THE number of seals shot by “government licensed killers” on Scottish fish farms can finally be revealed.
The Scottish Government has released figures through a Freedom Of Information request that shows 310 seals have been shot across eight fish-farms who hold a shooting permit.
But the government has withheld the names of the individual farms for fear of causing an uprising amongst animal welfare groups.
But campaigners claim there is no need for even one animal to be shot as they can be kept away from stock with high-tension nets.
Since the start of 2011 eight companies were granted permission to kill seals who eat salmon from underwater cages – but it was understand that killing was a last resort.
There are four companies who have shot more than 50 seals since 2011 – they are The Scottish Salmon Co. (75), Hjaltland Seafarms (65), Scottish Seafarms (54) and Meridian Salmon Group (52).
Fish company Marine Harvest shot 43 of the marine mammals since last year and three other companies Loch Duart, Dawnfresh Farming and Bound Skerries Seafoods shot 10, 7 and 4 respectively.
Along with the figures the government said: “In the past, fringe animal rights group have targeted individuals implicated either directly or indirectly in shooting seals with verbal abuse, hate mail unpleasant and noxious parcels, physical intimidation, assault and have also caused property damage.”
But David Scott from Sea Shepherd UK said that while a campaigner would go to in order to stop the killing of seals the accusations made by officials is untrue.
He said: “This is blatant scaremongering with zero corroborative evidence and is a gross insult to an organisation which has never harmed a single person in its 35 year history.
“No representative of Sea Shepherd would ever permit harm to any person, no matter how vile their actions.
“I would willingly put myself between a government licensed killer and his intended victim, especially if that was a pregnant or nursing seal.
“I would do no harm to the rifleman, nor would I break any laws in doing so – but I would protect the seal.”
Sea Shepherd is known for its strong campaigns against animal killing, such as using their boats to try and block Japanese whalers.
Its founder Paul Watson is also on the international wanted list after skipping bail in Germany to avoid the “bogus” charges of Japan.
Don Staniford from the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture said that the individual farms should be named and shamed.
Mr Staniford said: “The Scottish Government should be ashamed of itself for shielding Scotland’s foreign-owned salmon farms from public scrutiny.”
John Robins, secretary of the Save Our Seals Fund also said the public had a right to know of the seal shooting sites so that the numbers could be checked.
The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation pointed out that there were more than 120,000 seals in the country’s waters.
The SSPO also said that millions of pounds has been invested in non-lethal methods of keeping seals out.
AN SSPO spokesman said: “Farmers are legally required to protect the welfare of their salmon. As one rogue seal can kill thousands of fish, removal by anglers, netsmen and farmers is permitted as a last resort strictly under license by the Scottish Government.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said they would not disclose the information “due to the risks of individual fisheries or farms, or their employees, being identified and becoming the target of action by interest groups.”