Scotland has banned the fishing industry from shooting seals.
According to the Humane Society International (HSI), every year a significant number of seals are shot in Scotland. This is done in a bid to protect commercial fish farms and fisheries.
The Scottish Parliament has now approved a new bill, called the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections, and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, which will put an end to the cull. The bill amends the Marine Scotland Act of 2010. It repeals the provision to grant licenses to shoot seals to protect fisheries and fish farms.
While the ban will have a positive impact on animal welfare, HSI notes that it is linked to the US Marine Mammal Protection Act’s regulatory requirements. These come into effect from the beginning of 2022. The requirements mean that Scotland would not be able to export salmon to the U.S. in two years’ time if seal shooting continued.
Since 2011, the Scottish government estimates nearly 2,000 seals have been shot. HSI states that the actual figure could be higher, due to under-reporting. There is also no independent verification of the kills.
Shooting does not always lead to instant death, says HSI, which prolongs the animal’s suffering, but also means that they may not show up in official statistics.
Pregnant females can also be shot, as well as those with dependent pups.
‘Critically Important for Seal Welfare’
“An alarming number of seals are shot and killed in Scottish waters,” said HSI’s senior marine scientist Mark Simmonds OBE in a statement. “There is evidence that some are likely to be injured and die a slow and painful death at sea.”
He added that the ban on seal shooting is “critically important for seal welfare in British waters.”
The penalty for shooting a seal illegally has also increased. Perpetrators could receive a prison sentence of up to one year or a £40,000 fine, or, on indictment, they could receive an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison.
The UK has two seal species: the rare grey seal and the more common harbour seal. Of the former, the UK is home to around 40 percent of the world population, of the latter, it’s home to around 5 percent of the world population.
“We share our seas with these charismatic marine mammals,” said Simmonds. “It is simply unacceptable to kill them for eating the fish in their ocean home.”