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Seals caught in netting spark call-outs

The grey seal from Skaw beach was suffering from a three inch deep wound. All Photos: Antoine Jaumain/Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary

ATTEMPTS to save the life of a young grey seal entangled in monofilament net failed on Thursday when the animal died on its way to a local vet.

Volunteers from Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary were called to Skaw beach, in Unst, where a seal with netting deeply embedded in its neck had been found by a Shetland Wildlife tour group.

The team carefully cutting through the net that entangled the seal.

Pete Bevington from the sanctuary said: “Once there, we managed to get between the seal and the sea even though it was only a few feet from the tideline.

“We covered its head with towels and a sheet to protect ourselves from its teeth and with three of us holding it down we managed to cut away the netting and four of us carried it to the vehicle to take it back to the sanctuary.

“It was one of last year’s grey seal pups, probably eight or nine months old who must have swum into the deadly net when it was very young and grown into it, leaving a three inch deep wound.”

On their way back to mainland Shetland, the team – which was joined by a camera crew from the World Animal Protection charity – heard of a second grey seal described as “completely wrapped up in green netting” on a beach near Bridge End, in Burra.

Monofilament netting is all too often the cause for death in marine wildlife.

Sadly, the seal from Skaw died while they were on their way to Shetland Vets to collect medication.

Meanwhile, the Burra seal had gone back into the sea and there was little Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary could do to help, though the seal with green netting around its neck could be seen from the shore.

Bevington said: “It has been a roller coaster ride after the race to reach Unst, the elation of freeing the seal from the netting, the heartbreak of it dying and the sheer frustration of not being able to help the one still in the sea, which could also face an agonising death thanks to a small piece of discarded fishing net.”

He added that they had two similar call-outs last week, but both seals were in the water and could not be reached.

This latest development comes after there was a local outcry in reaction to nature campaigner Sean Whyte’s statement earlier this week that Shetland’s marine litter problem was the “worst in the world”.