'Exercise some cop-on': Minister urges Blasket visitors to stay away from seals 

Island caretakers Brock Montgomery and Claire de Haas told the Irish Examiner that tourists are also endangering the lives of seals in the island’s famous seal colony
'Exercise some cop-on': Minister urges Blasket visitors to stay away from seals 

Grey seals on the Blasket Islands. Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

Patrick O’Donovan has called on the public to “exercise some cop-on” when they visit the Blasket Islands and to stay away from the seal population.

The comments from the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works come in the wake of the news that tourists are disturbing the seals and using the historic home of Peig Sayers as a toilet.

Caretakers Brock Montgomery and Claire de Haas told the Irish Examiner on Thursday that they routinely saw tourists “peeing or pooping” in the ruins of the famous Irish story-telling seanchaí’s first home.

The couple, who left the island on Tuesday after starting work there as holiday home caretakers in April, said tourists are also endangering the lives of seals in the island’s famous seal colony.

“We witnessed one man throw a seal cub into the water, then take it out and hold it up for a selfie taken by his wife," Ms de Haas told the Examiner.

“That seal cub later died. It was one of two to die that we know of.” 

The couple were so concerned about what they say has been going on on the island that they recently wrote to the OPW to draw their attention to the issues.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Montgomery explained that seals are mammals. 

“They actually live on land, they spend a lot of time in water, but the majority of their life is spent on land. That's their home. Just leave them alone. It's pretty simple.” 

The majority of people want to just observe the seals, he added. 

“But you get one ignorant person a day who wants to scare them all away, it ruins it for the other 200 people. If everybody could just work together, they could preserve the beautiful things on the island."

Mr O’Donovan said that he had recently visited the island and had spoken with the OPW. He was aware that the lack of facilities on the island was an issue that the OPW intended to address. He estimated that they would be in place by the beginning of the tourist season in 2023.

Multilingual signage would also be erected at the boarding point for boats to the islands, on the boats and on the island urging cooperation with regard to wildlife etiquette.

“I’m asking people to exercise cop-on and to stay away from them (seals).”

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