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Killing seals to protect salmon - the welfare dilemma

There is evidence that the number of seals being shot is declining but campaigners want a complete ban. Credit: Reuters

In pure PR terms, no industry would like the suggestion it has seal blood on its hands. From my research its clear that all parties in this debate have the same aim - to end the killing of marine mammals.

The latest figures from Marine Scotland reveal the salmon farms, netting firms and river managers that have used marksmen in the early part of 2015. You can see yourself at this official website. There is considerable detail here - released now after a battle by campaigners to make it public.

51
Number of seal licences granted in 2015.
859
Maximum number of seals licensed for shooting, under 1% of the population.

Licences granted by area:

  • East Coast: 6
  • Moray Firth: 2
  • Orkney & North Coast: 9
  • Shetland: 6
  • South-West Scotland: 4
  • Western Isles: 9
  • West Scotland: 15

By searching back through those official records you can see evidence that the number of seals being shot is declining - 5% down on the same period last year. Campaigners are far from satisfied - and are calling for a complete ban.

25%
Decline in number of grey seals licences permitted to be shot since 2011.
37%
Decline in number of common seals licences permitted to be shot since 2011.

They say that seals were given "enhanced protection" under the law and that should be binding - even on fish producers. You can see the legislation here - outlining the clear exemptions for those with a licence to shoot seals.

The number of marine animals that are actually shot fall below the number licenses allow suggesting that many in the industry don't want seal blood on their hands. Credit: Scottish Government

One big problem for the salmon industry is that anti-predator nets are not practical and effective at all sites. It insists that it is on course for zero shootings and is investing in non-lethal measures. They industry set out their point of view in detail and you can see it at this link.

Sources:

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