Please scroll down page for: -
+ Hope Spots & Rewilding.
+ COP to Curtains.
+ Bad Practice.
+ People; Part Problem - Part Solution?
+ Plastic, Plastic, Plastic.
+ Scottish Parliamentary Petition: Closed Containment.
+ Official Shot Seal Numbers.
The latest terminology in trying to protect our seas and oceans are Hope Spots and Rewilding. Most will have heard about marine reserves, even Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the later have been so underused, under-protected and not enforced that the term; Highly Protected Marine Area has been introduced, even then in Scotland, no definition and at just 10% suggested by 2026; too little, too late.
The main issue with any form of protection is that our leaders/politicians are often influenced by the powerful commercial industries, those that profit from exploiting and extracting. Fishing is probably the oldest form of extraction, one of the last ‘hunter-gatherers’. Compounded now with the industrial scale that it is carried out, using some of the most destructive methods, dredging and bottom trawling which damages entire seabed communities. The very same ecosystems that produce future fish stocks, a short-term greed stance. This combined with modern technology, including advanced fish finders and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that are now precise, to pin-point accuracy, merged with electronic chart plotters that enable even the worst fisher-helms to navigate, open most areas and enable targeting what is left of an over-fished system.
If this were not bad enough, then we find salmon farming, an often poorly regulated or self-regulated, caged method of farming, fish-eating fish which would normally roam our oceans during four or five years, stocked at increasingly higher and higher densities, which causes its own problems such as a breeding ground for sea lice, these lice are having a detrimental effect on wild salmonid populations. So poor are the current husbandry methods that these fish have to be routinely fed antibiotics and undergo ‘treatments’ that kill off copepods, an important part of the marine food web, devastating trophic levels. These farmed or ‘pharmed’ as some environmentalists call them require massive amounts of caught, termed ‘wet’ fish. This fish often comes from already depleted fisheries and/or from areas where many nations rely on such fish as their main source of protein.
Seas and oceans need rest bite, they need chance to recover and if done properly without being abused and illegally exploited they can recover, the major issue here is, “IF”! Some marine reserves have been successful but in order for this success they need to be large enough to actually work and include ‘no-take-zones’, or be entirely no-take and in some cases ‘no-put’. That includes fish farm structures and chemicals.
The latest term given to special areas that require assistance to keep them special are Hope Spots and they are emerging with local support all around the world, Dr Sylvia Earle often dubbed, ‘Her Deepness’, due to her deep ocean explorations has a new book; ‘Ocean, A Global Odyssey’, which highlights some of the successes.
Seas and oceans can be resilient, partly due to the tides and currents which flush areas with replenished water, salty water rich in nutrients and species waiting for the right conditions to flourish. They only need the right settings, which includes substrate to become established, species such as sea grass and shellfish. Both of these species are very important ecosystem stabilisers, they produce the base ecosystems on which everything else can develop. Rewilding is the term given to leaving some areas, free from manmade influences. Even some badly affected regions can recover if given chance.
With a combination of climate change and man’s commercial scale abuse time is running out, if ‘tipping-points’ are reached the seas and oceans will struggle to replenish; dewilding or impoverished. ‘Rewilding the Sea’, a book just out by Charles Clover, is well worth a read.
We know what to do, the Royal Commission’s, ‘Turning the Tide’ report (2004), showed us the way, with 30% No-Take-Zones, areas that could be termed, ‘rewilding’ The big question is WILL WE DO IT?
Remember COP 26, and pledges to keep Global Warming to below 1.5 degrees Centigrade? The news has revealed that scientists have stated that there is a 50/50 chance of exceeding 1.5oC in the next 5 years! At Marine Concern, we consider that climate change, biodiversity loss and both the marine and terrestrial environments, must all be taken as one. Not individual, stand-alone items which can be ignored by governments, leaders and industry.
Such is the case with the marine environment in Scotland, we were lucky enough to be able to ask a General Question but the outlook is not good! Our account follows; -
During the COP 26 in Glasgow, the MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley Constituency
kindly asked a Scottish Government Parliamentary, General Question, with direction from Marine Concern.
Re: Marine Environment (Protection)
Q. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the measures it has been taking to protect and enhance the marine environment through no-take zones and marine protected areas. (S6O-00330)
A. The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Lorna Slater)
“Following recent designations, including the Red Rocks and Longay urgent MPA for the critically endangered flapper skate, the marine protected area network now covers 37 per cent of our seas. Most sites already have the required protective measures in place, and we have committed to putting in place further fisheries management measures on MPAs, where required, by March 2024.
