Seals can be found on every continent on Earth, though most species occur in cold-water environments. There are different types – fur seals, sea lions, common seals, grey seals.

Seals can also be playful. They seem to like paddleboards, with instances of the seals swimming around the boards and even jumping up on the boards.

Seal Interactions

View resting seals on land, from a safe distance. Seals frequently come to shore to rest and people think they look sick or injured, and try to rescue them. However, this distresses the seal and they can also become aggressive and attack you.

It is normal for mothers to leave their pup on the beach for over 4 hours at a time while they feed, so do have a look for an adult seal in the water keeping watch. It might be that mum is watching her pup but is anxious to come on land while people are around.

If a seal pup has a white coat, they are still very young and have not yet shed their infant coat. It is crucial they are not touched or moved in any way, or placed in the sea, as at this age they rely on their mothers.

It’s very important not to approach the seal too closely, and advise others to keep their distance also, especially if they are walking dogs as this can frighten a pup and cause distress.

Older grey seals can sleep in the water, by ‘bottling’ (floating upright) or ‘logging’ (floating horizontally) at the surface with their nose in the air. If you spot a seal bobbing about, rest assured they are probably just having a snooze!

For the lucky few who encounter seals approaching them in the wild, it is best in those situations to give the seal space, and allow them to decide how the interaction will go.

If a seal jumps on your board with you, it is sometimes best to get off your board, and wait for the seal to move on.

It is important to remember they are wild animals, and you should never attempt to touch or feed them.

Seals in Distress

There are times when seals are obviously injured or have fishing lines wrapped around them. They can be reported to the local Wildcare authority.

In the UK, The Cornish Seal Sanctuary cares for injured seal pups. They provide this advice if you spot a seal in need of help

“If you spot a seal on the beach that is looking thinner than you might expect, having trouble breathing, any obvious wounds or entanglement, or has been left alone for more than 4 hours, it is best to give us a call and the teams can send a trained marine mammal medic out to assess the pup and see if it needs assistance.
Do not approach or attempt to remove any material that they may be caught in, the expert team members will be able to remove this safely and carefully.”

Common Seals and Grey Seals in the UK

There are 2 main species of seal in the UK – Common seals and Grey seals. Surprisingly, there are less Common seals than Grey seals. There is up to 40% of the world’s population of Grey seals in the UK, however, there are still fewer Grey seals than red squirrels in the UK making them a rare species.

Grey seals breed around the coasts of Cornwall.

The best place to spot seals is in West Cornwall. It is not uncommon to see up to 100 seals hauled out on the beach to rest, particularly in January. There are several rocky, tucked away spots around Cornwall where seals can be seen, particularly in West Cornwall, near Padstow on the North Coast, as well as Falmouth on the South Coast.

Sea Lions in Australia

The Australian sea lion is one of seven sea lion species. They are the only carnivorous aquatic mammal endemic to Australian waters and are extremely rare.
They are protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Seal lions live in colonies made up of small populations along the coastline of South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA).

They often come to shore and can be very playful.

Unfortunately, Seal lions numbers are declining. The biggest threat is Gillnets, which are invisible thin mesh nets suspended in water. They are used by commercial fisheries to capture sharks which is then sold as “flake” a main fish sold in fish and chip shops in Australia. More info..

There is a Sea Lion population at Kangaroo Island, which is a protected space and visitors can see the sea lions up close. More info…