Thanks to the efforts of a marine life conservation group, a remote isle in the Orkneys has become a special haven for widely-hunted grey seals.
Despite being just the size of a football field, Little Green Holm is very important, indeed – at least for the creatures who call its rocky shores home. The secluded isle, found in Northern Scotland’s Orkney Islands, is literally covered in wildlife, including cormorants, otters, and dozens of grey seals. It is these large, speckled seals that inspired a recent trip by the non-profit Sea Shepard Conservation Society to the chilly waters of the Atlantic – despite their protected status in UK waters, many environmental groups have raised concerns that seals are being illegally hunted in large numbers, including in the Orkneys.
Founded by famous Canadian environmentalist Paul Watson in the late 1970’s, Sea Shepard works across the world to protect whales, dolphins, seals and other marine life from illegal hunting. His ships, including the MV Steve Irwin, are crewed by groups of devoted animal rights activists. The subject of the fascinating Animal Planet series Whale Wars, Sea Shepard has caused controversy for taking aggressive actions against illegal whaling vessels, particularly Japanese ships, who hunt the Antarctic with the approval of their pro-whaling government, in violation of international prohibitions and rulings.
In the case of Little Green Holm, the story is far less dramatic than fighting with whaling vessels, but is still a touching example of what can be accomplished when conservation-minded individuals come together for a common cause. In the early 1980’s, Watson, who goes by “Captain”, saw that hunting of seals was rampant in the Orkneys, despite a broad UK ban – and a colony on one little isle was under siege. He was inspired to successfully raise £5000 to purchase the island to make a safe haven for the creatures, and it has been a sanctuary from hunters ever since.
According to Captain Watson’s Facebook page, on his late August visit to Little Green Holm with the Steve Irwin, he was pleased to see at least three dozen grey seals resting on the island’s coast and in the waters just offshore. While on the island, he and his crew posted a sign officially designating the island the “Sea Shepard Seal Sanctuary,” and built a rock cairn containing a bottle with a message from the group inside. Ship manager James Brook said of the visit, “With the island officially marked as a seal sanctuary, hopefully all visitors will respect this territory and allow the seals and birds to thrive in their secluded home.”
Read more about the visit to Little Green Holm: Sea Shepard