We have also committed to designating, by 2026, 10 per cent of our waters as highly protected marine areas, which will provide a higher level of protection, providing for additional recovery and enhancement of the marine environment”.
The Minster ended by saying, “I would be very happy to meet Ms Whitham to discuss activity on the Ayrshire coast further”.
The meeting took place on the 19/04/2022 by VC, with Mairi McAllan MSP
Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform,
Elena Whitham, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley Constituency,
two members from Marine Scotland – HPMA Team and
Mark Carter (Marine Concern).
According to Mark the following outcomes were; -
From what was discussed re: the 10% HPMA by 2026 would put Scotland well behind the UN Global Conservation Conference in China (which has been delayed several times due to the pandemic).
“According to the UN, one million species of plants and animals are now under threat.
Next month, world leaders will gather in China to set the agenda of global conservation efforts for the next decade. Many countries are now aligning themselves with a target of protecting 30% of the Earth's surface by 2030”.
Marine Concern states, that this is: Far too little, far too late! In fact, Marine Concern has previously highlighted the meaning of using different terminology when dealing with marine protection areas, the actual meaning of HMPAs has yet to be defined in Scotland.
Over ten years ago, Marine Concern asked the question to the Scottish government,
“Please can you define the meaning of, SUSTAINABLE”?
Marine Concern is still waiting for the reply!
The Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee recently posted the following, The Sea Fish (Prohibition on Fishing) (Firth of Clyde) Order 2022 (SSI 2022/5). Stating, “the closures provided for by the new SSI are smaller in size but would still remove all exemptions, meaning that fishing activity by any method would be prohibited during the seasonal closure, in order to increase the protection for spawning cod”.
Marine Scotland hosted an online comments forum at very short notice, where it was noted that the Clyde cod closure programme had fail over the last 20 years. Several people attending the meeting called for the closed area to be increased. It was mentioned that cod spawning grounds were known along the north west Ayrshire coastline and that this area was not included.
Cod are vulnerable while spawning, this includes acoustic, physical from disturbance, and sedimentation. They spawn in sand and gravels in a process known as lekking, they grunt and travel up to ten meters from the seabed. During this time if they are disturbed, they are unlikely to return.
With so much known about cod spawning and its importance to both the species and fisheries, you could expect more to be done in order to protect future stocks. With dismay, the process outlined by the Scottish government is to reduce the closed area.
We fail to see the logic in reducing an area and process that has systematically failed for the duration of the closed box. We believe that it is due to the influence of the mobile fishing sector and nothing to do with the science. Yet another example of the Scottish government and Marine Scotland failing in its duty to protect Scottish seas.
Note to Marine Scotland/Scottish government, please provide the scientific evidence behind this current thinking.
Observations and recordings are important. Disemination of the findings is vital. ALL stakeholders need to be informed and included in marine managment processes.
Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases and Biodiversity Loss; what you need to know in order to understand the processes and associated problems.
The gases associated with climate change, in effect produce a ‘blanket’ in the upper atmosphere. The high energy emissions from the sun pass through but the lower levels of energy, those with longer wavelengths are trapped, the result is warming.
The main drivers of climate change are; carbon dioxide CO2 (largest by volume and longest lasting), methane CH4 (four times as potent as CO2), and nitrous oxide N2O (around 300 times worse than CO2 the main cause being industrial scale agriculture from concentrated Nitrogen N2 fertilizers).
The Industrial Revolution is seen as the precursor to present day climate change and gives us a start point for CO2 levels. In terms of Parts Per Million (ppm) pre combustion-industry was at 280ppm, it is now at a record level, over 400ppm! (2020 - 412.5ppm). Putting that into perspective, data from ice cores indicate that the CO2 levels have not exceeded 300ppm in the last million years. This matters because three million years ago, with high CO2 levels, the temperature increase was 2 to 3 degrees and the sea level rise was between 15 to 25 metres! On our current trajectory, one estimate suggests a rise of CO2 exceeding 900ppm.
Water has one of the highest latent heat capacities of any commonly occurring material, this gives it the ability to act as a thermal buffer. In science terms this heat capacity can be worked with as a ratio known as specific heat. The salt in seawater with a salinity of 35 (another ratio, the average salinity [ 35grams/1litre of water]) has an effect, boiling and freezing point are slightly different, seawater with a salinity of 35 freezes at -1.80C. This is why salt is added to roads in the winter to prevent freezing.
