Swimmers at Dun Laoghaire's Forty Foot, Dublin bay's famous swimming venue, have been victims of a spate of unprecedented attacks by seals. It is thought the attacks are being perpetrated by bull seals in search of mates.
The gravity of the situation has prompted veteran swimmer Tommy Ryan to express fears that it will be a matter of time before someone is killed. Ryan, who has been a regular at the Forty Foot for decades, was himself on the receiving end of an assault. He was dragged under water by a bull seal. 'The seals are definitely becoming a danger', Ryan commented. 'There definitely will be a fatality. It is frightening. I was bitten on my leg.'
In a separate incident, a female swimmer was attacked by a seal who grabbed her leg, holding it in his jaws. The terrified swimmer described the attack: 'He took my leg in his mouth. I could feel his teeth. He clawed my back and leg. He kept trying to grab my feet. He was a big bull and I could feel his whiskers on my toes. He went underneath me and scratched my back'.
Some commentators have linked the attacks to the recent 'protected species' status awarded to the seals. Previously their numbers were controlled by annual culling, however since they gained protection the seal population has soared. Experts have warned people to remember that seals are wild animals; they have also strongly criticised a new pattern of humans feeding seals, citing it as a probable reason for the change in the animals' behaviour. Meanwhile, attacks continue to occur on a regular basis leaving swimmers petrified. In scenes reminiscent of Spielberg's 1975 horror-movie 'Jaws' it has emerged that scores of swimmers this summer have been bitten, scratched and dragged under by seals displaying out-of-character aggression.