Seal debate goes mainstream


Rob Fletcher


The latest figures show that salmon farmers have shot 47 seals under licence so far this year – significantly fewer than previous years – but campaigners are still angling for the complete ban on lethal deterrents.


The news feature included footage of a site operated by Grieg Seafood Shetland, where 24 seals were shot in the last two years, but this year, since AKVA’s econets had been installed – at the cost of roughly £1 million – this has been reduced to one.


“We recognised that we’ve shot far too much in this area and this is something we’ve had a real determination to change and that’s what’s led us down the line with these econets,” said GSS's Grant Cumming.


ITV’s Consumer Editor, Chris Choi, concluded: "It's quite clear from what I've seen that alternatives to killing the seals are emerging but those new non-lethal means are costly, whereas bullets are cheap"


The news inspired a pre-emptive press release by Scottish Sea Farms – which, intriguingly, appeared on their Facebook page several days before the ITV coverage.


It states that the company has: “No wish to harm seals or other marine wildlife. Our aspiration is a universal non-lethal seal management policy which supports our moral and legal obligation to protect the welfare of our salmon. In the vast majority of locations and situations seals and our farms co-exist without any negative interaction.


“Scottish Sea Farms has allocated £1.5million in additional anti-predator measures in areas where negative seal interaction is more frequent. This investment has already dramatically improved both salmon and seal welfare in these areas. The published figures from 2013 and 2014 predate our additional investment in these areas and are not indicative of the current situation.


“We continue to work to find new solutions to this challenge including working with St. Andrews University in the research and development of new acoustic deterrent devices.


“We take our responsibilities to the environment, local communities and the welfare of our fish extremely seriously and continue to work to find solutions with the long term aim of eliminating the need for the last resort control.”