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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Andre nets seal of approval
Andre the seal swimming
Andre enjoys a relaxing swim now the chase is over
A seal which anglers had threatened to shoot has been awarded a fishing permit amid complaints he is plundering salmon stocks in the River Leven.

Divers called it a day on Sunday after spending about 12 hours trying in vain to catch Andre also known as Salty, and now nicknamed Houdini.

Andre had faced execution at dawn on Wednesday by anglers on the River Leven, who accused him of eating salmon stocks worth thousands of pounds.

However, after pressure from the media and hundreds of locals who turned out to protest, plans to shoot the three-year-old seal were dropped.

He certainly has a lot of personality, but he couldn't possibly defend himself in court
Michael Brady LLAIA

The legal permit, issue 999, even features a passport-sized photograph of Andre and runs until 31 October.

Doreen Graham, from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), said the seal's natural habitat was salty, not fresh, water.

Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association (LLAIA) chairman Michael Brady said Andre would be released back to his natural habitat after the permit expired.

Andre has become a popular tourist attraction since he first appeared in Loch Lomond a year ago.

Big appetite

He became stranded in shallow water after managing to swim into the River Leven and over a weir at Balloch, as he tried to make his way back to the sea.

After 31 October he will be transported to Fife, where he will be released amongst a colony of grey seals.

Mr Brady said: "Andre has been committing a poaching offence by eating all our salmon while he has been here.

"He has already cost us thousands of pounds in fish and through permits which we have been unable to sell, so the least we could do until he is caught, is to make it legal.

Marine experts trying to catch Andre the seal
Repeated capture attempts failed

"He certainly has a lot of personality, but he couldn't possibly defend himself in court."

In an accompanying letter to the association's new member, Mr Brady wrote: "We have decided to issue you with a fishing permit for the season.

"This will allow you to fish in Loch Lomond and the River Leven.

"It will also allow you to fish in the River Fruin and the River Endrick."

On a more serious note, Mr Brady called for a pilot area to be created to protect fishing and wildlife stocks.

Rescue co-ordinator Gareth Norman said the seal had out-witted them.

Angling Improvement Association, Michael Brady
"He's a real character"

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