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Dead seal at Dunnet reveals a ‘tragic global story’

By SPP Reporter

What is believed to be an Atlantic grey seal lies dead in a tangle of rope with a drum attached.
What is believed to be an Atlantic grey seal lies dead in a tangle of rope with a drum attached.

A DEAD seal on a Caithness beach might not seem newsworthy but when the mammal istangled in discarded waste, it tells a much bigger story.

With the seas becoming more polluted by plastics and other man-madedebris, the tale turns into a global issue. On Tuesday afternoon MarkCumming was walking his collie dog along Dunnet Beach when he noticedseveral dead seals.

“I had only walked a short distance, maybe half a mile, and counted four dead seals.”

Mr Cumming tried to call his dog away from sniffing about one particular seal when he noticed it was tangled up in a rope that was attached to a20-litre plastic drum. He thinks that the debris may have contributed tothe animal’s death and when he found a large amount of discarded plasticwaste at high tide further along the beach, it brought home to him thewider issues surrounding pollution in the ocean.

“I know this has been in the news a lot lately but like most things yousee on the TV, you tend to switch off and forget all about it. Then yousee it first hand on a local beach and realise how bad it actually is.”

Near the burn that runs through the middle of the beach was what MrCumming termed a “shocking” amount of plastic oil drums, drinks bottles,milk cartons, fertiliser bags, plastic household waste, old nets andplastic sheeting.

Dr Neil James, of the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in Thurso,is a marine ecologist who has been leading work on the presence andimpact of plastics in the ocean. He told the Groat that across the globeeight million tonnes of plastic enters the sea each year.

“There are a number of different ways in which plastic can harm marinemammals. Animals can become entangled in plastic such as rope andfishing nets, which can impair their mobility, causing injury or eventhe death of individuals,” said Dr James.

Willie Munro, of Caithness Seacoast Tours, told the paper how herecently came across a juvenile minke whale, close to Whaligoe, that hadgot wrapped up in a creel marker which consisted of a buoy and a lengthof rope.

“We were just too late to save the whale,” he said.

After being told about the dead seal at Dunnet, Mr Munrobelieves the rope and drum were used to mark a creel or anchor and saidit was common practice for fishermen to use such tackle.

“Judging by the pictures I would say that this was used by less thanprofessional mariners. It should have been marked more clearly as it’s adanger to not only sea creatures but other mariners who could get fouledup by it.”

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