THE revelation that Keith the seal is to be captured and released into the sea has prompted a massive reaction throughout Worcestershire.

Yesterday your Worcester News revealed the Angling Trust had been granted a licence by Natural England to catch the popular grey seal and transfer her back to the sea following concerns she was damaging fish stocks in the river Severn.

Although the operation carried out by Upton-based water rescue organisation Mercia Inshore Search and Rescue (MISAR) and British Divers Marine Life Rescue – expected to cost the Angling Trust more than £5,000 – was launched yesterday, the elusive seal failed to emerge and remained at large.

As your Worcester News went to press a post on the paper’s Facebook site had received more than 12,000 hits and been commented on 149 times, with most people in favour of letting Keith stay put.

Sue Hyde said: “How long before they want the cormorants and otters removed too? Who is paying for this removal – it better be the anglers and not coming out of my council tax. Leave her alone, if you move her, the stress may kill her.”

Jo Seymour wrote: “One seal in the river upsetting a few vocal anglers. I personally think she is amazing to see and would like to see an independent opinion on her effect on fish stocks not the opinion of some very vocal fish snaffling dullards, that is all.”

Paul Savage also threw his support behind letting Keith stay, saying: “If we made the rivers accessible and stocked them full of fish then you can’t blame the seal for what is natural to them,” while Caroline Worthington wrote: “This country lets thousands of people in from all over the world yet we can’t allow one seal to stay?”

But those in favour of moving Keith also made their voices heard. James Anderson said: “Us fisherfolk are doing what is right for the seal. Shame on everyone else wanting the seal to stay in an unnatural environment.”

And Steve Thompson said: “Seals becoming used to being in close proximity to humans rarely have a long or happy life. Nothing to do with angling, this beautiful creature needs to be back in its proper habitat. Away from people.”

Jason Ford agreed, saying: “Glad the seal can be moved to its natural environment where it can be with other seals and I bet it has been fed by the public all sorts of food that its not supposed to be eating anyway.” And Peter Mayall said: “those who want keep it should put their hands in their pockets and pay to replace all the fish its eating.”

In yesterday’s Worcester News we reported that the Angling Trust had previously applied for a licence to shoot Keith the seal. We have been asked to point out that the formal application was never made to the Environment Agency.