Urgent call for ban on killing of UK seals

Monday, December 22, 2008
(London – December 22, 2008) – Animal welfare groups are calling for urgent action to ban the deliberate killing of seals amid an alarming decline in UK population numbers and incidents of random slaughter.

The coalition, led by the Seal Protection Action Group, this week delivered a letter to Downing Street signed by 28 animal welfare and conservation organisations calling on the British and Scottish Governments to fully protect all seals from deliberate killing under emerging Marine Bill legislation.

Despite incidents of seals being found shot or bludgeoned to death, and scientific reports showing a sharp decline in the population of common (harbour) seals, the Government stated last week that it believes current legislation to protect seals in UK waters is “appropriate” and that it has “no plans to review it”*.

The campaigners believe that the Conservation of Seals Act (1970), put in place to manage common and grey seals, is outdated and does not adequately protect our globally important common and grey seal populations. They claim the Act does little more than provide fish farmers and other fisheries interests with a licence to shoot seals in order to ‘protect’ their equipment or stock.

IFAW marine mammal scientist Russell Leaper said: “Urgent measures are needed to protect the UK’s globally important common and grey seal populations. More and more incidents of cruel killing prove that existing legislation is just not working. With worrying declines in numbers, the Government must act now, before it is too late.”

Recent research by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University has revealed what it describes as a “frightening decline” in the population of wild common (harbour) seals off the Scottish and English coasts. The population has halved in some areas of Scottish waters in just six years.

Andy Ottaway, Campaign Director of the Seal Protection Action Group, said: “This culture of killing our seals must be stopped. The British and Scottish Governments must take urgent action now to adequately protect our seals from all deliberate killing. Seals are no threat to fisheries and fish farmers can protect their stock by using non-lethal methods to deter seals. That is what our threatened seal populations need and what the public demands.”

Kerry McCarthy MP added: “I’m sure many people will be as shocked as I was to learn that seals are being shot in the UK, and will take the view that better protection for seals is needed. I would like to see measures included in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and the equivalent Scottish legislation to strengthen the existing law and ensure that our seal populations are protected.”

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