The buffering effect is vital in maintaining global temperatures but now even with the oceans high latent heat capacity the temperature of seawater is rising. This has several important effects; rising heat from ocean hot-spots drives our air flows, the more intense the faster the movement, warm water absorbs less gas including CO2 therefore less CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere. Water mixing with carbon alters the pH or acidity/alkalinity levels and this can have an adverse effect on marine life, especially the shells of marine organisms.
The science bit:
The pH level uses a logarithmic scale so a small change in the number is actually a big deal. A 0.1 lowering is equivalent to a 30% increase in acidity. Not only does this have the ability to dissolve shells but this affect has a knock-on for economics and food supplies. If this acidity, known as ocean acidification, carries on increasing, coral reefs and many marine species with shells and exoskeletons will become extinct. Problems associated with shells made of calcium carbonate CaCO3 is nothing new, they also dissolve under extreme pressure, around 4,000m, this is known as the CCD or CCCD (Calcium Carbonate Compensation Depth). Therefore, we are already well aware of the fragility of marine organisms which utilise CaCO3 or a calcite polymorph Aragonite, which is even less stable.
The ocean conveyor is the term given to ocean currents that encircle the world. These currents are vital to current climatic conditions. The Arctic, effectively gives the system a ‘kick-start’, cold dense, brine water sinks to the seabed and is pushed south, to Antarctica, this circular flowing cold ocean provides for a sling-shot effect, as the current joins the rest of the globes five oceans. Without the sinking cold Arctic waters, the system slows, the Arctic is warming, meaning less cold water to sink. The Gulf Stream, and one of its off-shoots the North Atlantic Drift Current give northern Europe its mild climate, glaciers exist at the same latitude elsewhere in the world, the changes would be catastrophic.
Critics rightly state that CO2 levels fluctuate naturally and this is seen in ice cores during the ice ages and interglacial periods but these are very different from the rise seen since the industrial revolution. It is anthropogenic activities that are responsible for the current increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
The World Meteorological Organisation WMO's State of the Global Climate 2020 report, described increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting from human activities, as a major driver of climate change. In the last 60 years atmospheric CO2 has increased annually, around 100 times faster than natural increases.
Mass Extinction Events are not new, but if we continue on our current path, that is exactly what the human race will cause, and that won’t just effect humans, many species have already gone extinct in our lifetime, in geological terms, this is the Anthropocene.
One of the most import matters to come out of the climate change process is that of biodiversity loss. These matters were considered and signed up to during the Rio ‘Earth’ Summit, that was in 1992! The ‘Precautionary Principle’, was agreed, that is where when we do not have sufficient science then we must take a precautionary approach, this has not been used anywhere near enough, as there is still a great deal that we do not understand in the marine environment, complexities of a food web is one example. Biotechnology is another, it identifies a substance from the natural environment, we are able to produce a product commercially, biotechnology could protect from future pathogens, if we destroy the route source, we will never know.
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s 25th report, ‘Turning the Tide’, suggested that 30% no-take-zones were required if we are to support future marine extraction. That was 17 years ago. In Scotland the Scottish government suggest that 37% of Scottish seas are afforded protection; Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), however damaging processes such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling are still permitted, this damages seabed communities, that equates to NO PROTECTION! Scotland and indeed global waters need 30% No-Take-Zones, Scotland has less than 5%!
So here we are COP26, already some of the big polluters are not in agreement over coal emissions, the Prime Minister, asks for countries to engage, yet fails to rule out the new Cambo oil field. Another coal mine is being considered in the north of England, hypocrisy does not come close, from arguably the one case where the UK has been a world leader, that of the very process, the industrial revolution, the results of which has caused this climate crisis.
The warnings are in the name, COP 26, that means 25 COPs have gone before, much of the agreed Paris Agreement has yet to materialise, including the financial package supporting those countries that cannot pay themselves, some of whom, their very survival relies. Whatever is agreed and so far, some good things are being covered, will they materialise?
References and further reading:
Some Examples of 'Bad Practice' and
Some ideas on how to improve.
The Scottish government coined the phrase, "Maximising Sustainability", it was an attempt to gain support from commercial industries during the scrutiny of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The words, 'maximise' and 'sustainable' when considering the marine environment do not fit comfortably in the same sentence.
