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.
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.
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.’