Scotland’s biggest seal killers named and shamed!

8th July 2015

The Seal Protection Action Group has today named Usan Salmon Fisheries of Montrose, who trade as the Scottish Wild Salmon Company, as the number one seal killer in Scotland. The news comes after recent video footage was released of Usan personnel shooting three seals at two locations last month and reports that police are taking no action over a shot seal washing up on tourist beach at Crovie, Aberdeenshire.A shot grey seal found near a salmon fish farm in Scotland

According to government figures for 2013, Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd are responsible for shooting up to 40% of the total number of seals shot in Scotland under licence. Usan sells their salmon and trout catches to exclusive restaurants and hotels in Scotland and throughout Europe, as well as to supermarkets and other outlets in the UK.  The Scottish Government publishes quarterly seal shooting figures online under the Seal Licence scheme which was introduced in 2011. However, the individual company shooting details have been withheld for 2014 onwards out of concern that companies may be targeted by activists. However, this week the Scottish Information Commissioner ruled that this information must be made public again.

Usan, who catch wild salmon and trout with nets, first came to notoriety in 2012 when the picturesque holiday village of Crovie in Aberdeenshire came ‘under siege’ from Usan fishermen shooting seals in open public view. An English couple cut short their holiday in Crovie, after witnessing seals being shot in the bay beneath their cottage. They claimed some 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the company’s gunmen.

SPAG raised its concerns with Marine Scotland and were shocked to be told Usan ‘had not exceeded the terms of their licence’. However, the company reluctantly agreed to trial an acoustic seal-scaring device, but only on one net at Crovie, which was shown to deter seals without harm. However, Usan’s seal shooting has continued and is escalating at other netting stations in the Crovie area and elsewhere. The company has also been granted further licences to shoot even more seals for a fly-fishing business and salmon netting station in the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire. Two shot seals lie on the quayside

The Scottish Government shooting figures reveal a massive increase in the seals shot by Usan while all other companies appear to be shooting fewer seals. In 2011, Usan shot 9 seals out of total 461 or 2% of the total. In 2012, they shot 96 out of 433 seals, or 22% of the total; and in 2013, 103 seals out of 274, or 38% of the total number of seals killed.

Andy Ottaway of the Seal Protection Action Group said ‘Usan Salmon are public enemy number one for everyone that cares about seals. The public do not want any seals killed for Scottish salmon. Usan salmon must stop this cruel slaughter or face a public boycott of their salmon products’.

Seal shooting has shown an average overall decline of 50% since 2011, with most of these reductions made by salmon farmers. However, shooting by Usan Salmon has increased over tenfold to almost 40% of the seals killed in that time, based on information now publicly withheld by Marine Scotland.

SPAG today has written to the government to express its extreme concern at Usan’s escalation of shooting and to demand the strongest action is taken to end Usan’s ‘flagrant abuse’ of the Seal Licence system.

‘The mass shooting of seals is a bloody stain on Scotland’s image and all Scottish salmon products’ said Ottaway, ‘The Scottish Government must now make public those companies like Usan that are shooting seals and these companies will face a consumer backlash as a consequence. It is time to mandate the use of effective non-lethal seal deterrents for all salmon farmers; netsmen and sports-angling interests and end the mass killing of these beautiful, intelligent creatures.’

Save Our Seals!

 

The Seal Protection Action Group’s (SPAG) campaign to end seal shooting in Scotland and the rest of the UK has hit the headlines this week. The campaign made front page news in the Daily Mirror on Tuesday 7th April and the issue was also covered extensively in the Daily Mail online and Daily Express online, and The Times. There was also coverage in the fish trade media and Scottish newspapers. Campaigns Director Andy Ottaway was also interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio Two on Thursday 9th April.

Our seals are under fire and need your help. We believe dead seals and starving pups are too high a price to pay for a salmon steak or sandwich, or a fly-fishing holiday. We know seals can be deterred from fish cages, nets and salmon rivers without harming them, but the industry will not stop shooting without concerted public pressure placed on them to do so.Shot grey seal

If you would like to support our campaign there are four simple things you can do to help:

1. Please write to High Street retailers and ask them whether their salmon suppliers shoot seals. Please tell them you do not want to buy salmon products (including RSPCA Freedom Food salmon) from producers that shoot seals. You can email the retailers: here

2. Please also sign the petition to retailers at: www.change.org

3. Support our campaign, write to your MP and demand that our seals are fully protected under law from all deliberate killing

4. Please support our work with a donation, or by joining the Seal Protection Action Group. Just click the ‘Donate’ button for a list of ways you can help.

