By Mairi Thomson
Protesters gathered outside Parliament this morning to protest against the killing of seals in the fishing industry.
The Seal Protection Action Group is calling for an “immediate and comprehensive” ban on the deliberate killing of seals by Scottish salmon producers and other fisheries in the UK, and are calling on the public to boycott buying salmon to help save seals.
They used their visit to deliver a letter to Alex Salmond detailing the decline in seal numbers in Scotland. They also highlighted that under the Conservation of Seals Act (1970) seals are not protected against shooting except during the breeding seasons or in areas with conservation orders.
Andy Ottaway, the leader of the Seal Protection Group said: “Government scientists have warned that there is a serious decline of common seals in Scottish Waters. We’re here to say to the government there must be an immediate ceasefire on seals because seals are still being shot in huge numbers by Scottish salmon producers. We believe that every single seal’s life is extremely valuable, it’s a plummeting population and seal shooting has simply got to stop.
“We’ve spoken to a range of producers and retailers and they all agree that if we use the properly tensioned nets to exclude seals and use other methods we can actually deter seals from going into fish nets without having to shoot them.”
“Ultimately we’re saying to the public in the lead up to Christmas, which is a big time for Scottish salmon sales – if the producers won’t stop shooting the seals, if the government won’t protect the seals, then the consumers have the buying power to stop the killing by simply refusing to buy Scottish Salmon.”
It is estimated that 5,000 seals are shot in Scottish waters each year by salmon farm and fisheries interests.
Aileen Campbell MSP said: “Scientists have been looking at this as well and I don’t think you can necessarily pinpoint it to one factor, but I definately think if that’s the numbers that are being killed then we need to look at the reasons why that’s happening and to look towards ways to stop
this happening, if that indeed is what is desirable. ”
“Fish farming is incredibly important to the Scottish economy, people associate salmon with Scotland and it’s a global brand that people recognise so I think it’s crucial to the Scottish economy. I don’t know that we always associate the culling with fish farming because scientists have said that there may be other reasons for those deaths but certainly if culling is one of the reasons then we need to look forward to finding the reasons those numbers are being killed.”
In January this year a public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates for Animals found that 75% of the Scottish public support the killing of seals being made illegal in Scottish waters with only 12% supporting Fish farmers and fishermen continuing to kill them.