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Seals' meals put lives on the line

By Mike Merritt

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They may look adorable and visitors flock to seal hot spots across Ross-shire just to get a close glimpse.

But tourists and locals alike have been warned not to feed seals because it could be killing the animals as well as putting their own safety at risk.

The stark warning comes after a spate of calls from all around the country over seals swallowing anglers’ hooks and people being at risk of seal bites from feeding and even swimming with them.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue group said the ready supply of food from tourists meant that the mammals were not foraging for themselves as much as they should in some instances and instead congregating in harbours.

As a result they were "at great risk of serious injury and abuse."

"Now that we are well into the main summer holidays, we are getting a lot of calls to our hotline about seals with hooks and lures caught in them from many harbours around the country," said a spokesman for British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

"But why does this happen so much at this time of year?

"A lot of these problems are unfortunately caused by people feeding the seals in harbours, luring them in from tourist boats as they return from sea angling trips. This then causes the seals to hang around constantly at the harbours waiting for food to be given to them, rather than foraging offshore for themselves as they should be, bringing them into conflict with other harbour users and putting the seals at great risk of serious injury and abuse.

"Many of them get caught in angler’s lines as they swim in and out of the harbours, causing a great deal of stress and frustration to angler and seal alike. Sadly it is very difficult for our rescue volunteers to do much for these seals either, as they are often too big and too fast to catch in the water and generally have to be left and monitored until the hooks come out by themselves after a few days.

"We would urge everyone to please not feed wild seals. This is the sole reason they are being brought into this situation and everyone needs to realise the consequences of what might seem like well-intentioned action and harmless fun, but is actually causing injuries, stress, and perhaps even deaths of seals."

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