Neither A Fishing Ban Nor The Police Can Stop This Escapee Seal Roaming An Essex Lake

Radio 4's Today programme host joked that it was "living its best life".
The seal, spotted in Rochford Reservoir
The seal, spotted in Rochford Reservoir
Essex Police

A seal is making waves in Essex, after taking up residence in a lake traditionally for anglers – and eating as much fish as it can.

The seal has dodged capture for close to a month now since first being spotted at Rochford Reservoir in Essex around December 12.

Marine mammal medic and member of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Simon Dennis, suggested that the animal may have made its way up the River Roach from the sea, before getting stuck in a reservoir – and then dining out on all the local delicacies...

Now, it seems that it has no imminent plans to leave. Only last week, the seal evaded capture again by dodging under a net.

“It’s an incredibly agile creature,” Dennis told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme. “It’s in its natural habitat, in that it’s in water, it’s in a lake...

“The geography, if you like, of the lake – with this little island in the middle – it means it is very difficult to net or drag any kind of net across.

″Any attempt to remove it, and we are looking to remove it for its own welfare rather than for promotional reasons, has to be balanced with the stress that that attempt places on the animal.”

Host Justin Webb replied: “You say you want to move it for its own welfare.

“I think if we could talk to the seal, which sadly we’re not able to, it would say it’s living its best life and munching its way through the fish.”

Dennis played along with the joke, adding: “It’s basically landed in a branch of Waitrose, and it’s working its way down the aisles, so I’m sure it’s incredibly happy.”

However Dennis noted that the seal does have some injuries around its eye and that fresh water is not ideal for the species – nor is living without its fellow seals in a colony – but it still seems to be feeding very well.

The seal’s eye injury has also led him to be nicknamed Nelson, according to the Independent. He is said to be around one year old, and snacking on the duck population as well as the fish.

Dennis added: “There is a meeting this week, and we are certainly looking with all the environmental agencies and Essex police’s wildlife unit, who are being incredibly helpful, as to what our next steps are.”

The fishing ban in the lake is obviously being ignored by the seal, too, triggering great concern among the angling community.

North, who has tried to make the area “one of the best angling lakes”, said: “To see all this lost due to a seal getting into a lake where it doesn’t belong is ridiculous.

“When I asked about the damage the seal was causing to my stock of fish, I was told that didn’t come into consideration as the seals were a protected species and the fish weren’t.”

He said the seal needs to be removed “as soon as possible”.

North closed the lake on December 12 due to the freezing conditions at the time. This was the very same day the seal appeared.

Alternative means of capture have been suggested too, such as tranquilisers, although these could risk the seal’s life.

Residents have been advised by the District Council to “keep their distance from the area for the safety of the seal and for themselves” – while keeping their dogs on a lead.


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