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Fears rogue gunmen could shoot Keith
12:37pm Tuesday 21st January 2014 in News
SEALIFE experts fear a rogue gunman could ignore strict laws governing the shooting of seals during open season to kill Keith.
Tight regulations control when and how grey seals can be shot between September 1 and December 31 but there are fears that someone may take matters into their own hands.
The Angling Trust has vowed to try and capture the seal and return it back to the sea with the help of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) after it was previously granted a licence to capture Keith during the close season.
Extensive flooding and the closure of the locks for two weeks in November meant the seal had evaded capture but as the close season expired on Tuesday, December 31, Keith's stay in the Severn may soon be cut short.
Stephen Marsh, operations manager at BDMLR, said in the past, despite agreements being made that its divers would remove a seal, people had taken it upon themselves to shoot the marine mammals instead.
"We know that the Angling Trust has no intention of doing this but unfortunately it has been reported that the ‘close’ season is now over and anyone can shoot the seal.
"This is not the case as there are very strict laws on when and how a seal may be shot."
Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, commercial fisherman and landowners are the only people allowed to shoot seals during open season.
The act also makes it clear the type of ammunition and gun that must be used.
Mr Marsh said the voluntary marine animal rescue organisation was also worried a well-meaning person may make the risky decision to try and catch Keith and return it to the sea themselves.
He said: "We are concerned that people who are not used to rescuing seals may attempt it themselves.
"Although Keith appears to be quite benign, we know that an adult seal when cornered or caught will be unpredictable and therefore seal handling experience is absolutely necessary.
"Once the seal is caught, it is important that distress is minimised and that it is able to be transported quickly and safely to a release location."
But the petition to try and block The Angling Trust's attempts to catch Keith has continued at pace gathering over 3,500 signatures since it was set up on Sunday, December 29.
Lisa Ventura, who set up the petition and runs the Save Keith Facebook Page, said she did not think it was likely someone would misinterpret the law and try to kill her.
"Given the continued support for Keith on both her Facebook pages and the fact the petition has received over 3,500 signatures and counting, I think that many who have posted and signed the petition are worried that some may misinterpret the law and take matters into their own hands but this is not the case.
"Due to all the press coverage she's had I think it would be very unlikely someone would shoot her, it would be very bad publicity for the Angling Trust, and would upset the mass following Keith has.
"Even some anglers have posted on the pages concerned for her well-being and safety, and pointing out that they do not want to see her shot or moved, and that there is room in the Severn for Keith and anglers alike.”
Keith has been spotted in the river Severn at Worcestershire intermittently since November 2012 when canoeists saw her at Powick and gave her the moniker Keith after a Royalist commander.
To sign the petition log on to www.gopetition.com/petitions/leave-keith-the-seal-in-the-river-severn.html.
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