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1978: Grey seal cull dramatically reduced
The number of seals due to be culled in the Orkneys and Western Islands has been dramatically reduced following public pressure.

Just 2,000 seals will now be killed, 2,300 less than originally planned.

A group of Norwegian hunters, in their boat the Kvitungen, have been sent home leaving local hunters to carry out the cull.

Announcing the decision, Scottish Secretary Brian Millan said he believed scientific advice he had received was correct but due to widespread public concern he had decided to revise the number of seals to be killed.

"In the light of this situation and notwithstanding what I have said about the need for an adult cull I have decided to withdraw the Norwegian firm" he said.

The Natural Environment Research Council which advised the government to carry out the cull said if no action were taken the number of seals would double, to 140,000, in ten years.

Seals account for an annual loss of 12m to the fishing industry as a result of the amount of fish they consume.

An enormous victory for public opinion
Greenpeace director Peter Wilkinson

The Rainbow Warrior trawler, owned by conservation group Greenpeace, has spent two weeks trailing the Norwegian boat preventing the start of the cull.

The group claimed victory in preventing the mass killing. Director Peter Wilkinson said: "We have always said there may be a case for culling the seals. But the evidence has simply not been made available."

"This is magnificent news and an enormous victory for public opinion" he added.

The widespread campaign against the cull has resulted in Downing Street receiving over 14,000 letters in protest to the decision.

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Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior
The Rainbow Warrior protected the seals


In Context
The reduced seal cull was carried out by local hunters in December 1978.

British waters hold around 40% of the world population of grey seals.

Since the 1960s the population of grey seals has risen an average of 6% per year.

By 1999 there were 123,000 grey seals in Britain with 93% found in Scotland.

In 1985 the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French secret service agents while in Auckland harbour, New Zealand. The trawler was replaced by a second Rainbow Warrior which continues to be used in environmental campaigns by Greenpeace.

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