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Seals are attractive to tourists but not to salmon farmers
common seal
Update by news editor   18-04-2011

Anger as new law grants licences to kill seals

Animal rights campaigners have accused the Scottish Government of allowing the slaughter of more than 1000 seals under a new law designed to protect salmon.

Under the law, which came into effect this year, fish farmers and wild salmon fishermen can apply for a licence to shoot seals that could harm the fish they catch.

The Seal Protection Action Group said that fish farmers should be focussing on more humane ways of keeping seals away from the farms.

Their spokesman, Andy Ottoway, said: "Forty years ago we stuck a man on the moon, so surely we can find away of keeping seals out of fish farms. If it was whales or dolphins it would be banned overnight."

The Scottish Government claims that it checks each farm carefully to make sure all other methods of keeping seals out have been installed before granting a licence.

The law also makes it illegal to kill other wild seals, which protects most of Scotland's seals.

Scotland has Europe's largest population of seals. There are thought to be 186,000 grey seals and a minimum of 19,800 common, or harbour, seals. Their presence has helped to attract tourists to many areas.

But the salmon farming industry also contributes massively to the Scottish economy generating much-needed jobs in rural areas. And as each seal munches its way through 20kg of fish a day, a single seal attack on a fish farm can result in hundreds of fish being lost.

The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation claim that the number of seals killed by their members in a year is only about 400. Scott Landsburgh, chief executive, said: "Farmers are legally required to protect the welfare of their fish. Shooting is only considered as a last resort in accordance with the law."

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Anger as new law grants licences to kill seals

Scotland has a very large population of seals - the biggest in Europe and the second biggest in the world. Because of the many conservation efforts that have been made this population is growing rapidly.

They are beautiful wild creatures- and many tourists pay to see them on boat trips around the country. Caroline Warburton, of Wild Scotland, which represents more than 90 outdoor tourism firms, said: "Many coastal and marine tourism operators include seals as part of their trips or promotions."

But Scottish fish farmers are concerned about their presence near farms.

Under the Marine (Scotland) Act, which came into force this year, fisheries can apply for licences to shoot seals as a "last resort" to protect their stocks.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Marine Scotland assess all fish farms before granting a licence to ensure that non-lethal measures, are being taken."

These non-lethal measures include strong netting, alarms and seal blinds that hide the fish from below.

And Government, industry and charity bodies are constantly working to improve non-lethal measures to protect against seals. But in some cases the nets and alarms cannot keep a hungry seal away and when they do attack a farm thousands of fish can be lost - some just die of fright.

Under the new law seals they may only be shot from a distance of 150 metres or less by a trained marksman using a specific type of rifle and bullet. This is to reduce the chance of an injury to the seal.

But activists are very distressed about the fact that shooting is permitted throughout the breeding season. This could mean that some pups will starve to death if their parents are shot.  And some believe fish farmers reach for the gun first as it is the cheapest solution.

Eleanor Scott from the Scottish Green Party said: "The fish farming industry could just install double nets to protect their fish, but It appears it's cheaper for them just to reach for the gun, even in the breeding season."

The 65 licences so far granted are spread around the country, and cover a total of 1298 seals, representing less than 1% of the overall population. Of these only a few will actually end up being shot as only a few of the seals actually cause a threat to the farms.

The Scottish salmon farming industry contributed about £500 million to the Scottish economy in 2009, generating jobs in areas of high employment.

Salmon is Scotland's biggest food export as salmon becomes increasingly popular. Farmed fish now accounts for nearly half of all the fish that is eaten - and as the world's need for food increases so too do the demands for farmed foods.

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adapted from article by Chris Watt
read original story here

Experiences & Outcomes

  • I can identify and classify examples of living things, past and present, to help me appreciate their diversity. I can relate physical and behavioural characteristics to their survival or extinction. SCN 2-01a
  • I can sample and identify living things from different habitats to compare their biodiversity and can suggest reasons for their distribution. SCN 3-01a
  • I understand how animal and plant species depend on each other and how living things are adapted for survival. I can predict the impact of population growth and natural hazards on biodiversity. SCN 4-01a
  • I can use evidence selectively to research current social, political or economic issues. SOC 2-15a
  • I can use my knowledge of current social, political or economic issues to interpret evidence and present an informed view. SOC 3-15a
  • I can evaluate conflicting sources of evidence to sustain a line of argument. SOC 4-15a