A young seal is feared to be starving after a fishing hook pierced its mouth, preventing it from eating.
The animal was photographed on rocks in Devon, foaming at the mouth, a sign of injury and distress.
Nobody has been able to catch the grey seal to help it since it was spotted on Thursday in Black Allers Cove, Labrador Bay.
When boat trip operator Devon Sea Safari posted the photographs on Facebook, commenters described the photos as “heartbreaking” and “shameful”.
The company reported the suffering seal to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) but said it was in was an area that was very inaccessible from land or sea.
Dan Jarvis, of the group, said volunteers had been out searching over the weekend.
“When it was first seen it was not in a very accessible area so getting up close to it and catching it would be the really hard part,” MailOnline reported.
“On the other hand, we have had seals caught up on hooks on a number occasions and we know from those cases the hooks do tend to come out quite quickly.
“Although you don’t see it very often, sadly it is a relatively common occurrence at this time of year where seals are bought in close contact with people and anglers in harbours.
“They should be left to forage themselves as it creates these situations.”
Some commenters condemned the fishermen or anglers involved for allowing fishing tackle loose in the sea, saying it should all be made traceable.
One said it appeared the hook was through the seal’s tongue so would make eating difficult.
But others said the hook probably came loose when the seal had tried to take a fish on the hook.
Nigel Fairclough believed the seal would survive, writing: “The barb on the hook will rust off very quickly (a day or so at most), and the hook and lure will fall out.
“The rest of the hook will disintegrate in the saltwater within a week or so.
“It’s a horrible sight but the seal (probably this year’s young) will have learnt a life lesson that it will remember as they are as intelligent as a dog.”
Visitors to the area were asked to be on the lookout and report any sightings to British Divers Marine Life Rescue.