Study to help solve mystery of seal deaths in Norfolk

A baby seal pup born days ago in Norfolk. Picture: James Bass

A baby seal pup born days ago in Norfolk. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass © 2015

Scientists are to conduct research into the deaths of seals living on our shores, to better understand the threats facing them.

The six-month study will be carried out by international conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). As part of the research, members of the public are being asked to report sightings of dead seals.

It comes after reports in recent years of 'mystery' deaths of seals, on the Norfolk coast, with some corpses found, between Wells and Blakeney, with unusual 'corkscrew' injuries on them.

Among theories put forward were that they were injured by ships working on the Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm. Others said they could be caused by the seals attacking one another.

The new study will investigate the seal mortality around the UK, but with a particular focus on Norfolk. Experts say they face of a range of threats, among them, being caught as fishing bycatch, marine debris and diseases.

Rob Deaville, from the ZSL, said: 'There hasn't been any systematic investigation of seal mortality in most parts of England since 2003, so it's imperative that we gain a greater understanding of the threats these animals currently face in English waters.'

The investigation is being funded by Natural England, the governments nature conservation agency.

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Rebecca Walker, Natural England's marine mammal specialist, said: 'As part of Natural England's role in conserving wildlife, it is vital we improve our understanding of the threats that these iconic marine mammals face. We look forward to using the results to help shape our future work preserving England's rich marine biodiversity.'

The charity is also calling on the public to report sightings of any dead seals via the national strandings hotline on 0800 652 0333 or email strandings@zsl.org.