Crowds of people have been photographed standing close to seals on a beach, risking causing distress to the marine mammals or getting bitten by them.
The Friends of Horsey Seals volunteer group is urging visitors to Horsey beach in Norfolk to keep at least 10 metres, the length of a double decker bus, away from the seals there.
Signs have been put up and the group has an ad hoc warden system in place, before the beach is roped off in late October when the grey seal pupping season begins.
Visitors to the beach were seen close to seals on Thursday, taking photos of them on their phones.
Peter Ansell, chairman of Friends of Horsey Seals, said that “it’s not so bad” when the beach is roped off from late October “but we can’t shut a beach in the middle of the summertime”.
There are currently pregnant grey seals resting on the beach ahead of the pupping season and a number of common seal pups born in the summer.
Mr Ansell said there had been more visitors to the beach than usual this year.
He believed this was, in part, down to fewer people going on foreign holidays due to Covid travel restrictions.
“It’s been much busier than any other summer that I can recollect, to be quite honest,” he said.
He said of the seals: “People will not realise they are wild animals, they are dangerous, they can bite severely, they can certainly injure a child really nastily.”
He said that wardens are doing their best to keep people away from the seals.
“A lot of our wardens have jobs and they work throughout the week but some of the retirees are down there trying to control and do the best they can to keep people away,” he said.
“It’s in the public’s own interest, it’s for their safety.”
He went on: “The grey seals down there, most of the females are pregnant, waiting to give birth in another month or two’s time.
“The last thing we want is for them to get distressed and have their pups too early.”
He said that the seals come ashore to rest, adding: “If they get distressed they go back in the sea and may be too weak to fight the current, get washed out and drown.”
The Friends of Horsey Seals group is urging people to sign an online petition calling for new laws to protect seals.
The petition will be considered for debate in Parliament if 100,000 signatures are received.
For details, see www.friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk