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Scottish salmon farmers under scrutiny over seals shooting



The Scottish salmon industry is battling conservationists and animal rights campaigners over the killing of seals, seen as a threat to the industry. Hundreds of mammals were killed last year but the Scottish government has refused to publish new data revealing how many animals were shot in 2014.

Despite being among the most iconic of Scottish animals, seals are seen as a threat by salmon farmers. Under a special licence introduced in January 2011, some famers have been granted permission to shoot a maximum of 765 grey and 240 common seals, or 1,005 seals in total, during 2014.

While some farms have abolished the practice others have not, and have been targeted by campaigners. Over the past years, the Scottish government has refused to reveal the number of seals killed by the industry and the name of the farms where the culls occurred, but this decision was challenged and defeated by the information commissioner.

However, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation criticised the decision and said in a letter in 2012 that it feared the decision would “have a direct impact on the market success of their products” because consumers would be able to boycott the named farms.

It emerged that 238 grey and 36 common seals were shot in 2013. Recently, the government has again refused to publish data for 2014, but campaigners from the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) have filed a review calling for the disclosure.

Don Staniford, director of the GAAIA, said, “It’s shameful that the Scottish government is once again protecting the predominantly Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry from public scrutiny rather than protecting Scotland’s seals.

“Surely the public have a right to know which sites are killing seals and make an informed decision about the salmon they are buying?

“Judging by previous rulings, the Scottish Information Commissioner should force the government to name and shame those salmon farmers with blood on their hands. In the meantime, consumers wanting to avoid seal-unfriendly products should play it safe by boycotting all Scottish farmed salmon.”

According to conservationists, there are other, more humane measures that farmers can take to keep seals away from fish farms. The Save Scotland’s Seals from being Killed group for instance states“Salmon farms could install double skinned anti-predator nets, and if fitted with the same mesh dimensions no additional species need be trapped.

Photo: Stuart Richards via Flickr

Further reading:

Norway breaks record in yearly whale catching rates

Offshore wind farms provide feeding opportunities for seals

Scottish marine life under threat, says WWF

Report details 99% public support for Scottish marine protected areas

Four sea creatures discovered in Scottish waters