As the second largest producer of Atlantic salmon in Europe, producing 135,000 tonnes annually for an estimated value of nearly £380 million, Scotland also sees 5,000 seals killed a year - many are killed to protect salmon farms and other fishing interests. The Saving Scotland's Seals Campaign strives to end these brutal killings and create a legislation that provides seals with the protection they need, while encouraging salmon retailers to do the same.
The two species of seals in Scotland, the grey seal and the common/harbour seal are of great international importance, with 40 per cent of world grey seal population in Britain, and over 90 per cent of British grey seals breeding in Scotland. Ever since the government lifted a temporary ban on the shootings of common seals in 1988, the number of seals has begun to rapidly decline. The Sea Mammal Research Unit conducted scientific research that revealed a horrifying decline in common seals around the UK. Despite no evidence for the reason behind this decline, the Seal Protection Action Group points fingers towards the 'indiscriminate shooting by fishing interests'.
The Scottish Government reported this week that the total number of seals shot in the first nine months of 2011 was 362 under their 'Seal License' scheme that was introduced earlier in the year. Campaigners predict that the last quarter figures will reveal that a total of 500 seals have been shot in 2011, a figure less than half of the government's limit and one that shows a 85 per cent reduction in seal killings on historic levels.
However, SPAG Director Andy Ottaway has said, 'The Scottish Government's scheme has had a huge impact, but it does require that any seal shootings are a last resort measure. Unfortunately, if 500 ‘last resort' shootings have taken place in the first year of the scheme it strongly suggests that some people are simply not trying hard enough to stop them.'
TAKE ACTION: Through their website, you can write to UK and Scottish Ministers at the provided postal addresses, as well as contact your MP, MEP and MSP (for Scottish citizens), urging them to support the replacement of the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 with a Protection of Seals Act.
The website also provides visitors with the contact details of salmon retailers so that you can call them and ask them if seals are shot by the producers of the salmon you buy. You can voice your opinion on the issue, ensuring them that the shooting of seals is too high a price to pay for their salmon, if those are the practices they are indulging in.
For Scottish citizens eager to make all the difference they can, contact your MSP and encourage them to support Motion number S3M-3167, tabled by the Scottish Green Party MSP Robin Harper, which 'calls on the Scottish Government to recognise the threat to the seal population in Scottish waters from disease, climate change and shooting' and 'notes that processes for reporting and recording of seal deaths by shooting are not consistent or accurate, and therefore calls for an immediate ban on the shooting of common seals.'
Additionally, show your support for the Seal Protection Action Group by making a donation, joining their 'Seal Savers' scheme and helping raise awareness through social networking and blogging. You can put a stop to the unethical killings taking place in Scotland.
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