Scottish Salmon Producers want secrecy over seal killings

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) condemns attempts by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) to undermine attempts to protect seal populations under proposals in the Scottish Marine Bill.

In a document submitted to the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee the SSPO also calls for provisions to be included to ‘protect the health and welfare of farmed fish’, as required under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which they claim is ‘a statutory farmers’.

“The industry is trying to justify the mass slaughter of seals in order to protect the welfare of caged fish”, said Andy Ottaway of SPAG , “We can’t help feeling it is a tad hypocritical to argue that seals must die so that caged fish are protected. These fish live their lives in cages to be slaughtered for profit. I don’t think this argument will wash with the salmon buying public. They already think killing seals is too high a price to pay for Scottish salmon.”Seal at Isle of Syke - Used under creative commons licence - attributed to Antony Stanley

The SSPO document also takes issue with the proposed requirement to report the killing of individual seals to Scottish Ministers, which they dismiss as ‘disproportionate and unnecessarily bureaucratic’. They argue that an annual reporting scheme would suffice, SPAG believes that that the new measures, if applied correctly, would protect individual seal colonies from being wiped out, as well as hugely reduce the number of seals killed overall.

Common seals are suffering what has been described by Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) scientists as a ‘frightening decline’ nationwide. Although shooting is not directly blamed SPAG believes that it cannot be ruled out as a contributory factor and should be banned if only to let populations recover. The industry is a ‘culture of killing seals’ that must be changed by law.

Perhaps most disturbingly the SSPO try to justify continued secrecy over seal killings by accusing the campaigners of unspecified extremism. They state, ”there is a deep concern on both the part of individuals and of businesses about the way seal licence data will be publicly reported. There is a body of seal activists in the UK who have shown a willingness to engage in direct and, in some cases, extreme measures”.

This totally unsubstantiated statement is used to justify their further argument that ‘fish farm personnel have a corresponding right to be protected from threats or actions in undertaking their lawful business. We therefore respectfully request that the Bill should make specific provision for the publication only of aggregate annual data relating to Seal Licences.’

“If the SSPO believe that our campaign to peacefully expose the appalling scale of Scottish seal slaughter is extreme then we are proud to be guilty as charged”, said Andy Ottaway, “When will they understand that public opinion is firmly on the seals side and this slaughter has simply got to stop.”

We are calling on members of the public to avoid Scottish salmon unless their retailer can guarantee that producers do not shoot seals. Please show your support by signing our ‘Save Scotland’s Seals’ pledge.

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