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EAST SUSSEX, England -- The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) today condemned the Scottish Government for publishing details about the shooting of hundreds of seals in Scotland on an obscure website, so avoiding public scrutiny and further public outrage at the killings.
The Marine Scotland website says that 61 licenses were granted in 2012 to shoot a maximum of 878 grey and 289 common seals, (I,167 in total), by salmon aquaculture, wild salmon netting companies and sports fishing interests, but only as a 'last resort.'
The final quarter figures (Sept –Dec 2012) posted just this week reveal that 349 grey and 74 common seals were shot last year, 423 seals in total. This number represents only 38 animals less than the 461 shot in 2011, the inaugural year of the Government's Seal License Scheme. That means a total of 884 seals have been shot in just two years under the seal license scheme.
Andy Ottaway of the SPAG said, 'Under the Government's new scheme a staggering 884 seals or more, have been shot in just two years, allegedly as a 'last resort' measure. That's an awful lot of last resorts, and it strongly suggests nothing much is being done to curb seal shooting which is becoming institutionalized under a government scheme we hoped would help end it'.
The news follows revelations this week that a new seal deterrent device, developed by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University with a grant from the Scottish government, is now in the hands of a private finance company called Banker's Capital, based in New York. The device, which has proven very promising in laboratory and field trials at deterring seals without harming them or other wildlife, is now being offered to Scottish aquaculture companies for further trial, but at huge prices. SPAG knew about and backed this device some two years ago, but it is yet to be made readily available to the salmon industry.
Newspaper reports this week say Marine Harvest, the biggest producer of salmon in Scotland, has been asked to pay £5,000 per month to trial just one device. If trialled at several of their farm sites it could cost the company several tens of thousands of pounds each year, as they operate over two dozen fish farms in Scotland. The SPAG campaigners fear that if simply renting the device for trial is this expensive then it could be priced out of market while seals continue to be shot.
Andy Ottaway said 'Every day seals are shot in Scottish waters while the Scottish salmon Industry, worth half a billion pounds, quibbles over testing a device for just a few thousand pounds. It's a shameful situation and we appeal to the government and the industry to pull together and subsidize trials far and wide, because it may save seals now as well as resolve an issue that leaves a bloody stain on the image of Scotland and Scottish salmon products'