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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 00:13 GMT
Seal 'protection zone' extended
Common seal pup
No single factor is thought to have caused the drop in seal numbers
New measures to protect common seals around Scotland have come into force.

The Conservation of Seals (Scotland) Order 2007 brings in a year-round close season for areas where there has been a 40% drop in seal numbers.

This includes Shetland, Orkney and an area of the east coast between Stonehaven and Dunbar.

The shooting of common seals will only be possible with a licence from the Scottish Executive or under the terms of the "netsmen's defence".

Monitoring effectiveness

This defence protects fishing nets or catches.

The Scottish Executive said it was unlikely that any single factor was responsible for the reduction in numbers.

There is no evidence it is a direct result of the phocine distemper virus outbreak among seals in 2002, as no large numbers of carcasses were reported at that time.

The executive said it was also unlikely to be a direct result of shooting alone for similar reasons. It is also unclear whether this reduction is a short-term or longer-term phenomenon.

The executive, Scottish Natural Heritage and Sea Mammal Research Unit will monitor the effectiveness of the new order and consider research into the possible causes of the decline in common seal numbers.


SEE ALSO
Call for better seal protection
02 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Islands seal numbers show decline
19 Jan 07 |  North East/N Isles
Further call for seal cull debate
09 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Commissioner hears seal cull call
20 Oct 06 |  Scotland
Pregnant seals killed in Orkney
19 Sep 06 |  North East/N Isles
Staff threatened after seal shot
09 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Probe into Orkney seal shootings
25 Sep 04 |  Scotland

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