BBC Springwatch Seals

Springwatch have been planning trips to the beautiful Isles of Scilly since 2012 and this year’s final episode featured presenter Gillian Burke snorkelling with seals. Gillian contacted Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) prior to filming to ensure she followed and communicated best practice.

CSGRT advise that swimming with seals is ONLY done using a reputable company following the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code. This is as much for human as well as seal safety. Given a choice, seals will choose flight over fight but they have sharp claws and teeth in powerful jaws so the risks are considerable and protective clothing is essential.

Swimming near hauled seals should be avoided as, at best seals will be drawn off rocks, and at worst they will stampede. They can be impacted in numerous ways:
• Seals get cold shock using vital energy and have raised stress levels increasing vulnerability to illness and disease
• Stampeding may result in injuries on sharp rocks and ripped out claws
• Females are heavily pregnant in summer and bouncing on their bellies can be fatal for both mother and pup
• Even seals that appear undisturbed by remaining on rocks are affected. Research shows increased vigilance results in raised heart rates, adrenalin and cortisol levels. As in humans, one off stress is not an issue, but if long term and prolonged from repeated human proximity, it can have chronic health and welfare implications for our seals.

Gillian loved her experience and did very well to resist the temptation to touch despite the seal’s obvious provocation!

Watch this excerpt in the last episode of the series 39.48 mins in…