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Each year, during the second week of October, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries leads awareness campaigns highlighting the importance of our marine environment and the important role it plays in the lives of all South Africans, whether they live inland or at the coast. The NSRI supported National Marine Week by producing a series of posters explaining what members of the public should do if they come across marine animals and birds in distress.

Creatures great and small

Sea Rescue saves lives on South African waters and, over the years, through partnerships with a host of marine wildlife and rescue organisations and aquariums around the country, we’ve been able to extend this promise of rescue to a wide variety of animals and birds in distress. But we can’t do this without the public’s help. More often than not it’s a phone call from a concerned bystander who has found a turtle entangled in rope, or an injured seal, or a bird trapped in fishing net that initiates the rescue and rehabilitation of that animal. Knowing who to call and what to do is important. To this end, we produced a series of visual instructions to inform members of the public of exactly what they should do. The most important thing is to never try to rescue the animal yourself, because it may become even more distressed or you may get injured while trying to help.

‘What to do if…’

We decided to highlight the best course of action relating to the rescue of four marine species: turtles, seabirds, penguins and seals. In each case, we’re provided a list of do’s and don’ts and the telephone number of the best organisation to call for assistance. Please keep the numbers handy, as one day you may come across an animal that needs your help. Plastic and and ghost fishing nets, ropes and buoys are an environmental hazard to our precious marine wildlife.

Eastern Cape Region:

Cape fur seals are born every year from November to January on Black Rocks in Algoa Bay. After a big storm, hundreds may be swept away. Many of them are washed up on the coast, mostly from Woody Cape to Port Alfred. These animals cannot survive alone and need to be returned to Black Rocks as soon as possible. If you do find a seal ashore, please call one of the numbers listed below. Please do not disturb the animal, but remain close if you can until a person with a permit comes to fetch the seal. Please ask other people not to go too close and please keep dogs away. Do not pour water on the animal. Remember that all seals (pups also) can bite and are potentially dangerous. Note that all seals are protected under the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act of 1973 and it is an offence to disturb them.

Numbers to call:

In Port Elizabeth or generally: Bayworld stranding hotline 071 724 2122

In Addo Natl. Park: South African National Parks at 046 653 0601

Near Cannon Rocks: Verona Veltman at 083 654 9976 / Lana Cummings at 083 267 5198

Port Alfred & surrounds: Willem Nel (Ndlambe Municipality) 082 388 4600

Southern Cape Region:

Stranded marine animals are often seen along our beaches, they are either tired, injured or weak.
Contact SAPREC: 071 643 2496 OR SMART: 072 227 4715 for the Southern Cape, from Mossel Bay to Knysna.

If you see a whale in distress, please call NSRI’s Emergency Operations Centre on 087 094 9774.

Have you ever encountered an animal in distress on the beach? Write to us at and tell us your story.

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