The use of 'No-Take-Zones' would however go some way in sustaining the future use of Scotland's marine resources.
2019 has seen a ‘Teenage Take-over’: Politicians and governments are failing both us and the marine environment, teenagers still at school have picked up the campaign, highlighting the MAJOR issues which face Global Concerns, this IS their future!
Will we listen, more importantly, will we ACT? Will our actions be enough? Will our actions be in time?
It is about time that environmental issues were taken 'outside' of political parties...
A Cross-Party, A Cross-Country Concern! A future that actually utilises the Precautionary Principle, a future that actually understands and defines the word and meaning of ‘SUSTAINABILITY’ as an environmental criteria for the long term not as is often seen as a cheap publicity stunt, banded about like confetti for the advantage of short term commercial activities.
EU & UK 'Protection'
Part of an SAC
(Special Area of Conservation)
for Common Seals.
38 were shot in 2 days
50 were shot in one season.
The salmon farm can be seen, the six ringed structures, along with feed barges. The floating structure nearest the haul-out carries a generator and fuel dump.
The closest structure seen in this Google image is 20m from the 'protected' haul-out.
About 50 years ago salmon farming in Scotland was seen as an industry to overcome employment issues in more remote regions and the islands.
The industry grew with little concern to the environment. Currently it appears that the Scottish government in interested in expanding, in order to sustain the Chinese market.
It should be noted that a one percent increase would require close to a 50% expansion in Scottish waters.
Currently little is done to mitigate issues created by the multi-national salmon farming companies. These issues include; pouring tons of chemical treatments in to the sea, shooting seals, not as a matter of 'last resort', as required by law but in the first instance. The latest 'advance' is to fish wild wrasse from elsewhere, exploiting these fish and killing them each salmon harvest.
These are just some of the issues, the concept of catching wild fish to feed them from already over exploited fisheries is yet another.
(Eileanan agus Sgeiran Lios mor)
The Scottish Sea Farms site within the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Common Seals.
Google Maps Image and position (2019) 560 32’55.9N 005029’02.2W. Don’t take our word for it check it out for yourself simply Copy & Paste: 56 32’55.9 N 5 29’02.2W and web search it.
The Lismore SAC is made up of five component islet areas around the main island of Lismore. There were 14 salmon farm cages within the bay close to this one designated haul-out, several feed barges and fuel dumps/generators, the largest of which actually contains a HOUSE!
Despite a declining seal population, mass (past) shootings, disturbance/harassment, including debris and mooring tackle on the islets, recent shooting under Marine Scotland License and three separate European Commission complaints, this salmon farm is still located there and little is done about it, apart from a 'management' group set up with restricted membership. When the farm is left ‘fallow’ (a salmon farming term, when there are no fish in the structures, supposedly to allow for the seabed to recover, normally insufficient time is allowed) some of the seals return.
One of the Five Component Sites that make up the Lismore SAC
(Google Image 2019)
The methods of reporting have come under scrutiny, as was the case with the Lismore SAC for Common Seals. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) counts were around 300 but following technical and weather difficulties the then SNH now Nature Scot. Undertook boat counts returning figures at least 25% larger. Marine Concern were wary of these results so conducted their own; the Marine Concern counts returned figures very close to those of the SMRU. It was later found that SNH were including counts out with the SAC, but failed to declare them as such.
Careful study still needs to be applied on the Nature Scot. website, the infographic, at first glance could leave the casual observer believing that the Lismore SAC seal count as ‘exploding’! Yet a closer look indicates the area of up to 50Km distant, a very large area, even overlapping with another Common seal SAC. We would suggest it is more reliable to check the actual recorded numbers also on the Nature Scot. website. The data set extract includes the two SACs in close proximity. This was part of the data set that Marine Concern formulated a trend over a 15 years period reducing the SAC population by 50%. This data, plus our counts was used in a formal EC complaint.
Marine Concern have submitted numerous complaints to the European Commission with regard to the Common seals declines in Scotland. As part of these complaints the Lismore SAC took centre stage, the surrounding reefs that are known, frequent locations for Common seals whilst they are haul-out should, for robust science be counted. Marine Concern maintains that this additional data should supplementary to the SAC data, in order to avoid confusion as to the actual population over time.
There are numerous Boat Hire trips leaving Oban and the surrounding area for anyone wishing to see seals in their natural habitat.
We have requested information regarding the most up to date data for specific areas/locations, we will update this when we can.
