SPAG warns of seal shooting threat to Scottish tourism!

Monday 14th January 2013 

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today warned that a projected increase in seal shootings caused by expanding farmed salmon production for export, threatens 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.

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 last year with a value of £37m, some £9m more than for the same period in 2011. However,SPAG is concerned that unless strictly non-lethal strategies are adopted to deter seals from salmon cages, nets and rivers, increasing seal shooting will negatively impact on Scottish tourism still further.

Figures published by Marine Scotland yesterday show that in the first nine months of 2012 a total of 351 seals were reported shot, compared to 361 in the same period in 2011.  Although 10 fewer seals so far, this still equates to a seal shot every single day in Scottish waters by the Scottish salmon industry. Although the total shootings for 2012 are not available yet, an analysis of these figures suggests a trend where shooting by aquaculture is declining while shooting by salmon netters and fisheries is increasing.  However, increasing production of salmon for export may add additional pressure on seals and other wildlife.

‘The expansion of salmon production may have serious consequences for wildlife and so tourism’, said Andy Ottaway of SPAG, ‘increased production will mean more sites and possibly even more conflict with wild predators like seals that will be shot as a consequence. We believe this will tarnish Scotland’s image and tourism will suffer.’

Last year, an English couple cut short a holiday in Aberdeenshire after witnessing seals being shot in a bay beneath their cottage. At least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company at a netting station in Crovie. When SPAG raised our concern over this incident with Marine Scotland we were shocked when told the company ‘had not exceeded the terms of their (Seal) Licence’. 

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has previously welcomed a ‘massive reduction’ on historic levels of seal killings in Scotland, but warns there is still a long way to go to end them altogether. 

‘We are grateful to salmon farmers that have greatly reduced seal shooting’ said Andy Ottaway, ‘but the latest figures reveal nearly 10 seals shot every week in Scottish waters, increasingly at angling rivers and salmon netting stations. That statistic will horrify many people, including potential tourists’.

Background notes:

• Marine Scotland issued 61 licences to shoot a maximum 1,167 seals (878 grey and 289 common) in 2012.  In 2011, 66 licences were granted to shoot a maximum of 1,339 seals (1,025 grey and 314 common), representing a reduction of 5 licences and 142 fewer seals that could be shot overall:

• 288 grey and 63 common seals were reported shot between Jan-Sept 2012, compared to 294 grey and 67 common seals in the same period in 2011.  37% of licensees did not shoot any seals in this period

• 41% of shootings are at fish-farms, 59% at fisheries: 144 seals shot between 230 farms and 207 between 40 river fisheries and netting stations.  In 2011, it was 52% at farms and 48% by fisheries and netting stations. These figures show a significant shift in shooting from fish farms to netting stations and rivers.
• Marine Scotland reported a total of 461 seals were shot under licence in 2011 (368 greys and 93 common).

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