Saving Scotland’s Seals!

Aim of Campaign

An estimated 5,000 seals are being killed in Scotland alone each year by salmon farming and angling interests. The Saving Scotland’s Seals Campaign aims to create, effective legislation to provide seals with full protection and to encourage retailers to only stock ‘seal-friendly salmon’ by insisting formal contracts, with their suppliers stating that they will not shoot seals.

Background Information

Seals in Scotland

Scotland is home two seal species, the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and the common, or harbour, seal (Phoca vitulina). Both species are of international importance with 40% of the world population of grey seals found in Britain and over 90% of British grey seals breeding in Scotland, the majority in the Hebrides and in Orkney.

Scottish seals in decline

Scientific research conducted by The Sea Mammal Research Unit revealed what they described as a ‘frightening decline’ in the number of common seals around the UK coast.

Although the reasons of the decline are unknown, the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) believes that indiscriminate shooting by fishing interests has played its part and must be stopped.

Conservation of Seals Act (1970)

At present, both common and grey seals are ‘protected’ by the Conservation of Seals Act (1970), which is little more than a licence to kill them, except during their respective breeding seasons: June 1st to August 31st for common seals and September 1st to December 31st for greys. However, fishing interests, notably salmon netsmen and fish farmers, may still shoot seals to prevent damage to their equipment or catch/stock. In 1988, the Government lifted a temporary ban on the shooting of common seals (which had been hit by a disease epidemic) despite the objections of conservation and animal welfare groups. Coincidence or not, common seals have suffered a major population decline since then.

Evidence of seal shooting

In May 2008 two decapitated seals were found in the Kyle of Lochalsh. They were common seals, one a pregnant female the other a juvenile animal, both had been shot. Marine Harvest, a Norwegian owned company that operates over 25 fish farms in Scotland, admitted to the shootings.

A range of other eye witness accounts have been recorded and reported, click on the links for further information.

Marine Harvest slaughter Scotland’s seals: an eye-witness account
The illegal killing of Scotland’s seals: further eyewitness accounts

Scottish salmon Farms

In Scotland there are 454 registered active finfish sites and Scotland is the second-biggest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in Europe, producing about 135,000 tonnes annually, with an estimated value of almost £380 million. (Source: Scottish Executive, ‘Scottish Aquaculture A Fresh Start A Consultation on a Renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture’ August 2008)

Seals worth more alive than dead

Nature tourism is a rapidly growing industry in Scotland providing a valuable and sustainable income for many coastal communities.

There is growing evidence that the shooting of seals is causing damage to the tourism industry with tour operators reporting the displacement of seals from some areas, while some tourists are being confronted with dead or dying seals that have been shot by fish farmers.

Take Action

Listed below are actions you can take to help our campaign:

1) Write to Ministers

Please write to the relevant UK and Scottish Ministers calling for the protection of our globally important seals. Their addresses are:

Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Minister of the Natural and Marine Environment, Defra, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

Richard Lochhead MSP, Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP

2) Contact your MP

Contact your MP, MEP and if you are in Scotland your MSP and ask them to support the replacement of the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 with a Protection of Seals Act.

3) Contact retailers

If you buy Scottish salmon products please contact your retailer and ask them if seals are shot by the producers of that salmon.

If your retailer cannot guarantee that the salmon is seal-friendly, you could refuse to buy it and inform the company that shot seals are too high a price to pay. A letter from you to the supermarket, fishmonger, deli or restaurant where you buy your salmon could make all the difference.

If you do not eat salmon but wish to still contact salmon retailers informing them that seals are too high a price to pay for Scottish salmon then please do so.

Please click here for contact details of the major retailers.

4) Contact your MSP asking them to support Motion number S3M-3167

Scottish Green Party MSP Robin Harper has tabled the Motion below with the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 7th January 2009.

*S3M-3167 Robin Harper: Protection for Seals — That the Parliament calls on the Scottish Government to recognise the threat to the seal population in Scottish waters from disease, climate change and shooting; particularly notes the recent dramatic and unexplained reduction in the population of common seals; also notes that processes for reporting and recording of seal deaths by shooting are not consistent or accurate, and therefore calls for an immediate ban on the shooting of common seals and a commitment from government to replace the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 with a much firmer commitment to seal protection in the forthcoming Marine Bill.

Take Action: Please contact your MSP asking them to support this Motion.

The easiest way to contact your MSP is by visiting www.writetothem.com.  Once on the site, search for your MSP using your post code and then simply send a message using the box provided.

5) Contact your MP asking them to support Early Day Motion number 678

Labour MP Paddy Tipping and Conservative MP David Amess, have tabled the Parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) below:

EDM 678: Protection for seals - That this House recognises the UK’s international obligations to maintain its globally important seal populations at a favourable conservation status; notes that seal populations remain depleted and are threatened by further outbreaks of the phocine distemper virus and remain under increasing threat from climate change, depletion of prey species pollution and deliberate killing; notes with extreme concern scientific reports of a frightening decline in the population of common seals in UK waters; further notes that an estimated 5,000 seals are shot in Scottish waters by the salmon industry; believes that the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 is outdated and in urgent need of review or replacement; and calls on the Government to implement an immediate and comprehensive ban on the deliberate killing of all seals, to replace the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 with legislation for the comprehensive protection of seals in the forthcoming Marine Bill and to liaise with the Scottish Executive to this end.

Take Action: Please contact your MP asking them to support this EDM

The easiest way to contact your MP is by visiting www.writetothem.com.  Once on the site, search for your MP using your post code and then simply send a message using the box provided.

People living in Scotland can also contact their MSP asking them to support Scottish Green Party Leader Robin Harper’s Motion which is detailed in Action 4 on this page.

6) Please also help our campaign by:

Campaign Update

To read the latest campaign updates please click here to visit the SPAG Blog and News section on this website or alternatively click on the hyperlinks below.

Campaign update 05-02-09

Campaign update 28-01-09

Campaign update 15-01-09

Campaign update 18-12-08

Campaign update 17-12-08

Campaign update 15-12-08

Campaign update 04-12-08


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