This French trawler company had four of its fleet run aground in a matter of months. The waters around the west coast of Scotland are notoriously difficult with a limited buoyage system in place.
The outer isles experience storms and wild seas; the decision to disband the 'full-time' ocean going tug was fool hardy at best.
The folly of cut-backs in such a relentless remote environment is a retrograde step, it will only be a matter of time before the 'real' cost is felt.
A Coastguard, ocean going tug, pictured here refloating a French trawler which ran around.
Without an ocean going tug permanently situated on the west coast of Scotland serious incidents will occur, not a matter of if, rather when.
At Marine Concern we run with the principle that we are part of the ecosystem, we could live alongside Scottish wildlife without adversely effecting the ecosystems that support them and the fisheries that arguably support both. This can only be done if we take stock of what we have done, what we are doing and stop damaging the marine environment that supports food stocks, the tourist industry and so much more.
The Royal Commission for Environmental Pollution's 25th Report; 'Turning the Tide' suggested that in order to maintain future extractions and preventing biodiversity loss we need 30 percent of Scottish seas to be 'No-Take-Zones'. These are areas that do exactly what it says; - NO-TAKE. Around the world areas that use areas of no take have seen greater fish diversity, larger species and more fish. Fishermen have targeted the boundaries of these reserves and have found greater catches for less fishing effort. We just need to make the change.
A reintroduction on the" mobile fishing fleet; of the 'Three-Mile Limit', preventing damaging dredging and benthic trawling in fish nursery grounds would be a start in the right direction. During COP 26 in Glasgow an Ayrshire MSP asked a General Question in the Scottish Parliament about MPAs. The government has suggested that it will put 10% as no-take-zones, an Ayrshire initiative is suggesting 30%, as put forward in the report, "Turning the Tide". Time will tell if the government is serious at supporting fisheries and the marine environment.
A Common Seal shot during a 'Seal Conservation Order'; dispite being reported, no action was taken!
Sea of the Hebrides; The Author was joined by Dolphins.
When marine mammals indeed any animal interacts with us as long as we use caution any potential problem is minimised. Actively searching them out and contravening Marine Watching Guidelines is not good for the animals and maybe not good for us either.
Souvenirs, what used to be seen as the 'norm' is now frowned upon and may cause untold damage to vulnerable ecosystems.
This salmon farm is situated within the Lismore SAC, a protected area for common seals. The floating diesel generator can be seen to the right of picture just 20m from the protected haul-out. Despite so called protection seals are shot here. Acoustic deterrents are routinely used in an attempt to 'scare' seals from the area. This region is a known 'hot-spot' for porpoise, acoustic deterrents are known to adversely affect porpoise. Porpoise are 'protected'. This type of activity, along with many other offences are not sustainable.
A sperm whale was reported in Oban Bay. People flocked to see this rare sight. The whale was well out of its normal habitat and was probably ill and distressed. Boats obstructed its passage and got far to close. This kayaker probably touched the whale with his kayak. Apart from not being ethical it is illegal and dangerous. Whales are a protected species.
When done sympathetically with nature, sea kayaking is probably one of the least invasive marine activities. Watching/approaching without due concern, such as getting too close to seals while they are hauled out can cause stampedes, which can kill pups. Seals need to 'rest' and warm as part of their lifecycle, especially during the breeding season. Harassment is now an offence in Scotland with potentially large fines and imprisionment.
The following pictures were taken in what is commonly thought of as a 'clean' sea loch.
They were also taken from the lochsides which run parallel to the prevailing winds; therefore
plastic accumulation would not be expected as at the leeward end of the loch.
The 'plastic' problem is Global and needs to be addressed from both a global and local perspective. As with single use plastic shopping bags we have proved that we can act and can make a difference. This issue is huge and needs to be addressed now, before it is too late, with an attempt to clear up the current mess which is now in the food chain, adversely affecting species and geological sediments.
Long term accumulation of plastics, some will never degrade
during our lifetimes.
Polypropylene, the World's second most widely produced plastic. Rope remains in tact for millennia. It kills indiscriminately.
Discarded and lost fishing nets continue fishing until they are recovered...
Deeply embedded plastic
within the strandline
Ring ties, bag handles and an array of other shapes trap animals of all sizes...please cut all loops and rings before putting out into the rubbish bins.
US MMPA Update: Imports/Seal Shooting
The Marine Scotland website has produced the following in respect to the effect of the US Imports under the Marine Mammal Protection Act with regard to the shooting of seals by UK fish farms.
