10 Minute Rule Bill for better protection
If you had told us in 2020 we would be here today, despite a global pandemic, I would not have believed you. Wednesday Feb 9th is a milestone day after an incredible 2021 for UK seals. Tracey Crouch (MP for Chatham and Aylesford) is presenting a 10 Minute Rule Bill entitled the Seals (Protection) Bill: A Bill to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to make the intentional or reckless disturbance or harassment of seals an offence; to make further provision about the protection of seals; and for connected purposes. This is a massive achievement and historic day for us all – Seals, the Seal Research Trust (SRT) and our partners in the Seal Alliance (SA).
Open Letter to Government
To coincide with Tracey’s Bill, the SA sent an Open Letter to Boris Johnson. Signed by over 30 key figures and organisations, we ask for an urgent meeting to ensure that seal disturbance legislation is comprehensive and consistent with no loopholes. Disturbance impacts are shocking though often invisible from wasted energy, to injury and sometimes fatal. (Click here to see impacts)
We aim to make seal disturbance illegal as it is with whales and dolphins.
To download the SA Open Letter, Press Release, People Protecting Precious Places (PPPP) Report and supporting evidence please click here.
Campaign steps for better protection
Throughout 2021, the SA campaigned for better protection for seals from disturbance. This began with DEFRA funding SRT through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. SA groups agreed national key messaging to reduce disturbance. Attractive ‘Watching Seals Well’ leaflets and signs were designed. These were endorsed by DEFRA and printed by the GRCF grant. To date 68,000 leaflets and over 100 signs have gone round the UK and even been translated into French!
In the summer, SRT hosted two VIP visits from George Eustice (The Minister for the Environment) and Rebecca Pow (Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Domestic Environment). They witnessed the cumulative issues seals face, including disturbance. We shared our recommendations about a way forward. Read about these visits by clicking here for George Eustice and here for Rebecca Pow .
Mary Tester from Thames Seal Watch was shocked by Freddie the Thames’ seal’s sad demise after a dog attack. She led a Parliamentary Petition signed by people in every single constituency in the UK. Mary worked with Tracey Crouch MP to launch an Early Day Motion. Mary wrote to every MP and gained cross party support whether or not the MPs sign EDMs.
SRT’s GRCF main outcome was a report summarising seal disturbance 2013 to 2021 and comparing disturbance at 4 hotspots in Cornwall in 2019 to 2021. Key findings included disturbance in 68% of intervals with humans present. (Read the report by clicking here)
At the end of 2021, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee opened their Quinquennial Review suggesting all native and vagrant seal species be added to the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This would outlaw reckless or intentional seal disturbance making it an offence. Just as this closed, Tracey’s 10 Minute Rule Bill was approved.
Huge thanks for making this possible:
- DEFRA Green Recovery Challenge Fund administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund
- Seal Alliance member groups
- Seal Research Trust marine rangers, volunteers and supporters
The Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) recommended that native and vagrant seal species be added to the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) back in the spring of 2022. As we have heard that this is an ongoing process, in May 2023, the Seal Research Trust (SRT) wrote to Defra and the JNCC asking for seals to be prioritised and fast tracked onto the WCA, given their ongoing welfare issues arising from high levels of chronic disturbance at some sensitive seal sites. SRT requested a time line for the anticipated outcomes arising from the JNCC’s recommendations. Adding seals to the WCA would effectively make seal disturbance illegal (as it is with whales and dolphins).