Protecting vulnerable seals


With your support we are looking to help our partners in the Shetland Islands modernise their aging seal unit where rescued seals recover from injuries and illnesses.

A seal that has been caught and maimed by ghost gear is rescued by Hillswick Sanctuary. Image credit: World Animal Protection.

The new unit will include heat lamps and insulation and will improve the chances of rescued seals surviving and being released successfully.

Threats to seals include an increase in the number being treated for injuries from lost fishing nets and lines, known as ghost gear, which can wrap around the animal’s neck and flippers, tightening and cutting into their skin as they grow.  

Seals caught in fishing nets

In July the sanctuary was called out to two reports of seals caught in ghost gear in one day, with one seal unfortunately dying after being caught in just 24 grams of plastic netting.  

Ghost gear is one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife and kills and injures thousands of seals and other marine animals each year. 


Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary sculpture. Image credit: World Animal Protection

The original seal unit at Hillswick was built in a hurry in 1993 to house seals affected by a devastating oil spill.  

It has been treating sick, injured and abandoned seals since but now requires modernisation to ensure the seals are given the best chances of survival.  

Best environment for seals

As well as heating and insulation the unit will feature energy efficient equipment that will lower the cost of maintaining the best environment for seals. 

As well as the threat from ghost gear, numbers of common seals in Shetland have halved in 20 years1 with the sanctuary witnessing common seals physically weaker and of a reduced size and number. 

Thanks to you we can keep going 

Jan and Pete Bevington. Image credit: World Animal Protection

Jan and Pete, Founders of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary said, “Thanks to the support of World Animal Protection supporters we can keep going rescuing and saving seals and other marine animals.  

“We see seals with horrific injuries from ghost gear and other illnesses and the new seal unit will allow us to rescue and rehabilitate more seals for years to come.”  

Seals play with ghost gear 

Peter Kemple Hardy, World Animal Protection campaigns manager said, “Jan and Pete have been doing some excellent work over the years caring for the beautiful wildlife in the Shetland Islands and we are delighted to support them. 

“Ghost gear is increasingly a threat, especially to seals because of their playful and inquisitive nature, but we hope the great work on the ground from people such as Jan and Pete will make a difference and help stop their unnecessary suffering.”  

You also helped us provide a quad bike and trailer for Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in 2014 which enables the sanctuary to rescue the seals from the beach and bring them back to the sanctuary for rehabilitation.  

You can help support the new seal unit by clicking here

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