Sleepy the seal pup recovering after ingesting fishing net

Sleepy the seal pup recovering after ingesting fishing net

Sleepy was severely malnourished and dehydrated when he was found on Heacham Beach and the Sea Life team had to tube feed him

About 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, and at this rate we face a future with more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2025. Plastic in the ocean has a large impact on ocean wildlife. Small pieces of plastic are eaten by fish, turtles and seabirds, often resulting in their death. Animals and birds can also become tangled up in plastic debris, leading to serious injuries.

On New Years Eve, the animal care team at SEA LIFE Hunstanton rescued Sleepy from Heacham North beach. He looked poorly and in distress, and so was called Sleepy.

Hollie Stephenson, senior aquarist at SEA LIFE Hunstanton said “At three weeks old and weighing only 9kg he was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Sleepy only had one small superficial wound and no sign of infection, his lung sounds were clear so we called our specialist veterinary team to run a series of tests to check him internally, all the tests came back clear.”

As normal procedure, the animal care team rehydrated him and started introducing Sleepy slowly to fish. He struggled to keep his food down in the first couple of days so the animal care team made up a special fish soup mixture which is easier to digest and switched to tube feeding.

After a week under observation and improvements in his temperature, the animal care team found fishing net inside Sleepy’s pen.

Web fishing net from seal stomach

“He must have ingested it whilst learning to feed out in the wild and it had caused him to stop eating and lose all the weight he had gained from his mother. We suspect our tube feeding had dislodged the netting allowing it to pass into his stomach and pass through his gut.” continued Hollie.

Sleepy has been feeling much better since getting rid of the fishing net and has gone from strength to strength. He started feeding himself two weeks later and has been piling the weight on.

Currently he’s in our pup pool finishing his rehabilitation, he now weighs 25kg and has developed the typical grey seal attitude.

Hollie tells us that “He shouts at the animal care team when they open his door and growls when we clean his water. We are confident that he will thrive once he is ready for release.”

Finding the netting in a seal so young brings home how bad the plastic pollution epidemic has become. Here at SEA LIFE Hunstanton we are committed to reducing our plastic waste and we have a strong focus on reusing and recycling. In an effort to reduce the amount of ghost fishing gear in our waters we are launching a recycling 30L bin which has been installed outside our building into which any small fishing line and netting can be binned for recycling.

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