Thank you very much on behalf of the seals.

Big drop in Scottish seal killings!

 

The Seal Protection Action Group has welcomed a continuing downward trend in seal shooting under government licence in Scottish waters, but warned that the mass seal killings continue to damage Scotland’s reputation and much more must be done to end the practice.

The latest figures, just posted on a Scottish Government website www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing, reveal that a total of 161 grey and 41 common seals were reported shot in 2014, or 205 animals in total.

With 238 grey and 36 common seals, 274 in total, shot in 2013, this represents 69 fewer seals than were reported shot in 2013 (274) and 254 fewer than in 2011 (459).

This means the number of seals reported shot has fallen by 55% in the four years since the Seal Licence scheme was introduced in 2011. pups can starve when their mothers are shot

The Seal Licence was introduced in January 2011 to regulate seal killings. It is now illegal to kill a seal without one. Even so, a staggering 1,1373 seals have been reported  shot in four years under the seal licence scheme, an average of 343 seals each year, or one seal shot nearly every single day.

The Scottish Government website also reveals that 51 licences have been issued to shoot a maximum of 662 grey and 197 common seals, or 859 seals in total, during 2015. The seals will be shot at fish-farms, allegedly to protect salmon stock and equipment, and in rivers by salmon netting companies and the sports angling industry.

In 2013, 105 seals were shot by fish-farmers and 169 were shot by wild salmon netting companies and sports-angling interests.

Of the 205 seals shot in 2014, 80 seals or 39% were shot by fish-farmers and 125 seals or 61% by wild salmon netting companies and sports-angling interests.

According to these figures around 75% of seals shot by aquaculture are shot at RSPCA-accredited Freedom Food Farms.

The Seal Protection Action Group is working to end all seal shooting. In 2010, we founded the www.saswg.org.uk to investigate and promote benign alternatives such as better practice, properly tensioned nets and new acoustic scaring devices that do not harm seals or other marine life such as porpoises.

However, while some aquaculture companies, such as Marine Harvest, have all but eliminated seal shooting others have not, and wild salmon netting companies and river fisheries are  now shooting most seals.

Seals are still being shot even though trials of a new acoustic seal deterrent device, developed by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University with a grant from the Scottish government, have suggested it could be very effective at deterring seals from fish-farms, salmon nets and sports-angling rivers without harming them or other wildlife.  SPAG has condemned as ‘scandalous’ the fact that a device developed with public funds has been ‘sold’ to a private finance company in America and is yet to be made widely available to the industry.

“I don’t think that people buying Scottish salmon or visiting Scotland for a fly-fishing holiday realize the terrible price that our seals are paying for their pleasure” said Andy Ottaway of the SPAG, “SPAG is calling on the Scottish government and salmon industry to pull together and end seal shooting which leaves a bloody stain on the image of Scotland and Scottish salmon products.
Notes:

•The expansion of salmon production may have serious consequences for wildlife and tourism says SPAG. In 2012, an English couple cut short a holiday in Aberdeenshire after witnessing seals being shot in a bay at Crovie, Aberdeenshire. Around 30 seals were shot by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company. Marine Scotland said the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their licence’.

•A new Acoustic Deterrent Device, developed by SMRU scientists at St Andrew’s University with government funding is now owned by Bankers Capital of New York

•A forum, the Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group, was established in 2010 to explore non-lethal solutions to deter seals. Members are 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 www.smru.st-andrews.ac.uk/documents/scos_2008_v1.pdf

•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 grey seals, that number fewer than African elephants, and fails to impose mandatory non-lethal deterrents to reduce and ultimately end all seal killings.

Canada’s seal slaughter hits record low as trade ban bites

 

The massive decline in seals killed in commercial hunts continues,  thanks to international trade bans on the import of seal products from these hunts. The Canadian Sealers Association says that fewer than 55,000 harp seals were landed this year compared to 91,000 in 2013 and 69,000 in 2012. 

This number, while huge, is still far below the government’s massive quota of nearly 470,000 seals, even though reports suggest prices of $35 for the highest quality pelts. The Sealer’s Association is calling on the Canadian Government to do more to fight bans on the import of seal products in the U.S., Mexico, European Union, Russia and Taiwan. It has received  $292,000 in government support to help create and sell new seal meat products.

In May 2014, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rejected a further appeal by Canada and Norway and upheld the European Union ‘s ban on imports of seal products from commercial hunts. This landmark ruling is final and means that the EU ban,  introduced in 2010, does not breach rules on free trade.

