Seal cubs in the UK are being left to starve to death as their mothers are slaughtered by Britain’s fish farming industry.
Hundreds of the protected animals are being secretly shot along the nation’s coast every year, yet the culling is legal.
In Scotland alone, 205 seals were killed in 2014 as farmers looked to protect their stocks of salmon and other fish.
But campaigners claim this is the tip of the iceberg as those figures are not independently verified and kills are not recorded for the rest of the UK.
Andy Ottaway, director of the Seal Protection Action Group, said: “There’s a lot of prejudice against seals and people see them as pests.
“Before we had an organised cull which was stopped by public opinion. But this is an ongoing cull that goes on all year.
“And it is leaving young pups to starve when their mothers are killed.
“People eating Scottish salmon don’t realise the price seals are paying.
The animals are a protected species under EU law but there are exceptions for killing them to protect fish or equipment.
In Scotland farmers and waterways managers need a licence to cull seals.
They have to stick to quotas and record numbers killed, but there is no such requirement for the rest of the UK.
Describing the problem of baby seals being left to die, Mr Ottaway said: “If there’s a weaning pup and its mum has been killed, it won’t go back to feed it and it starves.
“The licence in Scotland allows seals to be shot all year round which means they are shot in the breeding season.
“When the licence was introduced we asked for at least a ban during the breeding season but the Scottish government said no.
“If you’re shooting them throughout breeding season there’s a high probability you’re shooting mothers. A quarter to half of them will be with pups.”
Mr Ottaway said the scale of the slaughter was unclear in the rest of the UK.
He continued: “Around the North there are salmon rivers and we know seals are being shot there.
“There was a case in South Shields when someone was shooting seals from a boat.
“People reported him to the police and when officers turned up they had to tell them it’s perfectly legal. It’s terrible.”
Holidaymakers in Scotland have been left equally shocked by the killing.
Mr Ottaway said: “People do not realise that behind the scenes wholesale slaughter is going on.
“Visitors have been left horrified when they have been on holiday and seen seals being shot at the beach in front of them and their children.”
Figures from Scotland show a decline in kills from 459 in 2011 to 433 in 2012, 274 in 2013 and 205 in 2014.
This year the Government has authorised the deaths of up to 859 – 662 grey seals and 197 common seals.
But campaigners argue none should die and demanded companies invested in nets and acoustic deterrents.
Mr Ottaway said: “The bullet is a cheap and permanent solution for those that dislike seals and blame them for fish crashes caused by over-fishing.
“Anywhere where there is salmon netting or angling there is a likelihood of seals being ‘controlled’.”
He spoke amid global outrage at the start of the Canadian seal cull, where up to 468,000 will be hunted for their pelts.
There have been no organised culls in Britain since 1978 but fish farmers still insist they need to control them.
The Scottish salmon industry alone produces 155,000 tons of fish a year, has annual exports of more than £285million and employs thousands of people.
Scott Landsburgh, head of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, said: “We have championed deterrence techniques that are designed to keep seals away from our fish, and shooting is always last resort.
“When a determined seal attacks fish in our pens it can kill and damage large numbers and it is important that we do whatever we can to reduce the chances of this happening.”
But Mimi Bekhechi, of animal rights group PETA, insisted: “There is no justification for shooting beautiful animals to protect the cruel and unnecessary fish-farming industry.”
A spokesman for another campaign group, Sea Shepherd UK, added: “Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot – but this official declared number come solely from the companies and individuals who pull the triggers of the guns.
“Sea Shepherd UK is convinced the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have previously claimed up to 2,000 grey and common seals are shot around Scotland’s coast.”
Announcing the Winners of Scubaverse’s November 2022 Underwater Photo & Video Contests
Another bumper month packed with amazing images and videos from around the world! It has certainly been another great month for entries in both contests – your underwater photos and videos are just getting better and better! Thanks to all who entered.
If you’re not a winner this month, then please do try again. December’s photo and video contests are now open.
Tips for… Refreshing Skills
A hugely important subject, and one that should be considered by any diver regardless of your training level. Just like anything, sometimes life gets in the way, we get sidetracked and before you know it, it’s been 2 months out of the water. It may not seem like a lot, but we naturally start to forget things when they are not used. We slow down our actions as we are out of practise and have to think a little more in order to retrieve the information to help make decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with this of course, we cannot always be diving! But it is important that we refresh before getting straight back into it. We obviously conduct a lot of refresher courses here at the dive centre, but we are also realistic, knowing that not everyone will want to pay to refresh their skills with an instructor. That’s also fine too, just be sensible.
Our tips for this would be the following; some will likely seem a little common sense… but it’s always good to have a reminder right?!
First off, when getting back to diving, choose a buddy that you usually dive with or someone that has a higher level of competency in diving. This will give you the reassurance in the water and not have to be worrying about the others person whilst getting back into it yourself.
Secondly, choose a site that you know. Don’t be jumping straight in having seen an amazing new site that you want to try out… that can wait for another time. You have already had a break in your actual diving, without having to then also consider navigating and a new dive plan.
Next, try to leave out the brand new equipment. It’s great that getting back into diving you have decided to buy yourself a new drysuit, fins and BCD, but it all might be a little bit much. Let’s concentrate on just getting back into the water and then move onto those new additions. This kind of change can make even the best of divers anxious.
Last but not least, there’s nothing wrong with staying shallow. Our first dive to get back into it, does not need to break our dive depth record. Stay shallow, enjoy the marine life at this depth, and keep the dive nice and easy. Practise those skills if you would like to, make sure you know where all your equipment is positioned and get comfortable. The ocean isn’t going anywhere… there’s always tomorrow to get in for another!
Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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