Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 09:52 UK

Call for action over seal numbers

Partially eaten fish
Seals eat fish from the fishermen's nets

Increasing numbers of seals off a Cumbrian island are decimating fish populations, fishermen claim.

They said at any one time they can see hundreds of the mammals in the water off Walney Island and which regularly raid their nets.

Seals have not been culled in the UK since the 1970s.

However, sea bass fisherman Tony Tyson said the seal population had increased dramatically in the last decade and needed to be tackled.

During a seal count this year, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust counted 90 mammals in the area, down from 130 in 2007.

But Mr Tyson said he often spotted hundreds in the water.

'Free meal'

He said: "There used to be about a dozen seals in the bay but you can now regularly see between 200 and 300.

"Whenever you are out there, they make a beeline for the nets and if there are any fish in it they clean it out and all you are pulling in is the heads of sea bass, it's a free meal for them.

"Everyone has been absolutely pestered to death with seals this year, it has been a nightmare.

"I am an animal lover but it is very frustrating."

Mike Douglas, of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said he was sympathetic with the fishermen but ruled out culling.

He said: "It is often an easy way out to blame natural predators for dwindling catches, but what we need to do is prove there is substantial damage to fishing.

"The Trust would not back a cull at all giving the small numbers of animals we have.

"We need to work around natural predators rather than against them."


SEE ALSO
Further call for seal cull debate
09 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands

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