However, this ban does contain exemptions for indigenous people in Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia that are allowed to trade seal products with the EU. Canada and Norway argued these exemptions were unfair to non-indigenous hunting communities and that the scale of the Greenland hunt was tantamount to commercial sealing. In response, the WTO panel did comment that if the EU felt animal welfare was so important, it should also strengthen regulations governing indigenous hunting. The Seal Protection Action Group could not agree more given the obvious cruelty involved in these hunts.

Seal shooting in decline but more must be done

 

The Seal protection Action Group  has cautiously welcomed an ongoing downward trend in seal shooting under government licence in Scottish waters, but warned that mass seal killing continues to damage Scotland’s reputation.

The latest figures, recently posted on a Scottish Government website, reveal that a total of 238 grey and 36 common seals, 274 in total, were shot in 2013. This total represents 159 seals fewer than were reported shot in 2012 (433) and 185 fewer than in 2011 (459).

The Seal Licence was introduced in January 2011 to regulate seal killings. It is now illegal to kill a seal without one. Even so, a staggering 1,166 seals have been reported shot in just three years under the seal licence scheme, an average of 389 seals each year, or over one seal every single day.

The Scottish Government website also reveals that 53 licences have been issued, with a further 3 awaiting approval, to shoot a maximum of 765 grey and 240 common seals, or 1,005 seals in total, during 2014. The seals will be shot at fish-farms, allegedly to protect salmon stock and equipment, and in rivers by salmon netting companies and the sports angling industry. Of the 274 seals shot in 2013, 105 or 38% were shot by fish-farmers and 169 (62%) by wild salmon netting companies and sports-angling interests.

The Seal Protection Action Group is working to end all seal shooting. However, while some aquaculture companies, such as Marine Harvest, have all but eliminated seal shooting other aquaculture companies have not, and wild salmon netting companies and river fisheries are simply shooting even more seals.

“People buying Scottish salmon, including RSPCA ‘Freedom Food’ salmon products, or visiting Scotland for a fly-fishing holiday need to realise the appalling suffering inflicted upon these beautiful and intelligent animals by the Scottish salmon industry” said Andy Ottaway of the SPAG, “Dead or badly maimed seals, orphaned and starving pups, that is the real price of Scottish salmon”

Seals are still being shot even though trials of a new accoustic seal deterrent device, developed by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University with a grant from the Scottish government, have suggested it could be very effective at deterring seals from fish-farms, salmon nets and sports-angling rivers without harming them or other wildlife. SPAG has condemned as ‘scandalous’ the fact that a device developed with public funds has been ‘sold’ to a private finance company in America and is yet to be made widely available to the industry.

‘SPAG is calling on the Scottish government and salmon industry to pull together and resolve an issue that leaves a bloody stain on the image of Scotland and Scottish salmon products’ said Ottaway

1,064 seals shot since 2011

PRESS STATEMENT: 5TH SEPTEMBER 2013

The Seal Protection Group (SPAG) has condemned today the shooting of over 1,000 seals in Scottish waters in little over two years.

Director Andy Ottaway said today: ‘The Scottish Government claims that seals are only shot as a last resort measure to protect fish stock, sports angling rivers and fishing equipment, but it’s hard to see any need to kill over 1,000 seals in just over two years. We believe it is perfectly possible to deter seals without shooting them, which often leaves orphaned pups to slowly starve’. Two shot seals lie on the quayside

SPAG is working with the leading producers and retailers of Scottish salmon to end the killings. ‘The largest producer of Scottish Salmon has shot just one seal this year’ said Ottaway ‘So why are so many more still being shot?’ 

He added: ‘Is this the image of Scotland the Government wants to present to tourists and to visitors it wants to attract to the Commonwealth Games next year?’ 

According to Scottish Government statistics, 1,064 seals have been reported shot under it’s Seal Licence Scheme since it was introduced in 2011. This number breaks down as 461 seal shot in 2011, a further 423 in 2012 and 180 seals in the first six months of 2013.

‘Visit Scotland’ and witness seal slaughter campaigners warn

11th June 2013

The Seal Protection Action Group warned tourists to stay away from Scotland if they care about wildlife, especially seals, as they may be horrified to witness mass seal shootings.

The warning comes as television presenter Neil Oliver launched a £350,000 campaign promoting Scotland as a top location for wildlife watching. The campaign highlights ‘Scotland’s Big 5’ animals to see: red deer, otter, and red squirrel, golden eagle and harbour seals. Neil Oliver is also the voice of ‘Visit Scotland’s ‘Surprise Yourself’ tourism campaign, which targets the UK and Irish tourism market.

