For Karsten, North Sea and shrimp boats are inevitably connected. For years, he has been talking about going on a trip on a shrimp boat during our first holiday at the North Sea. Therefore, I felt very, very honored that it was me who was allowed to join the trip to the seals while Karsten said he would watch the little one.
I love being on boats and when we left the little harbour, the wind freshened and the sun was sparkling on the water – so beautiful. It was a small shrimp boat which is not fishing anymore (unfortunately, it doesn’t pay off anymore since the coastal areas are all overfished) but showing tourists the seal banks near Spiekeroog. As there were many children on board, the captain did a little fishing anyway and put the catch in a waterbox so everyone could see (and sometimes touch) it. Although the area is overfished I was amazed by the diversity in the net!
After a little while we reached the seal banks with many seals enjoying the occasional sunshine. At this time of the year, most of them have offspring, so there were a lot of little seals as well (and no howlers). The people were relaxed, the group not too big and the captain drove by two or three times while the seals were not disturbed at all – a very nice experience without the feeling of mass tourism or sensation mongering that you so often find on excursions.
In the evening, Karsten looked at the pictures and asked me why there was a green seal on the bank. A bit confused, I checked the photos and zoomed in and we discovered that one of the seals was trapped in a fishing net (which none of the other people noticed despite binoculars and larger cameras). Since we had no internet and no working phone, we couldn’t call anyone which worried me but we saw that its fins were outside the net, so it was probably still able to swim. The next morning I went to the community centre to inform someone who would be able to help (or at least know who to call).
One day later, the little one and I were leaving Spiekeroog. In Neuharlingersiel, where you have to get of the ferry, we saw the shrimp boat lying in the harbour. And when we passed it and asked about the seal, the captain showed me a tattered green fishing net – the community centre had called him and, on the same day, he had gone to the seal bank and relieved the seal from the net (which he only does when it is unavoidable as humans should normally not enter the sandbank). With all the pollution, overfishing and destruction of natural habitats, it was really nice to find out that at least this story came to a good end.