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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 00:09 GMT
Call for better seal protection
Grey seal
The animal groups claim seals are killed by fishermen
Animal welfare and conservation groups have called for new legislation to protect seals in Scottish waters.

The Scottish Seals Forum is being asked to back calls to the Scottish Executive for a comprehensive review of the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.

The groups, including Animal Concern and the Marine Conservation Society, want a Protection of Seals Act.

They claim thousands of seals are killed every year by fishing, fish farming and salmon angling industries.

Campaigners said the current act assumes that the unregulated killing of seals is acceptable and legitimate, at odds with the law relating to the conservation of other mammals in the UK including whales, dolphins, porpoises, otters and badgers.

The time has come to replace an existing outdated and unenforceable law with more effective legislation
Libby Anderson
Report author

Killing seals outside the "close season" is not regulated, and therefore seals of any age or sex can legally be killed for most of the year.

The animal groups said even during the close season, a loophole allows fisheries to shoot seals in the "vicinity" of fishing gear.

The act also allows lactating females to be killed and allows seals to be shot from moving boats which campaigners said leads to a high probability of wounding.

The campaigners said the basis of a new Protection of Seals Act should be that any killing of seals is prohibited except in specific, very exceptional circumstances, when any killing would be licensed, regulated and recorded.

Libby Anderson, co-author of the paper calling for a review, said: "The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 is a relic of an era when attitudes to the killing of wild mammals were different, and much less was known about the population dynamics and global importance of seals in UK waters.

"The act is seen as providing guidance on the killing of seals, rather than as legislation to promote their conservation."

'Important asset'

She said seals in British waters were a "very important asset" to the growing wildlife tourism industry and needed better legal protection.

"We believe that the time has come to replace an existing outdated and unenforceable law with more effective legislation that will deliver the desired conservation and animal welfare benefits," she said.

"We hope that the Scottish Seals Forum will support our efforts for improved legislation that will effectively protect seals in Scottish waters."

The Scottish Executive recently said a review of the legislation could be appropriate to "consider whether or not changes might be necessary or helpful".

Scotland is home to globally important populations of grey and common (harbour) seals.

As there is currently no requirement for records to be kept, it is not known how many seals of each species are killed.

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19 Jan 07 |  North East/N Isles
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09 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands
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20 Oct 06 |  Scotland
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19 Sep 06 |  North East/N Isles
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09 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Probe into Orkney seal shootings
25 Sep 04 |  Scotland

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