Andy Ottaway Director of the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) said today ‘At least 1,000 seals have been reported shot in Scotland in just over two years. Tourists are in for a very nasty surprise indeed if they find themselves watching seal slaughter while on their holiday.’A shot seal on beach at Crovie

The Government’s new tourism campaign comes as the picturesque holiday village of Crovie in Aberdeenshire remains ‘under siege’ from salmon fishermen shooting seals in open public view. It has been for months, with bloody seal carcasses often washing up on the local beaches.  Last year, an English couple cut short a holiday in Crovie after witnessing seals being shot in the bay beneath their cottage. At least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company, based in Montrose, which has a licence to shoot seals from the government.
 
SPAG raised concerns over this incident with Marine Scotland and were shocked to be told the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their licence’. The same company has been granted a further licence to shoot 30 grey seals this year, despite the objections of locals, some of whom depend on letting holiday cottages in the village, and wildlife campaigners.

In March, the Usan seal shooters returned to Crovie and have been hanging hand-painted signs on the postbox and pier saying ‘seal management in progress’ as they wait to shoot any seals that approach their salmon nets in the bay. Some locals claim they have been fishing illegally, as well as using their nets as a ‘baited trap’ to shoot seals. 'Seal management in progress' sign at Crovie

The Scottish Government issues licences to shoot over 1,000 seals each year, but supposedly only as a ‘last resort’ measure to protect fish-farms, salmon nets and fly-fishing rivers from seal damage if other measures fail. SPAG argues that strictly non-lethal measures, such as acoustic-scarers, can and should be used to deter seals without harming them or other wildlife.
 
The ever expanding Scottish salmon industry is in increasing conflict with wildlife, including seals, which are being shot in large numbers as a consequence. ‘Asking people to visit Scotland to watch the very same seals that are being slaughtered is quite appalling’ said Ottaway, ‘Almost 10 seals are shot every week in Scotland and that will horrify many people, including any tourists unfortunate enough to witness it’.

To protest to Usan Salmon Fisheries over their seal killings please  visit:  http://www.sealaction.org/seal-shooting-horror-returns-to-scottish-holiday-village

Notes:

•Marine Scotland reported 423 seals, 349 grey and 74 harbour seals were shot in 2012, with 461 seals shot in 2011 (368 greys and 93 harbor seals). A further 85 seals have been shot in the first quarter of 2013. By extrapolation, at least 1,000 seals will have been shot to date under the licence scheme.

•According to Marine Scotland’s website, 31% of licensees did not shoot any seals in 2012, 48% of shooting occurred at fish farms and 52% at fisheries. 208 seals were shot across 230 individual fish farms and 225 across over 40 river fisheries and netting stations. This amounts to 438 seals, 15 more than the 423 reported: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing

•Seal shooters return to Crovie: http://www.sealaction.org/seal-shooting-horror-returns-to-scottish-holiday-village

•A Mr and Mrs Jackson of Melton Mowbray cut short their holiday in Crovie in June 2012 saying 14 seals were shot in just 10 days during their stay.  A local witness claims over 20 seals were shot in two weeks by men from Usan Salmon Fisheries of Montrose that set up a salmon netting station at Crovie.   http://www.sealaction.org/news

•In January 2013, SPAG warned that a projected increase in seal shootings, caused by expanding farmed salmon production for export, threatened Scottish tourism already hit by bad weather and the economic downturn. While tourism income is down, the salmon industry is expanding production, and this could be at the expense of tourism if seal killing increases. http://www.sealaction.org/spag-warns-of-seal-shooting-threat-to-scottish-tourism

•According to recent figures the number of tourists visiting Scotland fell by 12% in 2012 with revenue down by as much as £50m.  Meanwhile, Scottish salmon exports to the Far East reached record levels in the first ten months of 2012 with a value of £37m, some £9m more than for the same period in 2011.

•In March it was revealed 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 in New York.  The device, which has proven effective in laboratory and field trials at deterring seals without harming them or other wildlife, is yet to be made available to the salmon industry. http://www.sealaction.org/campaigners-condemn-900-seal-shootings-in-scotland

Seal shooting horror returns to Scottish holiday village

 

Men from the Scottish Wild Salmon Company (Usan Salmon Fisheries of Montrose) are back in Crovie, Aberdeenshire shooting seals. The netting season means they could be shooting seals there and elsewhere for months to come. 

