Video of seal pup on rubbish strewn beach leaves environmentalists ‘horrified’ 

Shocking footage of a young seal pup on a rubbish strewn beach has again shown the awful impact of plastic pollution on the natural world.

The Rev David Lees shared the video to highlight the growing problem or rubbish washing up on Shetland’s beaches.

Mr Lees, who came to Shetland as a Methodist minister in 2017 , has become a keen wildlife photographer during his time on the isles, with a particular interest in mountain hares.

At this time of year, however, he also monitors the number of seals during the pupping season. 

He said: “On a crisp calm November’s morning with my attention wholly fixed on a seal pup, it can seem as though, for a moment, all is well in the world but on other days when stormy weather is thundering in a geo, whipping up sea foam it is hard not to feel for these newborns coping with some extreme conditions.  

“It is particularly difficult to see bruck being washed ashore, knowing that these challenging conditions are only made worse by human action. 

“I’ve seen seals share beaches with some washed up plastics before, but this week, seeing a seal that was barely a week old crawling amongst a load of rubbish was particularly difficult.

“The seals have used the particular beach for generations because of the safety it affords, as there is no route down for sheep or humans, but that safety is increasingly threatened by what is washing ashore.

“As anyone who’s helped with the redd ups knows, even a beach that on first glance looks fairly clean is, on closer inspection, strewn with sack loads of waste caught among the stones, and the safety of beaches that humans cannot easily reach, means that they do not get cleaned.”

The video was taken at an inaccessible  geo on the Westside using a long lens to avoid disturbing the seals.

Mr Lees added: “I like to show off the beauty of Shetland, and the variety of fauna and flora, as much as the other photographers, but I sensed that I also needed to share the footage from this week of the seal pup on the rubbish to help give a more rounded picture, and share the reminder of the effects we have on the world around us.”

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary shared the video, saying: “We were horrified to see this.

“Thank goodness the mother is there. 

“This beach clearly needs a good redd up.”

The problem of plastic pollution has been a growing concern in Shetland, with the community regularly turning out to help remove the waste. 

Earlier this year, a Clean up Challenge organised by Ellie Duncan collected 1,225kg of marine waste from the coastline. 

The annuals Da Voar Redd Up also returned this spring to tidy up litter across Shetland, including coastal areas.  


Add Your Comment
  • Wendy Williamson

    • November 20th, 2021 19:33

    To be honest, I was not surprised to see the non-natural debris. I feel so deeply for the wildlife all over the world who are victimized by the selfish and careless people who poison the land and waters. Imagine, if each of us would put our litter in a bag and deposit it in an appropriate container. Or, what if each of us would pick up a handful of trash as we walk along the streets of our hometowns? Amateur fishermen could pick up floating trash from rivers and lakes. I think the 6,000,000,000+ people on Earth could clean up the world pretty quickly.
    It only takes one person who truly cares !

  • Sam Crossley-Osborne

    • November 20th, 2021 22:02

    Plastic pollution should be cleaned out of oceans! It causes serious threat to sea life especially seals! Seals will get entangled in plastic stuff including wires and fishing nets and when seals grow up they could result in their deaths!
    We don’t want anymore plastic pollution happening in oceans again!
    Beaches where seals breed and molt should all be cleaned.


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