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EAST SUSSEX, England -- Campaigners warned tourists to stay away from Scotland if they care about wildlife, especially seals, as they may be horrified to witness mass seal shootings.
The warning comes as television presenter Neil Oliver launched a £350,000 campaign promoting Scotland as a top location for wildlife watching. The campaign highlights 'Scotland's Big 5' animals to see: red deer, otter, and red squirrel, golden eagle and harbor seals. Neil Oliver is also the voice of 'Visit Scotland's 'Surprise Yourself' tourism campaign, which targets the UK and Irish tourism market.
Andy Ottaway Director of the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) said today 'At least 1,000 seals have been reported shot in Scotland in just over two years. Tourists are in for a very nasty surprise indeed if they find themselves watching seal slaughter while on their holiday.'
The Government's new tourism campaign comes as the picturesque holiday village of Crovie in Aberdeenshire remains 'under siege' from salmon fishermen shooting seals in open public view. It has been for months, with bloody seal carcasses often washing up on the local beaches. Last year, an English couple cut short a holiday in Crovie after witnessing seals being shot in the bay beneath their cottage. At least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by the Usan Salmon Fisheries Company, based in Montrose, which has a license to shoot seals from the government.
SPAG raised concerns over this incident with Marine Scotland and were shocked to be told the company 'had not exceeded the terms of their license. The same company has been granted a further licence to shoot seals this year, despite the objections of locals, some of whom depend on letting holiday cottages in the village, and wildlife campaigners
In March, the Usan seal shooters returned to Crovie and have been hanging hand-painted signs on the postbox and pier saying 'seal management in progress' as they wait to shoot any seals that approach their salmon nets in the bay. Some locals claim they have been fishing illegally, as well as using their nets as a 'baited trap' to shoot seals.
The Scottish Government issues licences to shoot over 1,000 seals each year, but supposedly only as a 'last resort' measure to protect fish-farms, salmon nets and fly-fishing rivers from seal damage if other measures fail. SPAG argues that strictly non-lethal measures, such as acoustic-scarers, can and should be used to deter seals without harming them or other wildlife.
The expanding Scottish salmon industry is in increasing conflict with wildlife, including seals, which are being shot in large numbers as a consequence. 'Asking people to visit Scotland to watch the very same seals that are being slaughtered is quite appalling said Ottaway, 'Almost 10 seals are shot every week in Scotland and that will horrify many people, including any tourists unfortunate enough to witness it'.