Seal law change
It has been quite a week …
… as we have made a lot of progress towards our overall aim of getting seal disturbance made illegal (as it is with whales and dolphins).
Tuesday saw MPs debating ‘Seal protection’ in Westminster Hall led by Sarah Olney MP.
Thanks to Mary Tester from Thames Seal Watch, Sarah Olney agreed to lead a debate at Westminster to request Ministers to fast track and prioritise the addition of seals (native and vagrant) to the Wildlife And Countryside Act, as recommended by the Joint Nature Conservation Council back in 2022.
The aim of this debate was to raise awareness amongst MPs that this recommendation has not yet been actioned by government and to keep the issue in the fore front of their minds.
At very short notice, SRT Director Sue Sayer MBE worked closely with Mary Tester and officials from Sarah Olney’s office to draft the background to, and arguments for, this urgently needed legislative amendment.
We are delighted to say that the debate was very successful and supported by multiple MPs who were all keen for the law to be changed to better protect seals from reckless or intentional disturbance.
Thames Seal Watch, the Seal Research Trust and the Seal Alliance all got multiple mentions and credit for their awareness raising work to ensure that every coastal user understands how to act responsibly around our native, heritage seal species. But we now need political support to back up voluntary actions with legal support for the police to follow up the worst intentional cases of deliberate disturbance.
Huge thanks to everyone involved, particularly those MPs who were present and spoke in support of greater protection for seals.
Click here to watch the ‘Seal Protection’ debate or click here to read the transcript.
So it seems like we have some momentum for a change to better protect seals…
…as we had another surprise on Wednesday, when an e-mail arrived with the long-awaited government EFRA Committee report on marine mammals.
Back in 2022 the Seal Research Trust on behalf of the Seal Alliance submitted extensive responses to the committee’s six questions along with substantial supporting documentation. We were able to watch the EFRA Committee meeting on Parliamentary TV and we were hugely grateful to get the support of Lucy Babey from ORCA who was a key speaker at the meeting. EFRA Committee.
The great news is that in the EFRA Committee report ‘Protecting Marine Mammals in the UK and Abroad’ summary (page 3) it states:
Key findings and recommendations are:
The legal framework to protect of marine mammals is incoherent and not sufficient to effectively preserve these precious species. UK measures contain concerning loopholes and are in stark contrast to best practice exemplified internationally by the 1972 US Marine Mammal Protection Act. In the short term, seals should be added to the list of species in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act as soon as possible. In the medium term, Defra should take urgent steps to close the loophole that allows the transit of cetacean products through UK ports. In the long term, the Government should bring forward primary legislation on marine mammal protection.
And on page 18:
We strongly endorse the JNCC’s recommendation that seals be added to the list of species in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act to protect them from reckless disturbance, and wish to see this implemented as soon as practicable.
We have already asked for advice on how best to follow this up, to ensure that both these huge steps in the right direction are actioned by government as soon as possible.
To support our work to give seals a voice, please consider making a donation. For a small charity like ours, punching abover our weight, every penny really does count. You can join our ‘Wild Seal Supporter and Adoption Scheme‘, buy gifts from our ‘One Stop Sealy Online Shop‘ or make a donation.
Thank you and let’s get this law change over the line very soon!