Forvie seal haul-out discussed at meeting

Ewan Lawrie, Gillian Martin and Annabel Drysdale at the Forvie Nature Reserve near Newburgh
Ewan Lawrie, Gillian Martin and Annabel Drysdale at the Forvie Nature Reserve near Newburgh

Local MSP Gillian Martin recently met with members of Scottish Natural Heritage to discuss the protection of a seal colony at a North-East estuary.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin held discussions with Annabel Drysdale and Ewan Lawrie on Monday, January 28.

They discussed how the haul-out, associated guidance and signage at the Forvie National Nature Reserve near Newburgh has worked so far, and how best to ensure the public are aware of how to view the seals responsibly.

The beach at the North bank of the Ythan has become popular with a large number of seals that use it as a stop-off point between breeding grounds along the coast.

The spot is also popular with the public, with visitors looking to catch a glimpse of the marine mammals.

Though the beach on which the seals rest remains open to the public, SNH urge people to head the signs offering guidance and advise that the best place to view the seals from is from the Newburgh side of the estuary.

In May 2017, it was made an offence to harass the seals, after the Scottish Government brought in legal protection and made it an official haul-out.

Scottish Natural Heritage, and Marine Scotland, are keen to educate the public on how best to view the seals, and how to avoid disturbing them.

Gillian Martin MSP said: “The area used by the seals was given protection in 2017 and I am keen to increase public awareness of that, and to emphasise that the best place to view the seals is from Newburgh itself.

“At low tide in particular you can get a fantastic view of the colony from the South shore and many of the nosier seals will swim really close to you. Approach from the North shore and you’re likely to have seals bolting into the river to avoid you.”

“It’s important we remind people who go to the area to view the seals and to enjoy the beach that they do so responsibly and that they stay a safe enough distance away from the seals to prevent causing them any distress.

“We all love to watch wildlife, but we also need to be respectful of it.”

Annabel Drysdale, Scottish Natural Heritage’s Forvie NNR manager, said: “We were very pleased to meet with Gillian Martin and to work together to raise awareness of responsible wildlife watching.

“We want visitors to Forvie to be able to access and enjoy the nature reserve and the wildlife that is protected here.”