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).

Rise in Scottish seal shooting condemned

Monday 17th September 2012 

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today condemned an increase in seal shootings in Scotland in the first six months of 2012,the second year of a government licence scheme introduced to reduce them.

Government figures just released show that 201 grey seals and 41 common seals were shot in the first six months of 2012,compared to 180 grey and 37 common seals shot in the equivalent period last year. The shooting of an additional 21 grey and 4 common seals so far represents a 10% increase in shootings,even though fewer licences and lower quotas were announced by the Scottish Government this year.

‘The Scottish Government made a point of highlighting a reduction in the number of seals that could be shot this year’,said Andy Ottaway of SPAG, ‘but it is misleading a very concerned public if the number of seals actually being shot is on the increase,  especially as shooting is only supposed to be a last resort measure.’

In June of this year, the Scottish Government revealed that 461 seals were shot (368 grey and 93 common) under licence in 2011.SPAG then criticised the ‘unacceptable’ delay in producing these figures, especially as new licences were issued this year before last year’s tally of seal shootings was even known.Two shot seals

Further analysis of the government figures shows that 52% or 240 seals were shot at fish-farms in 2011,with the remaining 48%, or 219 seals, shot between 40 netting stations and river fisheries. In 2012 so far, 105 seals have been shot at fish-farms (43%) with the remaining 137 seals (57%) shot at netting stations and river fisheries.  These figures suggests an increase in shootings and a shift away from fish farms to netting stations and rivers.

Further disturbing evidence of shooting away from fish farms comes from an English couple who cut short a holiday in Crovie, Aberdeenshire in June this year after witnessing seals being shot in a bay beneath their cottage.  Upset locals claim at least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries company that set up a wild salmon netting station in Crovie. When SPAG raised concern with Marine Scotland over the mass shooting we were told the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their licence’.  Usan Salmon operates two further netting stations elsewhere.

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has previously welcomed what appears to be 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, but there is no point in saving seals at fish farms if they are shot elsewhere’ said Andy Ottaway of SPAG,‘Killing seals for unwitting tourists to go fly-fishing is morally repugnant, tarnishes the image of Scotland and threatens Scottish tourism’.

‘The latest figures released by the Scottish Government show an average of nearly 10 seals shot every week in Scottish waters this year and that to many people, including potential tourists, is utterly appalling’ he added.

Notes:

Marine Scotland has issued 61 licences to shoot a maximum 1,167 seals (878 grey and 289 common) in 2012. Last year, 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.  Of this total 461 seals were shot (368 grey and 93 common) under licence in 2011. For further information click below: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/SealLicensing

 

Holidaymakers witness seal shooting horror!

20th August 2012

An English couple holidaying in an idyllic fishing village in the north-east of Scotland has vowed never to return to Scotland after witnessing seals being shot in front of them. The couple were so horrified that they cut short their holiday in Crovie, Aberdeenshire and have contacted the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) to ask if anything can be done to stop this slaughter.

Mr and Mrs Jackson of Melton Mowbray say 14 seals were shot in just 10 days during their stay in Crovie in June.  A local witness claims at least 20 seals have been shot to date by men from Usan Salmon Fisheries of Montrose that have set up a salmon netting station at Crovie.  Mr Jackson says seal carcasses were left on the beach to be collected later. Residents that let holiday cottages in the area have protested and fear the company intends to shoot more seals, further threatening vital tourism to the area.

The Scottish Government introduced the Seal Licence scheme in 2011 to curb seal shooting after a SPAG campaign claiming thousands of seals were shot in Scottish waters every year by salmon-farmers, nets-men and the sports-angling industry. When SPAG contacted Marine Scotland about the shooting of seals in Crovie we were shocked to be told that they were already aware of local concerns, but the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their licence’. Last year, the Scottish Government issued 66 licences to kill a maximum of 1,339 seals, claiming they were a ‘last resort’ measure, to prevent damage to fishing gear and protect fish stock.Shot seal on Crovie beach

In June of this year, the Scottish Government revealed that 461 seals were shot under licence in 2011. In 2012, they have issued 58 licences to shoot 1,100 seals. SPAG has criticised the fact that further licences were issued before last year’s total seal shootings were known. SPAG has also condemned a repeated failure to release seal-shooting figures quarterly as promised. No figures on seal killings have been issued in 2012, a situation SPAG says is ‘completely unacceptable’.

The Usan Salmon Ltd website says they catch salmon and trout in an ‘environmentally friendly and traditional way’ with their produce ‘gracing the table of some of the most famous restaurants and hotels in the UK’. They also operate a further two salmon and trout netting stations elsewhere.

