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