Marine biologist Nick Jouault, who monitors wildlife on the reef, has expressed his ‘disappointment’ that a team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue Jersey brought the pup back to Jersey on Sunday following concerns that it had been washed away from its mother.
But Donna de Gruchy, BDMLR Jersey co-ordinator, said that because of the weather conditions they had only a small window of opportunity to get out to the reef and had no option but to recover the animal.
The volunteer group first tried to reach the reef last Thursday – a day after the pup was spotted alone – but they were forced to turn back because of a large swell.
On the second attempt on Sunday, the group say the pup appeared to be in a worse physical state than when it was first noticed, prompting the team to rescue the animal and take it back to the New Era Veterinary Hospital on board a Le Mourier Marine RIB.
But Mr Jouault questioned whether it was the right decision. In a Facebook post, he wrote: ‘Extremely disappointed to say the pup was taken into care against my concerns and advice this afternoon.’
Speaking to the JEP, he added: ‘It’s a difficult decision, in the end. Although it was slightly underweight there were no signs of ill health, and taking it away could affect its ability to survive and fend for itself in future.
‘I understand both sides of the decision but I think it’s better to let nature take its course. Either way it was a gamble and they were reluctant to leave it.’
It is not the first time the marine biologist has voiced his opinion on the protection of Ecréhous wildlife. In June tensions arose after Mr Jouault attempted to protect the nesting sites of common terns and two breeding pairs of rare roseate terns by painting messages and putting up tape, prompting resistance from residents and visitors who wanted access to part of the area.
Acknowledging Mr Jouault’s concerns, Mrs de Gruchy said that the decision to lift the pup was not ‘taken lightly’ but, given the circumstances, the team felt it was the best option. ‘Although this pup would appear bright and alert, it is dangerously underweight,’ she said. ‘Had the pup been on a Jersey beach it would have been much more preferable to set up a 24-hour rota of monitoring for any sign of mum.
‘However, the evidence presented in how underweight this pup is, it is likely mum had abandoned it or it had been washed away,’ she added. ‘Unfortunately, we just don’t have the weather on our side at this time of year and with this boat trip already being a second attempt and it being unknown when we could try again, we had to make an early call to lift this pup while we could.
‘I completely understand his point but we may not have been able to get out there again and the pup could still be there suffering, at which point someone might have complained to us. So we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.’
The seal has now been transferred to the GSPCA’s specialist rehabilitation centre.