A hungry grey seal which became a national celebrity after swimming 80 miles inland up a river could be killed after a legal loophole means landowners or commercial fisherman with the correct weapon are free to SHOOT it dead.
Fishermen claim fish stocks and reported catches of salmon, trout and shad have plummeted since Keith took up residence in the River Severn in 2012.
Canoeists nicknamed her Keith after Royalist commander Colonel George Keith who fought in the Battle of Worcester in 1651 in the Civil War close to where she was first spotted.
Since arriving the 4ft-long animal has amassed a huge following, including thousands of fans across the world who regularly update her TWO Facebook pages and Twitter account.
But despite many loving her, anglers have been complaining she is eating river’s fish stocks and putting their livelihoods at risk.
Attempts to remove her from the river were made in November after a licence was issued to the Angling Trust which would allow them to capture her humanely and take her back to the sea.
But the £5,000 mammal hunt to capture Keith failed and the licence expired on New Year’s Eve marking the start of “open season” under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.
It means Keith’s life is on the line because no licence is needed to capture or even kill a seal between January and August 31.
However, it is only commercial fisherman or landowners armed the correct weapon who can kill the seal.
Campaigners have set up an online petition to save Keith which already has nearly 900 signatures.
The petition was set up on December 29 and people have signed the document from as far as Germany, France and the USA.
Lisa Ventura, who helped set up the petition, said: “The petition is to be sent to the Angling Trust, Natural England, and to send a message to other anglers who want her moved to leave her be where she is in the Severn.
“That’s what I’m hoping to achieve with it – for her to live in peace in the Severn where she has been for more than a year and where she seems happy.
“I can’t see how one seal can have that much impact on a whole massive river full of fish.
“I believe she should be left alone – she has been in the Severn for more than a year now so she must like it in there and if she wants to return to the sea where she came from, she will do so when she is good and ready.”