Call for action to move Peterborough's seal population back to the coast

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Peterborough & District Angling Association say seals living in city is an ‘environmental disaster’

While for some the sight of a seal on Peterborough’s River Nene is seen as a treat, there is growing concern about the damage being done by the marine animals – and now there has been a call for action to move the mammals back to their natural habitat.

While it has been known for generations that seals sometimes travel inland up the Nene, it now appears that some seals, released by the RSPCA after being cared for at one of their centres, have made their home in the city.

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One seal was spotted swimming near Town Bridge in the city centre last week.

A seal at Peterborough Rowing Lake. Photo: Jen CowleyA seal at Peterborough Rowing Lake. Photo: Jen Cowley
A seal at Peterborough Rowing Lake. Photo: Jen Cowley

The Peterborough & District Angling Association (P&DAA) have said the long term presence of seals is causing major damage to the native fish population – which is having a negative knock on impact on the ecosystem on the waterways in the city.

Now conversations are ongoing with the RSPCA in a bid to move the seals back to the coast.

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Seal spotted in Nene near Peterborough’s Town Bridge

“The presence of the seals are presenting a huge issue to the native fish stocks"

Rob Harris, chairman of the P&DAA said: “This has been a long term issue.

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“We know there have been seals navigating the River Nene for decades – normally for a week or two, before they head back home to the sea again.

"But it has now become apparent that several seals are resident on the Nene. We found two that had been tagged, and had been released from the East Winch RSPCA centre. They were released at Sutton Bridge, around November 2022.

"Rather than returning them to the coast where they were rescued, these have been released into the River Nene around four miles inland of the wash.

"We now track up to five seals with tags that were released from the centre. These seals are disoriented, unfamiliar with the location of their colonies and seem to be unperturbed by proximity to people, having spent time in the centre.

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"The presence of the seals are presenting a huge issue to the native fish stocks.

"An adult seal eats on average 15kg of fish a day. That is not sustainable.

"The P&DAA, and other angling clubs, are some of the greatest environmental campaigners in the country. We have done a huge amount of work, and spent thousands of pounds, to protect habitats and environments.“We pay rod licence fees, with the money going to help the environment.

“Fish welfare is of the highest priority for us. We catch and release, we use padded mats to ensure fish don’t get hurt on the river bank.

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"But seals are not a native animal to fresh water – they are marine creatures, and they are doing huge damage to native ecosystems.

"We do not want to harm the seals – but we are calling for them to be rescued and moved to the coast. We have offered to pay for this.

"We also want a stop to seals being released inland– it is not good for their welfare.”

“This has been an environmental disaster”

Mr Harris said that the seals could have eaten around 500,000 fish so far – five times more than were lost in the environmental disaster at Goldie Meadows in December.

He said: “This has been an environmental disaster.”

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Mr Harris also spoke of the impact that losing angling in the area could have.

He said: “We have more than 1,000 annual members, and thousands more get day tickets every year. We have a junior programme to encourage youngsters to fish – we have free coaching and equipment for them.

"The mental health benefits of fishing have been shown. It would have a serious impact on many if it was lost in the region.”

He added: “We would just like common sense to prevail here, to the benefit of all; the seals, the fish, the anglers. Seals should be released where they were found, on the coast. Releasing them inland seems to serve no purpose other than brevity. They are a beautiful animal, but if you want to see them, go to the beach. We see ourselves as the custodians of our water, and we will continue to seek the best possible outcome for all.”

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“Releasing seals into the wild is an important and rewarding part of wildlife rehabilitation”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We’re proud of the work we do in rehabilitating seals, and releasing them into the wild is an important and rewarding part of wildlife rehabilitation.

"Discussions are ongoing with relevant partners about this location. We would welcome a discussion with the Angling Trust about helping wildlife thrive and their concerns.”

The RSPCA have also given advice on what to do if you see a seal in Peterborough.

They said: “We would ask the public to not get close to seals in order to take pictures or even selfies with them.”

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“Seals are strong, powerful wild animals and have a very nasty bite which can cause horrible wounds.

"Feeding them should be avoided, and please be vigilant when walking dogs.”

For more information about the P&DAA, visit www.fishinginpeterborough.co.uk

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