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Concern for seal welfare in Scotland as new figures reveal suffering

Released to press on 18 August 2016

New information on seal killings in Scotland has revealed hundreds of seals could be suffering painful deaths at the hands of the salmon fishing industry. Despite stipulations that carcasses should be recovered where possible for examination, the majority of carcasses are lost and over 97% of seals killed were not  subjected to a post-mortem.

Between 2011 and 2015, 1,531 seals were killed by salmon farms, salmon netting stations and angling groups yet only 91 carcasses were recovered. The information came to light following parliamentary questions to the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP from Scottish Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell. 

Under the licensing system which allows seals to be killed in Scotland carcasses should be recovered and sent for post-mortem. Post-mortems are critical to determining the extent of suffering endured by the seal before death. However, only 91 (6%) of carcasses have been recovered and just 40 (2.6%) had a post-mortem.

OneKind director Harry Huyton said:  "Whilst we understand that safety must come first and therefore many carcasses cannot be recovered, the extremely low recovery rate is surprising and disappointing.  It also suggests that many seals are being shot whilst in the water, which risks prolonged deaths and injury."

 Mark Ruskell MSP, Scottish Green Party spokesperson for Climate, Energy, Environment, Food & Farming said: “It is shocking that there is such a low rate of carcass recovery and post-mortem on seals killed by the fishing industry. These are crucial steps in preventing unnecessary suffering and pain to Scottish seals. I urge the government and fisheries across Scotland to step up and reinvigorate their commitment to increasing carcass recovery and post-mortem rates.” 

 Of the 40 post-mortems that were carried out, the Cabinet Secretary has confirmed that 36 seals died ‘almost’ immediately.

Harry Huyton added: "‘Almost’ is a very vague term and does not rule out suffering; we are calling for clarification as to how long it is taking shot seals to die. Furthermore, of these 40, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the post-mortems suggested welfare concerns for two seals and uncertainty for another four.

"OneKind is calling for the Scottish Government and the fishing industry to continue to phase out seal shooting, with a target of ending it entirely by 2020. Until then, we want to see a fresh commitment to increasing carcass recovery and post-mortem rates and to transparency with the public on the results of these post-mortems."

Alan Knight OBE, Chair of British Divers Marine Life Rescue said:  “Even though the salmon farming industry has reduced the seals they shoot over recent years we now need them to take the extra step of employing new techniques to remove the need to shoot any seals at all."




Notes to editor:


  1. OneKind is a Scottish charity based working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals through campaigns, research and education.
  2. The new information was released in response to questions from Mark Ruskell MSP to Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP


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