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LEWES, East Sussex -- The Scottish Government has just reported that a total of 362 seals were shot in the first nine months of 2011 under its new 'Seal Licence' scheme, introduced at the beginning of the year. In 2012, 58 licenses have been issued to shoot a maximum of 1,100 seals.
Last year, 68 licenses were issued to kill a maximum of 1,298 seals. The figures released reveal that a total of 295 grey and 67 common seals were shot in the first nine months of last year. The campaigners predict, when the last quarter figures are made available, around 500 seals will have been shot in 2011, less than half of the government's limit and representing a reduction in seal killings of over 85% or more on historic levels.
The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) estimates that between 3,500-5,000 seals were shot in Scottish waters each year before the new scheme was introduced and has welcomed the 'massive reduction' in seal killings based on these estimates. However, the campaigners warn that much more needs to be done in order to end these 'totally unacceptable' seal killings' altogether.
Today, SPAG Director Andy Ottaway said, "The Scottish Government's scheme has had a huge impact, but it does require that any seal shootings are a last resort measure. Unfortunately, if 500 'last resort' shootings have taken place in the first year of the scheme it strongly suggests that some people are simply not trying hard enough to stop them."
SPAG is working with a leading producer and retailer of Scottish salmon products, along with the RSPCA, International Animal Rescue and scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew's University to end all seal killings. The Salmon Aquaculture and Seals Working Group was formed in September 2010 to find non-lethal solutions to seal predation on salmon farms and other sites. Options include using correctly tensioned nets and developing new acoustic and other deterrent devices that do not harm seals or other wildlife such as dolphins and porpoises. "We aim to end all seal killings and the Scottish Government's licensing scheme is a mechanism to help us reduce them" said Ottaway, "But we do know it is perfectly possible to deter seals and other wild predators without harming them. The Scottish Government and Scottish Salmon and fisheries industry can and must do more to end these seal killings which leave an indelible stain on the international image of Scotland, Scottish Salmon and other seafood products."