Hooded seals have a habitat that stretches from northern Canada to the North Sea, and are quite commonly found around Iceland. The seal in question, named Eve by rescuers, was originally rescued off the coast of Germany, very far from home. After fattening the seal up, she was released from a sanctuary there in October, but she washed ashore
at Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire, last December.
Eve is believed to originally be from Iceland. After staff at Natureland in Skegness fit her with a tracking device and released her, it seemed she headed north, past Scotland, making her way towards Iceland, but then chose to turn around and come back to England. Sanctuary staff remained hopeful they could bring Eve back to Iceland.
However, the BBC
now reports that Icelandic authorities have barred Eve from returning to Icelandic waters, out of fear that she may bring diseases with her. Iceland has very strict laws regarding introducing animals from abroad, even those originally from Iceland, in order to protect other living things from diseases to which they have no defence.
Natureland's Duncan Yeadon said of the decision, "We've been in contact with the Icelandic embassy who put us onto their version of Defra. We eventually heard back that they won't allow us to take her up there, unfortunately. It's understandable in a way because they're afraid of her transferring or carrying disease from our waters and infecting the seal population there."
The dilemma now facing rescuers is whether to release Eve into the wild, taking the risk that she may not be able to fend for herself, or continue to keep her in sanctuaries, where she may become to humanised.
A hooded seal that was rescued off the coast of England is barred from returning to Iceland, and will have to find a home elsewhere.