Seal pups nearly decapitated by discarded fishing nets
are finally released back into Cornish sea

Animal Protection organisations are joining to tell the tale of several dramatic seal rescues in order to highlight the problem of ghost fishing gear in our UK oceans.

Ghost gear is the term used for lost, discarded and abandoned fishing nets that can cause a devastating impact to marine life in UK seas.
Entangled Netting
Seal Release - 12th March 2015 On the morning of 12th March 2015, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary have released a four month old seal pup, named Iron Man, and a five month old pup called Beast, back into the ocean on the north Cornish coast after their lengthy journeys of recovery.

Iron Man was rescued on Christmas Eve 2014 and was found to have sustained horrendous injuries after a 9 metres long piece of lost fishing trawl net had got caught around his neck.
With this story, and the tales of others who have also been terribly injured, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), the Cornish Seal Sanctuary (CSS) and Cornwall Seal Group (CSG) are joining with World Animal Protection to raise awareness of the devastating impact of "ghost gear".

In the 64 days after Christmas Eve 2014 there have been five seals entangled in ghost gear rescued by BDMLR in Cornwall alone, one of whom did not survive her horrendous injuries.
Iron Man
Netting Early on Christmas Eve, BDMLR were alerted to the plight of a young seal caught in a net near Pendeen, Cornwall. On arrival, Medics realised the pup was entangled with its net trapped on rocks near the shore, with a very real drowning risk on an incoming tide.

Medics were able to free the net from the rocks and cut the net from where it had created a very deep and painful wound the whole way round the pup´s head. When unravelled, the net was nine metres long.
Sue Sayer from CSG who will monitor this seal´s progress back on the wild said "These cases are by no means unique and are always tragic to witness. Iron Man, would have playfully explored the lost fishing net floating in the sea and then become hideously wrapped up in it. Despite being only a few months old, he had been entangled long enough to cause a wound so deep it looked like his head was being cut off. When I unravelled the net I was shocked to find it was 9 metres long by 1.5 metres wide. I have no idea how this young seal moved at all dragging this weight of net around. Entanglement has huge welfare implications for seals and CSG research shows their chances of survival are significantly reduced as they struggle to return to the surface to breathe, swim and feed whilst their wounds leave them open to a wide range of infections."

Iron Man was immediately transported by BDMLR to the hospital at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary for emergency veterinary treatment. He is now four months old and was released in full health back into the ocean where it is hoped he will continue to thrive in his natural habitat, having been given a well-deserved second chance. He was accompanied by Beast, who was also rescued with a devastating deep wound on his neck as ghost fishing net cut into his flesh.

Global campaigning organisation, World Animal Protection, run a dedicated Sea Change campaign to address and tackle the increasing problem of ghost fishing gear and the impact it has on UK marine mammals and wildlife.

World Animal Protection UK Sea Change Campaigns Manager, Alyx Elliott, said: "Iron Man´s story demonstrates the very real threat that ghost fishing gear presents to our UK oceans and local wildlife. The Sea Change campaign is dedicated to removing this threat and working with the fishing community on solutions which can benefit us all and prevent situations like this one."
Press Release
For further information on these pups and other case studies of seals injured and killed by ghost gear
please contact Sarah Dickinson on 020 7239 0632 / 07814 695 298.
Issue Date: 30th March 2015

Notes to Editors

Sea Change

Ghost gear is the term used to describe fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or discarded in our oceans. It includes fishing nets, ropes, pots and traps. Ghost gear represents one of the biggest threats to animals in our oceans, entangling, injuring and killing millions of animals every year.

An estimated 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear - around 10% of total marine debris - is added to our oceans annually. Combined, it weighs more than the HMS Titanic.

Most fishing gear is made out of plastic meaning that it persists in the oceans for centuries, accumulating year on year. We estimate that more than 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales are killed by ghost fishing gear every year. An unimaginable number of birds, turtles, fish and other species are also injured and killed.

Find out more about the ghost fishing gear crisis here.

About World Animal Protection ( : World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) seeks to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty has ended. Active in more than 50 countries, we work directly with animals and with the people and organisations that can ensure animals are treated with respect and compassion. We hold consultative status at the Council of Europe and collaborate with national governments and the United Nations.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue ( is an international marine animal rescue organization, UK based and a Registered Charity. The aims of the organization are to provide a rescue service for all marine wildlife, to provide support to all existing rescue centres and to develop new methods of treatment, transport and care. Email:

Cornwall Seal Group ( is a research organisation dedicated to giving seals a voice and inspiring people to learn more about seals to help inform conservation efforts.

Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre for sick and injured seals around the coast of South West England, caring for up to 60 pups each winter until they are ready to be released back into the wild again. They also provide a home to the few unfortunate animals that cannot be released due to the extent of their injuries, enabling them to still live a full and happy life.