Andy Ottaway of SPAG said, ‘We are appalled that this cold-blooded and sickeningly casual slaughter of seals could in any way be considered acceptable. Anyone witnessing this callous act would be shocked and we are not surprised the locals fear the impact it may have on tourism’.

Earlier this year SPAG  welcomed a ‘huge reduction’ on historic levels of seal killings brought about by the new licence scheme, but also warned licences should not be used to rubber-stamp mass seal killings, but rather aim to introduce new practices and equipment in order to prevent them.

‘We believe it is perfectly possible to deter seals from fishing nets, fish-cages  and angling rivers without harming them’ said Ottaway, ‘At least one seal is shot every day in Scottish waters and that is too high a price to pay for Scottish salmon and other seafood products. The government must end these seal killings that tarnish the image of Scotland and are now a threat to vital tourism’

 

Scottish seal killings must end!

27th June 2012

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today called for an end to all seal killings in Scottish waters in response to government figures revealing that 461 seals were shot under licence in 2011. The final figures for 2011 have just been released, 5 months late and almost half-way through the second year of the new scheme.

In February 2012, the Scottish Government announced that a total of 362 seals were shot in the first nine months of 2011 and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead described the scheme as ‘working well’. SPAG has condemned the fact that the actual kill figures have taken so long to be made public. It has now been revealed that a further 99 animals were shot last year, and were unreported until now, with still no figures released on the number of seals killed in 2012.Two shot seals

Andy Ottaway of SPAG said today:

“The delay in releasing up-to-date figures on the number of seals being shot under the new Seal Licence is totally unacceptable. We are still six months behind in the reporting of the number of seals shot and that is not a scheme that we would describe as ‘working well’. What these delays reveal is government complacency over a totally unacceptable level of seal killings that leave an indelible stain on the international image of Scotland, Scottish salmon and other seafood products.”

In 2012, the Scottish Government has issued 58 licences to shoot a maximum of 1,100 seals. SPAG has already criticised the fact that new licences were issued before the final number of seal shootings in 2011 were even known.  A further six months of unreported seal killings has now elapsed and SPAG is calling for Seal Licences to be revoked if the reporting of numbers shot is not being provided on time.

SPAG has welcomed what appears to be a ‘massive reduction’ in seal killings on historical levels brought about by the new scheme. However, it believes much more needs to be done to end these ‘totally unacceptable’ seal killings altogether.

“We know it is perfectly possible to deter seals and other wild predators without harming them’ said Ottaway,‘At least one seal is shot every day in Scottish waters and that is too high a price to pay for Scottish salmon and other seafood. The government can and must introduce mandatory measures to end these killings.”

‘Huge’ reduction in Scottish seal killings

Date: 5th October 2011

The Scottish Government has published details on it’s website of the number of seals that have been shot in the first six months under its new seal licensing scheme, introduced under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, that came in to force this year.

Under the new scheme, 68 licences have been issued to kill a maximum of  1,298 seals this year. The figures released reveal that a total of 175 grey and 36 common seals have been killed in the first six months, a total of 211 seals  overall. Following the average set so far the campaigners predict that around 400 seals will be shot this year, a third of the government set limit and up to a 90% reduction on historic levels.

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has welcomed this ‘huge reduction’ in seal killings, but argues that much more needs to be done to end ‘these unacceptable seal killings’ altogether. Shot seal

Today SPAG Director Andy Ottaway said,”The Scottish Government’s seal licence scheme is making a huge impact in reducing the numbers of seals shot every year in Scotland. However, without the mandatory introduction of non-lethal measures to deter seals, the numbers of seals killed in Scotland will remain unacceptably high. An average of at least one seal shot every single day is too high a price to pay for Scottish Salmon and other Scottish seafood'”.

SPAG is working with a major producer and a leading retailer of Scottish farmed salmon, along with the RSPCA and scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit to end seal killings. The Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group was formed in September 2010 to find non-lethal solutions to seal predation on salmon farms and other sites, such as by using correctly tensioned nets and developing acoustic deterrent devices that do not harm seals or other wildlife.

“We are grateful to Marine Harvest, Sainsbury’s and the RSPCA for working with us to eliminate all seal killings and the Scottish Government’s licensing scheme is a mechanism to help achieve that” said Ottaway, “We know it is perfectly possible to deter seals and other wild predators without harming them. The new licence scheme must not rubber-stamp seal killings,but ultimately end them altogether.”

He added,”The Scottish Government and Scottish Salmon and fisheries industry can and must implement better industry practices and technologies to end these seal killings which leave an indelible stain on the international image of Scotland, Scottish salmon and other seafood products.”