Their men  (pictured here) sit on a cliff with a rifle, fitted with a silencer, waiting to shoot seals that approach their nets.  Last year they shot over 20 seals in barely two weeks. 

In 2012, around 450 seals were shot in Scottish waters, half of these at fish-farms, with the remainder shot at fly-fishing rivers and salmon netting stations like here at Crovie.  

This is the true price of Scottish salmon!

Make your protest. Write to: Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd,  The Bothy, Usan, Montrose, DD10 9SG  Tel: 01674 676 989

and their Directors:

David Pullar
Email: david@usansalmon.com
Mobile: +44 (0) 7810 288945

George Pullar
Email: george@usansalmon.com
Mobile: +44 (0) 7845 111365

Last year, an English couple renting a holiday cottage at Crovie returned home early after witnessing seals being shot in front of them.  They have vowed never to return to Scotland, or buy any Scottish salmon products, until the slaughter of seals is ended. 

The Seal Protection Action Group is calling for strictly non-lethal measures to deter seals to be used by fish-farmers, wild salmon netsmen, as well as  the river authorities that shoot hundreds of seals to ‘protect’ angling rivers for unwitting fly-fishing tourists.

Don’t let them kill our seals! Please support our campaign and sign our pledge to avoid Scottish salmon products until Scotland’s shameful seal slaughter is ended!

 

 

 

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. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing

•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 http://www.smru.st-andrews.ac.uk/documents/scos_2008_v1.pdf

•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.

SPAG warns of seal shooting threat to Scottish tourism!

Monday 14th January 2013 

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today warned that a projected increase in seal shootings caused by expanding farmed salmon production for export, threatens Scottish tourism, already hit by bad weather and the economic downturn. While tourism income is down, the salmon industry is expanding production,and this could be at the expense of tourism if seal killing increases.

According to recent figures the number of tourists visiting Scotland fell by 12% in 2012 with revenue down by as much as £50m.  Meanwhile, Scottish salmon exports to the Far East reached record levels in the first ten months of last year with a value of £37m, some £9m more than for the same period in 2011. However,SPAG is concerned that unless strictly non-lethal strategies are adopted to deter seals from salmon cages, nets and rivers, increasing seal shooting will negatively impact on Scottish tourism still further.

Figures published by Marine Scotland yesterday show that in the first nine months of 2012 a total of 351 seals were reported shot, compared to 361 in the same period in 2011.  Although 10 fewer seals so far, this still equates to a seal shot every single day in Scottish waters by the Scottish salmon industry. Although the total shootings for 2012 are not available yet, an analysis of these figures suggests a trend where shooting by aquaculture is declining while shooting by salmon netters and fisheries is increasing.  However, increasing production of salmon for export may add additional pressure on seals and other wildlife.

‘The expansion of salmon production may have serious consequences for wildlife and so tourism’, said Andy Ottaway of SPAG, ‘increased production will mean more sites and possibly even more conflict with wild predators like seals that will be shot as a consequence. We believe this will tarnish Scotland’s image and tourism will suffer.’

Last year, an English couple cut short a holiday in Aberdeenshire after witnessing seals being shot in a bay beneath their cottage. At least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company at a netting station in Crovie. When SPAG raised our concern over this incident with Marine Scotland we were shocked when told the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their (Seal) Licence’. 

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has previously welcomed a ‘massive reduction’ on historic levels of seal killings in Scotland, but warns there is still a long way to go to end them altogether. 

‘We are grateful to salmon farmers that have greatly reduced seal shooting’ said Andy Ottaway, ‘but the latest figures reveal nearly 10 seals shot every week in Scottish waters, increasingly at angling rivers and salmon netting stations. That statistic will horrify many people, including potential tourists’.

Background notes:

• Marine Scotland issued 61 licences to shoot a maximum 1,167 seals (878 grey and 289 common) in 2012.  In 2011, 66 licences were granted to shoot a maximum of 1,339 seals (1,025 grey and 314 common), representing a reduction of 5 licences and 142 fewer seals that could be shot overall: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing

• 288 grey and 63 common seals were reported shot between Jan-Sept 2012, compared to 294 grey and 67 common seals in the same period in 2011.  37% of licensees did not shoot any seals in this period

• 41% of shootings are at fish-farms, 59% at fisheries: 144 seals shot between 230 farms and 207 between 40 river fisheries and netting stations.  In 2011, it was 52% at farms and 48% by fisheries and netting stations. These figures show a significant shift in shooting from fish farms to netting stations and rivers.
• Marine Scotland reported a total of 461 seals were shot under licence in 2011 (368 greys and 93 common).

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