Ban on seal shooting must be watertight, urges charity
OneKind has today (10 June 2020) welcomed moves to ban the killing, injuring and taking of seals in Scotland within the next few months, while condemning a “shocking” upward trend in seal shooting over the last few months.
The Scottish Government has lodged amendments to animal welfare legislation in the Scottish Parliament, deleting the two main grounds for granting licences to shoot seals – to protect the health and welfare of farmed fish and to prevent serious damage to fisheries and fish farms. The penalties for anyone convicted of illegal seal shooting will also be raised to an unlimited fine and a maximum five years’ imprisonment.
Officials from Marine Scotland told the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee last week that the intention of the amendments is to enhance and improve the welfare of seals. However, the timing is also closely related to Scotland’s need to comply with the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) which would ban imports of Scottish fish and fish products if it does not put legislation in place to prohibit the killing of marine mammals by next year.
Meanwhile, figures published today by Marine Scotland show that reported seal killings have increased significantly over the last year, with a total of 97 seals shot in 2019 compared with 86 in 2018. Even more concerning, a total of 32 seals – 19 grey seals and 13 common (harbour) seals – were killed in early 2020, all but one of them shot at fish farms. The number for the same period in 2019 was 21.
The amendments have been lodged late in the progress of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill which will pass Stage 3 next Wednesday. Current seal licences run till 31 January 2021, however, and the charity is concerned that any delay in implementing full protection could lead to increased killing.
Libby Anderson, OneKind Policy Advisor, said:
“The newly published figures indicate that seal killing is creeping up again and that a ban is urgently required in Scotland, on animal welfare grounds.
“OneKind was preparing a new advocacy campaign to press for this and we are obviously pleased at the prospect of an effective ban on seal shooting in Scotland. Our main aim now is to ensure that the ban is permanent, comprehensive and watertight.
“OneKind has raised concerns about the potential for a spike in seal shooting if the legislation is not implemented immediately. We saw that happen last year when beavers received protected status in Scotland, and the new figures reinforce the need to learn from that experience. The increase in shooting over the last two reported periods is shocking – 32 seals killed in 2020 as opposed to 21 in the same period last year. Given that there are existing powers under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to vary or revoke licences, we would like to see those invoked to stop seal shooting as soon as the legislation is passed.
“We look forward to greater focus on ensuring that non-lethal deterrence methods are humane and safe for all marine mammals, and we understand that Marine Scotland is open to working with NGOs in that area.
“After ten years of licensed seal killing all year round in Scotland, next Wednesday will be a good day for Scotland’s seals – and the new figures show that it can’t come too soon.”
OneKind is celebrating Scotland’s seals on its LOOK OUT for SEALS pages, inviting members of the public to send in photographs, drawings and writing about these fascinating and much-loved creatures.