Scottish Government sanctions cull of 1,000 seals

25th February 2011

The Scottish Government has published details on it’s website of the number of seals that can be killed this year under the new seal licensing scheme introduced under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. Under the new scheme, 65 licences have been issued to kill up to 1,298 seals in total this year.shot seal on Scottish beach

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) and seal scientist Sue Wilson of Tara Seal Research met with Marine Scotland officials in Edinburgh last December. We expressed our concerns over the new scheme. In particular, the expansion of shooting in to the breeding seasons that could lead to the starving of dependent pups and the lack of any independent inspection or monitoring scheme to ensure that the new quotas are strictly adhered to. We also expressed dismay that quotas may be set for common seals that are suffering an alarming decline and the failure to impose any mandatory non-lethal deterrent measures upon the aquaculture and sports angling industries in order to reduce further and ultimately end seal killings. Without these, any seal killings under the new scheme cannot be considered to be the ‘last resort’ option intended.

Today SPAG Director Andy Ottaway said, “The Scottish Government’s seal licence scheme is a significant step forward in reducing the numbers of seals shot every year in Scotland. However, without an inspection and monitoring scheme, and without the mandatory introduction of non-lethal measures to deter seals, the numbers of seals killed in Scotland will remain unacceptably high. An average of over three seals shot every single day is too high a price to pay for Scottish Salmon.”.

Meanwhile, SPAG is working with a major producer and a leading retailer of Scottish farmed salmon, along with the RSPCA and scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit to end seal killings. The Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group was formed in September last year to implement non-lethal solutions to seal predation on salmon farms and other sites such as by using correctly tensioned nets and developing acoustic deterrent devices that do not harm seals or other wildlife.

“We are grateful to Marine Harvest and Sainsbury’s for agreeing to work with us to eliminate all seal killings as quickly as possible and we hope the Scottish Government will do the same” said Ottaway, “We know it is perfectly possible to deter seals and other wild predators without harming them. The new scheme must not be used to rubber-stamp seal killings, but ultimately to end them altogether.”

He added, “The Scottish Government and Salmon industry can and must implement better industry practices and technologies to end these seal killings which leave an indelible stain on the international image of both Scotland and Scottish salmon products.”

Victory for seals as EU ban comes into force

A temporary suspension of a European Union (EU) Regulation banning trade in seal products has been lifted by the European Union’s General Court so allowing the full implementation of this historic legislation.A sealer clubs a baby seal

The ban, agreed in 2009 and due to come into force in August 2010, was suspended following a challenge by the sealing industry. Now implemented, the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) believes it will help save hundreds of thousands of seals from being brutally clubbed, shot and often skinned alive each year in Canada and other horrifically cruel seal hunts around the world.

“The European ban is a massive blow to the seal killers that profit from inflicting such appalling cruelty on defenceless animals”, said Andy Ottaway, Campaign Director of SPAG, “However, seals are still persecuted all over the world, including in Scotland, and we will continue to actively campaign to provide them with the full protection they need and deserve.”

The EU ban prohibits the trade in products from all commercial seal hunts, including those in Canada, Namibia and Norway, but does not affect subsistence hunting by Inuit and other indigenous peoples. Had the legal challenge succeeded the European Union would continue to provide a shop window for seal products from cruel commercial seal hunts around the world where seals are clubbed or shot, primarily for their fur for the fashion industry.

The EU will also have to fend off a further challenge to the ban at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with Canada seemingly determined to overturn it and so continue the cruel annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups on the ice floes of Newfoundland each year.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the Canadian seal hunt and other mass killings of seals around the world where seals are wrongly blamed for the collapse in fish-stocks caused by human over-fishing. Now at last the European Union has finally washed its hands of seal blood and is no longer helping support  this vile industry “said SPAG Director Andy Ottaway

New group aims to stop seal killings at fish farms

NEWS RELEASE: 24th September 2010

Salmon farmers, retailers and animal welfare groups are joining forces to bring to an end the killing of problem seals at salmon farms as quickly as possible.

In what is believed to be a world first, Marine Harvest, the world’s largest salmon farmer will work with the Seal Protection Action Group as part of the newly formed “Salmon, Aquaculture and Seals Working Group”, alongside Sainsbury’s, Freedom Food, the RSPCA, the Sea Mammal Research Unit and International Animal Rescue.

Seals have posed a number of problems for the salmon farming industry since its inception in the 1960s, including damaging salmon farm nets and contributing to the release of thousands of salmon into the wild which may threaten wild salmon populations, as well as impacting the welfare of the fish when a site is attacked. Although it remains legal for salmon farmers to shoot problem seals, the new forum aims to find entirely non-lethal ways of deterring seals while protecting fish farm stocks.

