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.’
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.
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
•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