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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


01/05/2024 - Another reason for joining the Angling Trust


The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have agreed to suspend the release of rescued seals into the tidal River Nene at Sutton Bridge following concerns expressed by the Angling Trust that some have become resident in the waters around Peterborough, causing significant damage to freshwater fish stocks.

In a letter to the Angling Trust’s CEO Jamie Cook, the RSPCA said they were implementing a pause to “focus on gathering data and evidence concerning released seals and release sites, consult on alternative options and speak with relevant partners.”

The Angling Trust had written to the RSPCA on 28 March following evidence from Peterborough & District Angling Association and another 24 clubs in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, that an increasing number of tagged seals released from the animal charity’s Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre at East Winch had travelled upstream into freshwater environments instead of heading out to sea. Currently, there are five examples of tagged seals living around Peterborough, some 30 miles from the coast.

While seals occasionally travel upstream into rivers, their natural habitat is in marine environments and prolonged periods in freshwater environments can be detrimental to their own well being and have an unsustainable and damaging impact upon fish stocks, other freshwater wildlife, and the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems.

Jamie Cook said: “We applaud and very much welcome the decision to suspend releases at the Sutton Bridge site whilst this review is conducted and look forward to working constructively with the RSPCA to reach a satisfactory resolution to the problem.

“We understand the East Winch team already have an established and proven coastal release site available as an alternative and the neighbouring rehabilitation centre carry out all their releases on the same shoreline. We very much hope that this will be seriously considered as an alternative to the Sutton Bridge release site which is resulting in rescued seals becoming isolated inland – that is not good for the seals, the environment, the ecosystem and especially the already pressured fish stocks.”

The Angling Trust have suggested that the RSPCA’s review needs to also address two further questions:

The immediate situation regarding the seals who have moved upstream and what support the RSPCA will provide in encouraging them to move downstream and to the coast, given the welfare concerns regarding these individuals; and What ongoing changes to the release of seals can be implemented to minimise the risk of them moving upstream, including any mitigation measures necessary.

The RSPCA's decision to suspend the release of rescued seals at Sutton Bridge was also welcomed by local angling clubs.



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