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Licensed To Kill: Campaigners Condemn Increase In Scottish Seal Killings

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LEWES, East Sussex, UK -- The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today condemned an increase in seal shootings in Scotland in the first six months of 2012, the second year of a government license scheme introduced to reduce them.

Government figures just released show that 201 grey seals and 41 common seals were shot in the first six months of 2012, compared to 180 grey and 37 common seals shot in the equivalent period last year. The shooting of an additional 21 grey and 4 common seals so far represents a 10% increase in shootings, even though fewer licenses and lower quotas were announced by the Scottish Government this year.

'The Scottish Government made a point of highlighting a reduction in the number of seals that could be shot this year', said Andy Ottaway of SPAG, 'but it is misleading a very concerned public if the number of seals actually being shot is on the increase, especially as shooting is only supposed to be a last resort measure.'

In June of this year, the Scottish Government revealed that 461 seals were shot (368 grey and 93 common) under license in 2011. SPAG then criticized the 'unacceptable' delay in producing these figures, especially as new licenses were issued this year before last year's tally of seal shootings was even known.

Analysis of the government figures show that 52% of seals were shot at fish-farms (240 seals) in 2011, with the remaining 48% (219 seals) shot between 40 netting stations and river fisheries. In 2012 so far, 105 seals have been shot at fish-farms (43%) with the remaining 137 seals (57%) shot at netting stations and river fisheries. These figures suggests an increase in shootings and a shift away from fish farms to netting stations and rivers.

Further disturbing evidence comes from an English couple who cut short a holiday in Aberdeenshire in June this year after witnessing seals being shot in a bay beneath their cottage. Upset locals claim at least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries company that have a netting station in Crovie. When SPAG raised concern with Marine Scotland over the mass shooting we were told the company 'had not exceeded the terms of their licensee. Usan Salmon operates two further netting stations elsewhere.

The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has previously welcomed what appears to be 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, but there is no point in saving seals at fish farms if they are shot elsewhere' said Andy Ottaway of SPAG, 'Killing seals for unwitting tourists to go fly-fishing is morally repugnant, tarnishes the image of Scotland and threatens Scottish tourism.'

'The latest figures released by the Scottish Government show an average of nearly 10 seals shot every week in Scottish waters this year and that to many people, including potential tourists, is utterly appalling he added.

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