Seals injured by ghost fishing gear released

March 19 2015

Seal pups nearly decapitated by discarded fishing nets are finally released back into the sea

Two seal pups have been released back into the wild after suffering horrendous injuries from lost fishing nets.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary released four month old seal pup, Iron Man, and five month old pup, Beast, back into the ocean on the north Cornish coast after their lengthy journeys of recovery.

Beast and Iron Man released back to the ocean

Iron Man was rescued on Christmas Eve 2014 and was found to have sustained horrendous injuries after a 9m long piece of lost fishing trawl net had got caught around his neck.

Iron Man when rescued, Christmas 2014

Beast was also rescued with a devastating deep wound on his neck as ghost fishing net cut into his flesh.

Beast recovering in the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

As part of the Sea Change campaign, we have joined with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), the Cornish Seal Sanctuary (CSS) and Cornwall Seal Group (CSG) to tell the tale of the dramatic seal rescues and highlight the problem of ghost fishing gear.

The threat of ghost fishing gear

In the 64 days after Christmas Eve 2014 there were five seals entangled in ghost gear rescued by BDMLR in Cornwall alone. One sadly did not survive her horrendous injuries.

Early on Christmas Eve, BDMLR were alerted to the plight of a young seal caught in a net near Pendeen, Cornwall. On arrival, Medics realised the pup was entangled with its net trapped on rocks near the shore, with a very real drowning risk on an incoming tide.

Medics were able to free the net from the rocks and cut the net from where it had created a very deep and painful wound the whole way round the pup’s head. When unravelled, the net was nine metres long.

Ghost fishing gear found on Iron Man

Sue Sayer from CSG who will monitor this seal’s progress back in the wild said: “These cases are by no means unique and are always tragic to witness. Iron Man, would have playfully explored the lost fishing net floating in the sea and then become hideously wrapped up in it.  Despite being only a few months old, he had been entangled long enough to cause a wound so deep it looked like his head was being cut off.  When I unravelled the net I was shocked to find it was 9 metres long by 1.5 metres wide. I have no idea how this young seal moved at all dragging this weight of net around. Entanglement has huge welfare implications for seals and CSG research shows their chances of survival are significantly reduced as they struggle to return to the surface to breathe, swim and feed whilst their wounds leave them open to a wide range of infections.”

Iron Man was immediately transported to the hospital at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary for emergency veterinary treatment. He is now four months old and was released in full health back into the ocean where it is hoped he will continue to thrive in his natural habitat, having been given a well-deserved second chance. He was accompanied by Beast and two other playful pups.

The story of these seals demonstrates the very real threat that ghost fishing gear presents to our oceans and local wildlife. The Sea Change campaign is dedicated to removing this threat and working with the fishing community on solutions which can benefit us all and prevent situations like this one.

How you can help

The Sea Change campaign tackles the increasing problem of ghost fishing gear and the impact it has on marine mammals and wildlife.

Learn more about our Sea Change campaign. 

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