The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) is campaigning to end seal shooting in Scotland. Now, new legislation could see Scottish salmon exports to the United States banned over the killing of seals.
The US Government has introduced new measures to ban fisheries imports from countries that do not adequately protect marine mammals. While these rules are primarily aimed at reducing the horrific number of marine mammals killed as by-catch in commercial fisheries, they have now been extended to include aquaculture operations, and that will include Scottish farmed salmon.
The Scottish Government introduced a licence scheme for killing seals in 2011. The Seal Licence has permitted over 1,500 seals to be shot over the past five years. Seals can be shot all year round, including during the breeding seasons of our globally important populations of grey and common seals, leaving dependent pups to starve.
The new US legislation requires trading partners to prohibit the deliberate killing or serious injury of marine mammals in all fisheries, including aquaculture, or face a complete ban on imports from these fisheries into the US market.
The number of seals killed in Scottish waters has fallen hugely thanks to our campaign. Before the
Scottish Government introduced the licensing scheme it was estimated that thousands of seals were shot every year by fish-farmers, wild salmon netsmen and sports–angling interests. Evidence of the continuing fall in shooting can be found in the government statistics. In 2015, 160 seals were shot, according to Scottish government figures, compared to almost 500 in 2011, and with a three-year coastal netting ban, introduced in April this year, that number is set to fall even further. While thousands of seals have already been saved by the campaign, SPAG will not rest until the killing is stopped completely.
The salmon industry claims that seal attacks cause serious losses and that seals are only shot by skilled marksmen as a ‘last resort’. While this is often disputed, what is clear is that the industry is shooting far fewer seals these days and that is a welcome development.
Yet while fewer seals are being shot, this does not mean that seals are not suffering. A new analysis of the Seal Licence scheme has provided further evidence of the cruelty behind the statistics. It can be read here.
The study reveals that of the 1,531 seals shot between 2011-2015, only 91 (6%) of the carcasses were recovered and just 40 (2.6%) of these were subject to a post-mortem. Nonetheless, even this small number of examinations has vindicated SPAG concerns that shooting is inherently cruel, revealing that:
• most seals are shot in the water increasing the risk of a poor shot, injury and a prolonged death
• a third of the shot seals examined were pregnant, suggesting as many as 500 pregnant seals
have been shot in the past five years
• nursing seals are shot leaving dependant pups to starve
• some animals are not killed by the first shot.
In light of the new report SPAG has joined a coalition of animal welfare groups that have written to the Scottish Government calling for an immediate ban on shooting seals during the breeding season in order to protect unborn and dependent pups.
SPAG founded the Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group (SASWG) in 2008 to find non-lethal solutions to conflict with seals. In our joint letter we are also calling for the government and salmon industry to work with us to end all seal shooting by 2020.
Please support our work. Further information about our campaign can be found on this website.