As Alan Sutherland of Marine Harvest Scotland explained:  “We appreciate that this has always been a difficult issue for us.  Animal welfare and conservation groups are keen to see an end to the shooting of problem seals and we are keen to find alternative ways to stop problem seals taking fish, damaging nets and releasing farmed salmon into the wild. We believe the best solution is to focus on our common aim, rather than arguing about our differences.”

Ally Dingwall, Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager at Sainsbury’s said: “We welcome the formation of the group and the opportunity to support it through our Responsibly Sourced Salmon initiative. Ground breaking projects such as this are what our Responsibly Sourced Salmon is all about”.

Andy Ottaway of the Seal Protection Action Group said “We are determined to end the killing of seals and we are delighted that the world’s biggest producer of farmed fish and the UK’s leading retailer of Scottish salmon; the RSPCA and the Sea Mammal Research Unit have all committed to work together with us to achieve our goal.  We hope the solutions we find will not just save seals in Scottish waters every year, but countless more worldwide, wherever they are in conflict with aquaculture and other fisheries.”

The Scottish salmon industry has reported that 489 seals were shot on Scottish salmon farms in 2008 whereas some welfare groups believe the number of seals shot in Scottish waters by all fisheries interests including wild netsmen and angling interests to be in the thousands.  The group will bring together leading experts on this issue, who will work with the industry to identify best practice methods and equipment to deter seals without harming them or other wildlife.  It will look at the current range of seal deterrents such as noise and strengthened and tensioned net systems as well as novel deterrents and examine other methods used in salmon farming countries across the world. Other areas of work will include benign research to identify things that seals will avoid such as particular noises, smells or movement.

The Scottish Marine Bill and seals

The Scottish Marine Bill and seals: A licence to kill

The Seal Protection Group welcomes the provisions of the Scottish Marine Bill that will help greater protect our seas and wildlife. However, we are extremely disappointed that the Scottish Government has not seized this opportunity to fundamentally change the law, and with it attitudes, in order to greater protect our globally important seal populations.A shot seal lies dead on a Scottish beach

The proposed licensing scheme for the killing of seals may reduce the indiscriminate shooting and otherwise killing of seals, but it will not end it.  We will be watching closely to see how the licensing scheme develops. We note with concern that the Government is not prepared to prescribe non-lethal methods of deterring seals, or other proposals intended to address cruelty issues, such as banning the shooting of seals in the breeding seasons to save dependent pups from starvation.

We are further concerned that the debate over the licensing system did not include discussion of the ongoing Moray Firth Management Plan (MFMP), a programme involving the targeted killing of seals, and a cull in everything but name, that the Government wishes to expand throughout Scotland. We are seeking an explanation as to how the new licensing scheme and the MFMP will be integrated to ensure that seals are not simply culled where licences are not granted.

The Seal Protection Action Group has written to the Scottish Government asking for reassurances that the proposed licensing scheme will be fully transparent and that licences will only be granted in the most exceptional of circumstances i.e. where all possible non-lethal alternatives have been tried and demonstrably failed. Additionally, we are demanding that no licences be issued during the breeding seasons for grey and common seals.

We are also calling for increased funding for research, development and mandatory deployment of non-lethal devices to deter seals and other predators that are attracted to aquaculture sites, salmon netting stations and sports angling rivers. In particular, we seek the urgent replacement of Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) already widely in use that are known to be harmful to seals and other marine life, especially cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

We are aware of an extremely promising new ADD, that has been developed and laboratory tested, which is believed to be extremely effective in deterring seals without harming them or other wildlife. We are working with a leading salmon retailer and salmon producer to field-trial this device.  However, we would like to see this equipment trialled on a large scale and for its use to be made mandatory if it is proven to be as effective as it promises to be.

The Seal Protection Action Group was founded to oppose the mass culling of seals in Scotland some three decades ago – culls that provoked a huge public outcry. Since then, the systematic slaughter of seals has continued undercover, unabated and enshrined by law. We see no reason why the Scottish salmon industry, which is worth hundreds of millions of pounds, cannot invest in and resolve an issue that is harmful to Scotland’s image and taints Scottish salmon products.

If the Scottish Government and salmon industry collude in order to continue the killing of seals, then Scotland and Scottish salmon products are likely to become targets for public boycott campaigns as a consequence. We sincerely hope that this can be avoided and that they will work together to resolve this issue as a matter of absolute urgency.

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