New sign installed at city beach and popular wild swimming spot warning do not disturb seals

The final #SaveOurSealsSign is being installed at Wardie Bay on Tuesday 4 MayThe final #SaveOurSealsSign is being installed at Wardie Bay on Tuesday 4 May
The final #SaveOurSealsSign is being installed at Wardie Bay on Tuesday 4 May
A new sign designed by local primary school kids is being installed at a popular city beach warning locals not to disturb seals.

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A local campaign group, which set primary schools a challenge to design a sign, said it was an important reminder of the dangers to seals of people approaching them at the busy Granton beach.

Wildlife experts have warned while seals can be friendly and even curious with visitors to their areas or seas, approaching them at their designated ‘haul outs’ – favoured spots on shores or rocks – can cause the seals to stampede into the water and risk injuring themselves or killing younger seal pups.

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It comes as a number of groups have reported increased wildlife disturbance all around the coast during lockdown.

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Two harbour seal carcasses washed up on Wardie Bay beach last summer with severe neck wounds. They were thought to be a mother and one of her pups.

Forth Ports restored two dedicated wildlife pontoons to Granton Harbour in January, helping to protect the local population.

But the rise of wild swimming has alerted many marine life conservationist groups to seal disturbances, prompting sealife watchdog Marine Scotland to publish new guidance for interacting with seals.

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Wardie Bay Beachwatch organiser Karen Bates said: “We are understandably reconnecting with nature at home and may simply not be aware of the effect of getting too close to seals and other wildlife.

"The situation for harbour seals is serious enough to warrant their urgent protection. As Granton Harbour is not a designated haul-out site, we felt it was up to us to create a sign to help inform people and nudge away from threatening behaviour.

"The children are really helping to educate the older generations that the sea environment is something we share, but we don’t own or dominate it.

"Congratulations to Sumaira (Trinity P7), Ella (Wardie P3) and Izzie (Trinity P7) and all the children and teachers for rising to the challenge. There were some stunning pieces of work. Children created some incredibly thoughtful and effective designs."

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There were 117 entries submitted as part of the #SaveOurSealsSign challenge from local primary schools Wardie, Granton, Trinity and Victoria. A panel of seal experts and the public voted on their favourites to make the final sign, which is a collage of the top three.

Sam Tedcastle from Forth Marine Citizens said the group hopes to be able to use the sign along the coast, including at their site in Kinghorn, Fife.

Mr Tedcastle, who helped judge the entries, said: “It’s great that this project has encouraged young people to think about the marine environment.

"We need balance and it’s a fine line between desire and need for people to watch wildlife and then what happens if too many get close and cause disturbance. During lockdown we saw more paddleboards and kayaks as more people got out to explore. So it’s more important than ever to get that message out about potential disturbance.

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"We do want people to be interested and curious, but at the same time respect nature. We all want that moment of the close encounter, but if we all get that, it will have a negative impact.”

The most voted for original artworks are also being displayed in the new community noticeboard at Wardie Bay.

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