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Anglers call for RSPCA to suspend seal releases at Sutton Bridge

Anglers have asked the RSPCA to suspend seal releases at Sutton Bridge to be suspended in order to protect fish stocks in our rivers.

The Angling Trust says that significant damage is being caused to fish stocks in the River Nene after five tagged seals moved into the Peterborough area. A seal has also been spotted in the River Glen at Surfleet and in Baston Fen area.

Working with Peterborough and District Angling Association – which looks after the River Welland in Spalding – and 24 other clubs, the trust has expressed concern at the increasing number of tagged seals released from the RSPCA Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre at East Winch that have travelled upstream into freshwater environments instead of heading out to sea.

A previous seal release at Sutton Bridge
A previous seal release at Sutton Bridge

The trust has stressed that spending prolonged periods in fresh water areas could damage the seal’s health along with having an impact on freshwater ecosystem.

Injured seals which have been cared for at the RSPCA’s East Winch site in Norfolk have been released at Sutton Bridge for many years.

Angling Trust’s CEO Jamie Cook said: “In spite of the efforts made by the RSPCA team at East Winch to map suitable tides and conditions for release, evidence suggests there are an increasing number of seals re-introduced at the Sutton Bridge site which are travelling into freshwater rather than their natural marine environment.

RSPCA at a previous seal release
RSPCA at a previous seal release

“We have therefore asked the RSPCA to immediately cease re-introductions at the Sutton Bridge site in order to protect both the seals as well as the native freshwater fish and wildlife they are encountering. We have no objection to the release of rehabilitated seals in line with government policy and have asked the team at East Winch to consider coastal release sites which will assist the seals in orientating themselves back into their natural environment and colonies, rather than finding themselves trapped alone inland.”

Rob Harris, Chairman of Peterborough & District Angling Association, said that an Environment Agency report showed that the lower River Nene cannot sustain predation by marine mammals alongside the current pressures of pollution and climate change.

He added: “On behalf of P&DAA and clubs and organisations we represent across the Eastern region, we will continue to challenge the unnatural presence of seals for prolonged periods within freshwater inland fisheries and fight for the sustainable, successful, and healthy development of angling.

“To be clear, we wish no harm to seals and are concerned that they should be returned safely to their native coastal environments. The support and efforts of the Angling Trust are very welcome and represent exactly the need to 'come together' as anglers in order for us to ensure the future of our sport.”

The Angling Trust have contacted the British Divers Marine Life Rescue team and requested their expertise in returning the rehabilitated seals back to the sea. The Environment Agency have a statutory duty to protect freshwater fish and due to the evidence of multiple cases at this single release site the Angling Trust have also asked for their support in ensuring that seal releases at Sutton Bridge are suspended.

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