Campaigners condemn 900 seal shootings in Scotland

 15th March 2013

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today condemned the Scottish Government for publishing details about the shooting of hundreds of seals in Scotland on an obscure website, so avoiding public scrutiny and further public outrage at the killings.

The Marine Scotland website says that 61 licences were granted in 2012 to shoot a maximum of 878 grey and 289 common seals, (I,167 in total),by salmon aquaculture, wild salmon netting companies and sports  fishing interests, but only as a ‘last resort’.
The final quarter figures (Sept –Dec 2012) posted just this week reveal that 349 grey and 74 common seals were shot last year, 423 seals in total.This number represents only 38 animals less than the 461 shot in 2011, the inaugural year of the Government’s Seal Licence Scheme. That means a total of 884 seals have been shot in just two years under the scheme.

Andy Ottaway of the SPAG said, ‘Under the Government’s new scheme a staggering 884 seals or more, have been shot in just two years, allegedly as a ‘last resort’ measure. That’s an awful lot of last resorts, and it strongly suggests nothing much is being done to curb seal shooting which is becoming institutionalised under a government scheme we hoped would help end it’.
The news follows revelations this week that a new seal deterrent device, developed by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University with a grant from the Scottish government, is now in the hands of a private finance company called Banker’s Capital, based in New York.  The device, which has proven very promising in laboratory and field trials at deterring seals without harming them or other wildlife, is now being offered to Scottish aquaculture companies for further trial, but at huge prices.  SPAG knew about and backed this device some two years ago, but it is yet to be made readily available to the salmon industry.

 Newspaper reports this week say Marine Harvest, the biggest producer of salmon in Scotland, has been asked to pay £5,000 per month to trial just one device.  If trialled at several of their farm sites it could cost the company several tens of thousands of pounds each year, as they operate over two dozen fish farms in Scotland. The SPAG campaigners fear that if simply renting the device for trial is this expensive then it could be priced out of market while seals continue to be shot.

Andy Ottaway said ‘Every day seals are shot in Scottish waters while the Scottish salmon Industry, worth half a billion pounds, quibbles over testing a device for just a few thousand pounds. It’s a shameful situation and we appeal to the government and the industry to pull together and subsidise trials far and wide, because it may save seals now as well as resolve an issue that leaves a bloody stain on the image of Scotland and Scottish salmon products’ 

For media enquiries contact Andy Ottaway of SPAG on 01273 471403

Notes for Editors:

•Marine Scotland reported a total of 461 seals were shot under licence in 2011 (368 greys and 93 common) and a further 423 seals (349 grey and 74 common) in 2012.

•According to Marine Scotland’s website, 31% of licensees did not shoot seals in 2012 with 48% of shooting occurring at fish farms and 52% at fisheries in 2012. 208 seals were shot across 230 individual fish farms and 225 across over 40 river fisheries and netting stations. (N.B. This amounts to 438 seals in total, 15 more than the 423 reported by Marine Scotland above.

•Marine Scotland say there was an overall reduction of 5% in the level of shooting in the second year of the Seal Licence Scheme, but while shooting by aquaculture is declining, shooting by salmon netters and fisheries is increasing.

•The expansion of salmon production may have serious consequences for wildlife and tourism says SPAG. Last year, an English couple cut short a holiday in Aberdeenshire after witnessing seals being shot in a bay at Crovie, Aberdeenshire. At least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company. Marine Scotland said the company ‘had not exceeded their licence’.
•A forum, the Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group, was established in 2010 to explore non-lethal solutions to deter seals. Members include the Seal Protection Action Group; Marine Harvest; Scottish Salmon Company, Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Sainsbury’s; International Animal Rescue; the RSPCA, Freedom Foods, Humane Society International, Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU)

•Scientists report a ‘frightening’ decline in common seals

•The UK’s globally important populations of grey and common seals are threatened by climate change, toxic pollution, over-fishing, entanglement in fishing gear, disturbance, habitat degradation and deliberate killing.
•SPAG is calling on UK retailers to insist Scottish salmon suppliers stop killing seals.

•SPAG opposes the Seal Licence because it permits shooting of seals in the breeding seasons leaving abandoned pups to starve; lacks a credible inspection and monitoring scheme,  sets quotas for common seals that are in serious decline and fails to impose mandatory non-lethal deterrents to reduce and ultimately end all seal killings.

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