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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 15:09 GMT
River hunt for hungry seal
Terry Leadbetter
Terry Leadbetter says it makes sense to remove the seal
A rogue seal feasting on fresh water salmon in a west Wales river is to be found a new home to protect fish stocks - and for its own safety.

Conservationists are worried it could become a target for irate anglers because it regularly dines on fish near the weir at Haverfordwest on the river Cleddau.

Volunteers at the Seal Hospital in Milford Haven are joining forces with members of the Pembrokeshire Anglers Association to catch and move it.

Using a specially-built net, they hope to trap the animal before transporting it along the coast for release back into the sea.

If the seal can be caught humanely and moved to its natural feeding habitat on the coast then it is a win-win situation
Angler Mark White

Terry Leadbetter, who runs the seal hospital, said the vast majority of anglers coexisted with their "visitors", but there had been instances in the past of dead seals found upstream in west Wales rivers.

The seal at Haverfordwest follows the tide up the river and finds easy pickings as the salmon gather at the weir outside county hall.

A fish pass has recently been built there to allow the salmon to negotiate the weir at low tide.

But that has not deterred the seal, that can eat up to seven or eight fully-grown salmon a day, from making regular visits upstream.

Mr Leadbetter has led similar efforts to catch and relocate seals before.

Generic seal
The seal can eat around eight fully-grown salmon a day

He said: "It makes more sense to remove the seals than for someone to illegally harm them.

"You just get the one or two odd people who think the river belongs to them and they may be tempted to take a shot at it.

"We are on a tidal estuary and it's inevitable that we are going to get seals coming up here.

"But if we can take them far enough away, hopefully they will not find their way back."

Mark White, of the Pembrokeshire Anglers Association, said his members were happy to work with Mr Leadbetter.

"If the seal can be caught humanely and moved to its natural feeding habitat on the coast then it is a win-win situation," he said.

He said no responsible angler, and certainly no member of his association, would in any way harm the animal. But by moving the seal it would help protect fish stocks on the western Cleddau.

The Marine Environmental Monitoring network says there have been rare instances of dead seals being found in west Wales rivers.

Rod Penrose, who is its officer for Wales said: "We have had seals in the past that have been found dead after wandering up rivers."

He said the most recent examples were three seals reported dead at Cenarth.

Fish 'by-pass' boost for anglers
21 Sep 03  |  South West Wales


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