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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Anglers and bathers put at risk as our seal population explodes


THIS photograph, taken in Dublin's Bullock Harbour on Thursday, shows the dangers being posed to sea anglers and bathers from Ireland's growing seal population.

The unnamed Polish man was washing his hands over the side of a boat as he was coming into land at Bullock pier when he was bitten by the young seal.

Bites from seals can cause serious bacteriological infection and Irish Water Safety advises anyone who has been bitten or scratched by seals to seek medical attention.

The bite punctured the skin on both sides of the man's forearm and close to the main artery.

People who hire out fishing boats from Bullock and other harbours have for years been asking customers not to feed the seals, which approach boats as they come in to land.

They are also losing large amounts of tackle as seals pull fish from hooks, often tearing the line off completely.

Furthermore, there are concerns that some of the big seals are capable of overturning small boats.

Fishermen in the south west of the country have been calling for a cull of seals this year as they say there has been an explosion in the population and that it is now threatening the inshore fishing industry.

The amount of seals has seriously hit gillnet, with fishermen finding that seals have eaten entire catches by the time the nets are pulled in.

Seals are protected under 1976 legislation, which was introduced at a time when the population was greatly reduced.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara has been carrying out a survey on the seal population this year in response to the concerns raised by fishermen.

No such survey has been carried out since 2003 and since then seal numbers in Dublin Bay, where there had been very few, have soared.

Irish Water Safety says that divers and swimmers have reported "diminishing shyness" among seals and is advising people to avoid waters where seals have been encountered.

Two summers ago, dozens of swimmers in the 40 Foot in south Dublin were bitten or scratched but it is believed to have been by a young sex-starved male who subsequently set up a harem and has caused no trouble since.

Sunday Independent

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