Resurgence of beached seals on French beaches: do the right thing!

With winter storms, many exhausted seals arrive on French beaches after battling the elements. If they are very weak or injured, they cannot survive without support. reminds you of the correct behavior to adopt if you discover one of these small marine mammals in danger.

In southwest France, the number of seal strandings has increased in recent years “says Marion Etcheverry, communications manager for the Biarritz Aquarium (64). Although seals are mainly found on the coast of Brittany, closer to the existing colonies, it happens that they reach the Basque-land coast. Normally, the Biarritz Aquarium Care Center recovers between 2 and 4 seal pups during the entire winter period. However, at the beginning of 2020, 4 young seals have already been collected. Too exhausted, the last one unfortunately did not survive.

Strands linked to bad weather

Every year, at the same time, the young seals, just weaned, must learn to feed themselves in order to survive. That’s when they are surprised by winter storms and find themselves shaken by the waves and currents that take them away from their colonies.regrets Mr. Etcheverry. When they are at the limit of their strength, they come to rest on the beaches to regain their strength and leave again. If they are very weak or injured, they cannot survive without support. “However, in late 2019, the southwest experienced strong storms, resulting in a stronger and earlier grounding season. Storms are frequent in winter because the temperature gradient is steep between the polar regions and the tropics at this time of year. year. Climate change is therefore not not in question “, specifies Christelle Robert, meteorologist at Météo France.

A different problem in the extreme northwest, noted by Christine Dumas, head of the department of marine mammals and seabirds at Océanopolis: the emergence of cases of indigestion linked to the consumption of birds. ” Seals Struggle to Find Fish, Turn to Birds They Can’t Digest “, regrets. An unusual and alarming phenomenon. This fish shortage would be one of the consequences of marine heat waves – twice as frequent, longer and more intense than 40 years ago! – themselves, on the other hand, well linked to global warming (IPCC, “Special report on climate change, oceans and the cryosphere”, September 2019).

Set up a security perimeter and report the animal

If you find a seal on the beach, never touch himwarns Christine Dumas. Don’t put it back in the water “. Too tired, he probably wouldn’t survive. To ensure his peace of mind, ideally set up a 30 meter security perimeter around the animal adds Mr. Etcheverry. These gestures are essential to avoid scaring, stressing or hurting the animal, but also to avoid any bite that could cause complications for humans. Once these precautions have been taken, report the individual to the Pelagis National Observatory in La Rochelle (05 46 44 99 10), the nearest health center (see below) or the fire department (18). ” If possible, send a photograph of the animal through the center’s Facebook page or by MMS to the number that will be communicated to you by the competent authorities. “, specifies the communication manager. Only injured or emaciated seals require treatment. If they are sufficiently rested, the others can leave on their own, without human intervention.

Tenacity of trainers and vigilance of hikers

On arrival at the shelter, very weak baby seals usually only weigh around fifteen kilos – their birth weight – when they should have weighed twice as much. Caregivers clean the rescued animal’s wounds, assess its state of health and allow it to rest. Once warmed up, the small mammal can be hydrated and fed. ” Some babies are so young that they suck on the mackerel pieces. So we have to teach them how to eatinforms the representative of the Biarrot establishment. We expect a weight gain of around 25 pounds as well as favorable weather before releasing them into their natural environment around late March/early April. “. In the Océanopolis of Brest, 90% of the approximately thirty seals collected annually manage to survive thanks to the tenacity of the keepers and – upstream – the vigilance of the hikers.

Here are the call centers to contact if you encounter a marine mammal:
– Biarritz Aquarium Service Center (64): 05 59 22 33 34
– Oceanópolis in Brest (29): 02 98 34 40 51
– CHENE Association in Allouville-Bellefosse (76): 02 35 96 06 54
– Animal Protection League in Calais (62): 03 21 34 76 02


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