1,500 seals shot in four years by Scottish salmon industry

1st October 2015

The Scottish Government has just published the latest seal shooting figures on their website at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing

They reveal that 86 grey and 24 common seals (110 animals) were reported shot between January and June this year. By comparison, 97 grey and 19 commons (116) were reported shot
during the same period last year. It suggests that seal shooting may be levelling off with the projected total for the year of around 200 seals shot in Scottish waters by fish-farmers, salmon nets-men and angling interests.

Because shooting is permitted all year round, the latter six months of shooting falls within the breeding seasons of our globally important populations of grey and common seals. This means dependent pups are left to starve if their mothers are shot. Because the carcass is seldom recovered, although this is required under the licence, it is not possible to establish if shot seals are nursing and so calculate the number of seal pups that may suffer as a consequence –  a cruel and unnecessary tragedy that goes unreported in the statistics. Grey seal pup

Since 2011, when the seal Licence was introduced, we have seen reported numbers of seals shot fall by around 50%, from 461 in 2011 to 205 in 2014. However, the accuracy of these figures is open to question given the scheme is based entirely upon self-reporting.

What the reported figures reveal is that 1,500 seals have been shot in 4.5 years under the scheme, an average of 333 seals each year.

In 2014, salmon farmers shot 80 seals with a further 125 shot by salmon netters and sports angling river authorities. Usan Salmon Fisheries of Montrose, a company that sets net for wild salmon, have already been named as the single biggest seal killing company in Scotland having shot over 100 seals in 2013 alone.

RSPCA accredited ‘Freedom Food’ fish-farms shot almost 70% of the 80 seals reported shot by fish-farmers last year.  Unfortunately,  there is no way for shoppers to know if any salmon product they buy has not been produced by companies that shoot seals.

While the Scottish Government repeatedly claims the Seal Licence scheme is ‘working well’ the delays in posting the quarterly shooting statistics and the deliberate withholding of individual company shooting information, has made any independent monitoring of the the scheme very difficult. There is no way to verify the shooting figures being reported either.Shot seal copyright Orkney Seal Rescue

The Seal Protection Action Group recognises that seal shooting has shown a huge decrease based on historical estimates and that some salmon farmers have played their part. However, the number of seals shot in Scottish waters each year remains unacceptable, especially as we believe it is perfectly possible to deter seals and other wild predators without harming them.

The Seal Protection Action Group is committed to end all seal shooting and for the Scottish Salmon Industry to adopt strictly non-lethal solutions to interactions with seals and other wildlife.

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