Seals. They're one of the cutest marine mammals around, with big round eyes that melt hearts everywhere. But they're also being killed off fast -- and not only by the obvious culprits like climate change, pollution, and fishing practices. They're also dying off because of so-called "silent" water sports like kayaks, paddleboards, wild swimming, and even drones. How could this be possible?
Well, as skittish wildlife, their instincts scream at them to stay away from humans and our motorized water equipment. So when paddleboards and kayaks quietly sneak up on them, without an engine sounding to warn them away, it sends their fight or flight responses into a panic-filled overdrive called "disturbance."
And this overdrive leads to miscarriage, injuries, including broken jaws and ribs, and even death.Sign the petition to demand more regulation of water sports around seal-breeding waters!
Unlike a shock response, which freezes animals (or humans) in their tracks -- and which can also lead to death -- this panicked flight response leads to wounding and death in a different way. When seals suddenly realize humans have gotten so close, they rush to get away as fast as they can, in any way possible.
Disturbance behaviors include "stampeding," which essentially means running back into the water, from land, on their fins and tail, as well as "tombstoning" which involves abruptly jumping down into the water from tall heights. Stampeding can cause lacerations on seals' bodies -- especially if they are fleeing very quickly -- and tombstoning can break the animals' bodies. In the past two years, the incidents of seal disturbances recorded in the British county of Cornwall have doubled.
On top of this, fewer pups are being born
. Autumn is pupping season around Cornwall, and seals should be abundant with newborns right now. But instead, the waters are eerily much more quiet than in previous years.
We're not trying to stop all people from ever paddleboarding or kayaking again! Far from it. Instead, as Sue Sayer, the founder and director of Seal Research Trust, says: "We just want people to give seals space."
But we'll need government help to ensure that happens.Tell Cornish authorities to implement strict regulations, including clearing out beaches, during seal pupping season in order to save the seals.