undertaken with our seals.”

During the previous Senedd, Mrs Finch-Saunders led collaborative conservation efforts with Conwy County Borough Council, Mostyn Estates, Wildlife Trust Wales, Natural Resources Wales, and residents to successfully introduce a marine code of conduct for recreational boats launching from Council owned slipways.

Mrs Finch-Saunders also oversaw an educational sign introduced on the Little Orme to protect local seal colonies.

Should you see an injured seal, contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno