Introduction

A sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who helped in the rescue, care and release of seals for the 2002/3 season. Equally deserving of thanks are those, who without contact with seals at all, fundraised to help the operation struggle along. The last seal, Bruce of Wexford has now left, May 5th to Mac for release. Bruce seemed a 'no-hoper' initially, unable to keep either food or liquids down for over 2-3 weeks, but made it in good shape. I hope this gives you all some satisfaction after a somewhat difficult season.

Rehabilitation Record for 2002/03

42 animals in all were received by the ISS this season and were treated as follows:

Grey Seals
Despatched to Exploris (N.Ireland) and were subsequently released 2
Received by the Sanctuary at Garristown 30
Grey Seal Total (23 released - 9 died) 32
Harbour Seals
Despatched to the UK (all subsequently died of P.D.V.) 9
Received by the Sanctuary at Garristown 1
Harbour Seal Total 10
TOTAL 42

Of the 31 seals received by Garristown, 26 (84%) came from Dublin, Wicklow or Wexford, highlighting the state of that sea.

P.D.V. also struck Ireland an unknown numbers of Harbour seals have died. We have fallen somewhat from our high perch and our standards have dropped.

It must be remembered however that 23 made it, who would not have survived only for the I.S.S. and your efforts.

Current Situation

While the future is in all of our hands, the reality of our situation (not excuses) may be summarised as follows:

· Garristown is insufficiently equipped and maintained to take on another season without significant funds which are needed now

· Core personnel, capable of providing 24 hour 7 day care are no longer available

· Fundraising/income is no longer able to meet expenses. Fundraising and recruitment to fund running activities is too slow to embark on the 2003 Harbour Seal season, which will start in the coming month

· Too much is expected of too few to carry the operation.

· Progress on the Balbriggan Marine Conservation Centre, offers no prospect of funds in the short term despite ongoing discussions and meeting with the Minister of Tourism and Taoiseach. The commitment of the Dail, Seanad and Fingal local Authority is to build. So do not stop lobbying and copy the responses to us.

The 2003 Seal Rehabilitation Programme

The Board of Directors has had no choice but to make alternative arrangements for the 2003 Seal rehabilitation season. Our strategy is as follows:

· For the reasons outlined above, the ISS will not provide a rehabilitation service at Garristown, so do not bring animals without permission, as there may be no one in attendance

· We will continue to co-ordinate rescues to the best of our ability, provide advice, fall back on other agencies and the public and assist in the further export of animals, where possible

· Devote all available resources to the establishment of a Marine Conservation Centre under the auspices of the ISS

This strategy is not without problems.

While volunteers may be prepared to drive and Stena, and Aer Lingus to carry, receiving jurisdiction may require blood tests in the aftermath of P.D.V. The turnaround time for these is 3 weeks. It is time for all to realise we are an island and have responsibilities under the Wildlife Act, Duchas the statutory authority or whoever it's replacement may be, is obliged to return any 'orphaned or injured' wild animal if 'viable' to the wild.

The I.S.S. record in this area over two decades makes it patently clear, with minimal effort and resources, most of the animals are clearly viable. Their political masters, our public representatives, also bear this responsibility. Vets are also obliged by their professional calling to treat the suffering, viable wildlife casualties protected by law. Well-resourced S.P.C.A.'s carry a similar constitutional brief to us. Although the I.S.S. has been largely abandoned by these parties, it now falls to the I.S.S. volunteers to confront these parties with casualties as they arise and be their spokesperson.

Bereft of resources, we fail utterly in our responsibility, if we do no at least become vocal spokespersons and confront these parties with every seal and wildlife casualty that comes to us, until a facility is built or the I.S.S. is resourced to continue the job. Accurate recording of an incident is vital, with full details date, time assistance sought, condition of animal, etc.

Our recommendation to I.S.S. volunteers are as follows:

First responsibility is to the animal.

Secure and stabilise, or advise.

Direct to a vet, S.P.C.A., Duchas ranger or other willing/competent handler.

If possible, assist if not advise until the animal is stabilised.

Contact all responsible parties, public representatives, Duchas Ranger, Local S.P.C.A. and vets, record details of their response.

Contact local newspaper and radio.

Contact National journalists and broadcasters if relevant.

Monitor animal and its progress closely.

Continue to advise as necessary, without taking ownership and responsibility of problem.

When independent, continue to monitor and report.

Report all casualties and responsible parties to I.S.S.

If no party will accept responsibility for care:

Be prepared to bunker down for a few days. And provide emergency assistance.

Advise them how to get animal to another jurisdiction. Do not at any stage let them relinquish their responsibility, emphasis the costs in money and time to the I.S.S. and their responsibility to publicly highlight the absence of service in this area and nationally.

I.S.S. volunteers have basic equipment and supplies and a full list of outlets available. i.e. Exploris, Welsh seal sanctuary, R.S.P.C.A., Belgium and other.

However these outlets are overloaded, S.S.P.C.A is closing all wildlife hospitals and laying off staff and there will come a huge surplus of seals from the north of Scotland and the Islands.

The challenge is immense and daunting and you will only save a small number of seals surviving and then only if you are firm and resolute in your dealings with others.

* Co-ordinate and report all rescue and failures.

* Manage expectations

*Emphasise need for Marine Conservation Centre for Ireland and resources in interim period for I.S.S.

The I.S.S. after 2 decades can only continue to do as much as it is allowed to do Contact your local T.D.'s and Taoiseach and put them in touch with each other.