Nelson the seal who ate £4k worth of fish in Essex dies in rescue

Nelson the seal who chomped through £4,000 worth of carp, bream and catfish after finding its way into popular fishing lake dies during third rescue mission to return it to the sea

  • Nelson the seal had been living in an Essex angling lake for over a month 
  • In that time the hungry seal ate through £4k worth of fish stocks 
  • He was sadly killed during a rescue attempt last Friday  

A plucky seal who set up camp in an Essex angling lake and munched through £4k worth of stock has sadly died after a third attempt to remove him.

‘Nelson’, as the seal came to be known, had been squatting at Marks Hall Fisheries in Rochford, Essex since December 12 after swimming up the nearby River Roach.

The four-foot long hungry fella was frequently seen eating his way through the lake’s stock of carp, catfish and bream – and was the subject of three eviction attempts.

Lake owner Nick North had to close his business as the ‘very fat’ seal evaded the last two attempts from wildlife groups to remove him.

Nelson moved into the Essex fishing lake after swimming up the nearby River Roach

Tragically Nelson died during the third attempt to remove him from the angling lake 

However tragedy struck during the latest attempt on Friday.

Wildlife teams from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) shot the animal with a tranquillizer gun but sadly the seal died under the water whilst anaesthetized. due to ‘unforeseeable complications’

Nick North, who runs the angling lakes, said: ‘I’d just like it known that myself and Marks Hall Fisheries had nothing to do with the decision to use a tranquilliser dart to try and capture the seal.

‘It was the sole responsibility of the BDMLR to use this method and they made the decision to go ahead.

‘We were only on-site as observers as I’m the licence holder for fishing rights at Rochford Reservoir.

‘I was hoping they would catch it and treat it. It had a nasty infection on one of its flippers that probably would have killed it in the end.

‘To be fair, BDMLR is only a charity and does a lot of good.

‘They save more animals than they don’t, and not everything can be saved, but people don’t see it that way.’

Nelson’s victims were often discovered floating in the water of the popular angling lake 

Nelson managed to eat his way through £4000 worth of fish stocks in a month

Councillor Dave Sperring from Rochford District Council who leads on environmental issues, said: ‘It was very tightly controlled with who was there.

‘It is desperately sad. Nelson became a local character overnight.

‘As I understand it was injured and the rescue was necessary to return it to its natural environment.

‘They had it well managed. All the experts that could possibly be there were there.

‘It’s a protected species. I’ve met these people on many occasions and they’re very conscientious.

‘They wouldn’t have gone out to deliberately kill it.

‘They wouldn’t have made all these attempts for that outcome.

‘Occasionally things don’t go as we hoped. It’s one of these things that we have to face on occasions.’

Mr North had previously told reporters that the the seal had some injuries that were previously of concern to the BDLMR but have been deemed not life-threatening.

These included a cut on its head and tail and a suspected blind eye.

He said: ‘It shouldn’t be here, this is fresh water, you’ve never seen a seal in a park lake or any lake really.

‘It’s not made for fresh water. Even though it’s ruining my business. It’s still part of nature I suppose, just an unwanted part.’

Mr North is now tasked with finding the four-foot seal which has sunk to the bottom of the three-and-a-half acre lake.

Until then, he can’t reopen the Fisheries.

Nelson had been gorging on local wildlife since moving into the lake in December 

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said the seal had been suffering from multiple injuries before they took the decision to dart the creature.

The team were keen to capture the animal in order to rehabilitate it.

According to the wildlife charity the harbour seal had an open wound on his rear flipper and an eye injury, having lived in the ‘coarse’ angling lake for over six weeks.

Their aim was to treat the animal before returning it to the sea ‘where it belonged’.

The team were working in coalition with South Essex Wildlife Hospital, Rochford Council, Essex police and the Environment Agency.

A BDMLR spokesperson said: ‘This is a very sad outcome from a very tricky situation.

‘Rescuing any animal using anaesthetic holds significant risk, but in this case the coalition deemed it was worth taking.’

They added: ‘The coalition expresses deep disappointment and sadness that the operation was unsuccessful, but had emphasised before the rescue took place that it carried significant risk.

‘Nevertheless, as the seal was under threat of being shot in order to remove it from the lake, it had been deemed worth trying to catch and relocate it in order to save its life.’

They BDMLR also employed a specialist vet who successfully darted the seal, but the team were unable to capture the animal ‘due to unforeseeable complications’.

They believe it then died underwater whilst tranquillized.

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