Dutch gov't wants to stop rescuing sick seals

Seal pup Tio rescued from a road in Den Helder, 25 Dec 2016
Seal pup Tio rescued from a road in Den Helder, 25 Dec 2016. Photo: Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen / Facebook

The Dutch government no longer wants to take in sick or injured seals, unless they were injured by human action, Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality wrote to parliament. She is thereby adopting the advice of a committee that researched seal shelter in the Netherlands. The committee concluded that a 'hands off' approach should apply to sick or stranded seals, and that their care must be more professional, ANP reprots.

Schouten emphasized that the seal population is doing well. Dutch waters house a healthy population of around 14 thousand seals, and the seal sanctuaries and volunteers helped make this happen, the Minster said. But now that the population is growing, a new situation is arising, she added. "This requires a different way of shelter."

The Minister will work with provinces and sanctuaries on a seal agreement, which will include rules on when and how seals are to be rescued. She hopes to present this agreement within the next six months.

Seal sanctuary Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen is pleased that Schouten finally responded to the committee's advice. "As far as we are concerned, it could have happened quicker, but now we can really start working on a modern, scientifically based shelter policy. That the Minister agrees with the recommendations, is a boost for us", director Niek Kuizenga said to the news wire. 

He realizes that rescuing seals is a sensitive topic in the country. "There has been a lot of fuss about it. The Netherlands is not used to doing things differently", Kuizenga said. "It has to be clear that we will not leave seals to their fate. We need a professional organization along the coast to help the animals in the right way."

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