Salmon farmers are shooting seals instead of installing non-lethal deterrents, campaigners say


ONLY one in five salmon farms are fitted with the most effective non-lethal seal deterrents – fueling fresh claims that the iconic Scottish animals are being shot unnecessarily.

Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochead has said that 80% of salmon farms are not using anti-predator nets to prevent seals from destroying salmon stocks.

And the latest figures on seals shot by salmon farmers – from January to July of this year – show that farms without the nets are shooting far more than those who deploy them.

The figures give fresh breath to claims that seals are being shot unnecessarily, as farmers are unwilling to foot the hefty bill of installing the non-lethal nets.

All sites in Scotland are fitted with some form of seal deterrent.

But evidence suggests that anti-predator nets are the most effective – although they cost an average of £1m to install.

Grieg-Seafood, which uses anti-predator nets, shot just one seal over the most recent six month period.

Meanwhile, other farms not using the non-lethal nets have shot up to 15 seals which have threatened their salmon.

Now campaigners have made new calls for bodies like the RSPCA to withdraw their endorsement of farmed salmon produced by firms that do not use the non-lethal nets.

And protests are planned next month in London and outside the RSPCA head offices in Sussex.

Don Staniford, an environmental campaigner for the cause, said: “The price for seal-friendly farmed salmon is the installation of predator nets, and that could be £1m for each salmon farm.

“Given that there are 143 active salmon farms in Scotland and one in five have installed them, the cost to the Scottish salmon industry could be well over £100m

“Until all salmon farms install predator nets, consumers should boycott all Scottish salmon.”

Richard Lochead recently outlined his position in a letter to his fellow MSP Roderick Campbell.

It read: “All fish farms included in applications for a seal licence already employ at least one, and many a range of, non-lethal alternatives.

“All use tensioned nets, almost half use acoustic deterrents, a third use seal blinds, and a fifth use anti-predator nets.

“The use of such measures has contributed to an overall reduction of 55% in seal shooting since the system was introduced in 2011.”