KEITH – Worcester’s resident seal – is facing a very uncertain future at the beginning of 2014.
The grey seal, which is actually a female, was first spotted in the river Severn in November 2012 and has since become something of a local celebrity.
However, her presence in the river has upset local anglers who say she is eating all the fish.
Last year the Angling Trust applied to Natural England for a licence to capture Keith and return her to the sea, although they failed in their bid to catch her.
That licence expired on New Year’s Eve, but January 1 signalled the start of the ‘open season’, meaning that from now until August 31, it is not necessary to have a licence to capture or even kill seals in accordance with the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. Yesterday the Angling Trust was not available to comment on its plans.
But, local campaigners Lisa Ventura and Dave Grubb have started an online petition to save the seal, which has received more than 800 signatures.
It was launched on the seal’s facebook and twitter pages on Sunday, December 29, and has been shared across the country, attracting 850 signatures, and growing, from people in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the rest of Britain, as well as people from the USA, Germany and France.
Mrs Ventura said: “The petition is to be sent to the Angling Trust, Natural England and to send a message to other anglers who want her moved to leave her be where she is in the Severn.
"That’s what I’m hoping to achieve with it – for her to live in peace in the Severn where she has been for more than a year and where she seems happy.
"I can't see how one seal can have that much of an impact on a whole massive river full of fish.
“I believe she should be left alone – she has been in the Severn for more than a year now so she must like it in there, and if she wants to return to the sea where she came from, she will do so when she is good and ready.”
A previous petition calling for her not to be shot on January 17, 2013, received 4,555 signatures.
Visit gopetition.com/petitions/leave-keith-the-seal-inthe-river-severn.html, or for more information from the Angling Trust visit anglingtrust.net.