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Campaigners say licensing system to curb seal shooting has failed

The Seal Protection Action Group say a law banning seal shooting except as a 'last resort' is not working.

Signed, 'sealed', delivered: The quest of one determined seal
© STV

Animal campaigners have accused the Scottish Government of failing to curb seal shooting after figures showed nearly 900 seals were shot over the last two years.

The Seal Protection Action Group (Spag) described the figures, which follow the introduction of a new licensing system in 2011, as "staggering".

Under the Marine Scotland Act 2010, it is an offence to kill or injure a seal except under licence. Licensees are expected to follow the principle that seals should only be shot as a last resort.

According to the figures, 461 seals were shot in 2011 and 423 in 2012. Last year's figure comprised 349 grey seals and 74 common seals.

A total of 61 licences were granted last year to fishfarms, wild salmon netting companies and sports fishing interests.

Spag spokesman Andy Ottaway 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 institutionalised under a Government scheme we hoped would help end it."

He said a new device to deter seals without harming them had been developed by experts at St Andrews University, but claimed costs were putting companies off trialling this.

Mr 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 subsidise 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."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "It is now illegal to shoot a seal except under very strict licensing conditions. The numbers of seals actually shot represent less than 37% of those permitted under licence and less than 1% of the overall seal population.

"We will continue to work with the fish farming and wild fisheries interests to consider further options for seal management. We have also created new Seal Conservation Areas and work is being progressed to introduce further protection through designated seal 'haul out' sites."

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