“Part 6 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 seeks to balance seal conservation with other pressures and requirements, such as species conservation. On 1 February 2021 changes to Part 6 came into force which removed two reasons for which licences to kill or take seals could be granted. These are protecting the health and welfare of farmed fish and preventing serious damage to fisheries and fish farms:
Nobody knows how many seals are shot each year under licenses issued by Marine Scotland, part of the Scottish government.
no authority is actually counting! Bad enough you might think but read on, it gets worse, much worse.
The official Marine Scotland website will tell you that 245 Grey Seals and 113 Common or Harbour Seals were shot during the one year period covering 2017, but this is based on self reporting from an industry that has a very poor record for complying with environmental legislation (see the estimating methods devised by Marine Concern and accepted as the current best up to date method by several NGO's below).
PBR's and Counts
Permitted Biological Removal (PBR's) methods are used to determine how many seals can be 'taken', without having an adverse affect on the population. By definition when a population is in decline, the PBR should be zero but government paid scientists refuse to stand up to the mark.
Under the European Commission's Habitats Directive, a report on the 'conservation status' of species must be submitted every six years. In the UK this falls on the Special Committee on Seals and in Scotland the counts are conducted by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). Counts were done on a yearly basis but now it appears that a rolling estimate over a five-year period has been adopted. This method cannot be as accurate as yearly counts and opens the whole system up to short-comings during a crisis, such as the PDV virus out breaks which have decimated huge colonies of Common Seals around Europe, up to 85% in some areas.
Making matters worse is the use of 'polygon' counts and alteration of the sizes of the polygons or the choosing of different populations, which has the ability to off-set the 'decline' ratios on Scotland's west coast.
Seals are inquisitive animals, they like to investigate; structures in the sea and oceans are known to attract species including fish, fish attract other predators, many seals will approach salmon farms as a result of these additional interests including wild fish. Many salmon farms have been placed along seal transit routes some even in Special Areas of Conservation for seals and even in protected areas Marine Scotland deem it fit to issue licenses to shoot seals.
The Scottish Rural College (SRUC), Inverness, currently holds a contract to record and investigate seal strandings in Scotland. This work is funded by the Scottish Government and is designed to support the new seal licensing system. It is worthy of note that that despite being part of the Marine Scotland license requirement only 2.3% of the Grey Seals shot and returned and 4.5% of the Common Seals shot and returned were subject to necropsy (animal autopsy).
Scientists from the Rural College stated concerns that only 'clean' kills were being returned, this has been covered in the online publication by Frontiers of Marine Science, with one quote, "Marksmen may choose to only recover seals that have been shot well".
Evidence from the report of necropsies indicated seals were being shot in the neck, the jaw and included multiple shots. "Clear evidence of seals being shot in ways that do not follow the Scottish Seal Management Code of Practice".
A very small number of seals, less than 10% actually predate on salmon installations and these have become known as salmon specialists. Of the shot, seals returned their stomach contents following necropsy indicate just 2 to 3% salmon studying both ear bones (otoliths) and DNA testing. Some of the shot seals returned from salmon netsmen had no salmon in their stomachs at all.
More than 35% of necropsied seals were found to be either pregnant or lactating and this creates huge welfare issues, the seal pup picture on Marine Concern's 'Contacts' page is one such pup left to die for over a week; emaciated. The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 has restrictions for the breeding seasons; the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 however, does not.
There may be more than 50% of shot seals considered under the 'Struck and Lost' numbers that is the seals that have been shot but escape, often to die a long painful death. A conservative figure given to those that have been under reported or not reported at all is set at 25%, although this figure might be much higher. Adding these figures together with the pregnant or lactating figures takes the latest government figures up to at least 752.
Marine Concern's Method of Accounting for Seals Shot in Scotland
Marine Scotland's 'official' figures
Additional numbers added due to being pregnant and/or lactating (35%)
Additional figures added due to 'Struck and Loss' (50%)
Additional figures added due to lack of reporting, [conservative] (25%)
Seals Shot in Scotland More Likely to be 800 plus per Year!
The CRRU Report states: "The current system of self-regulation within the industry is clearly inadequate and officials in offices fail to acknowledge the shortfall in reporting. Evidently, numerous kills go unrecorded, multiple kills may not be reported, unlawful sinking and/or dumping of carcasses deliberately occurs, plus there is no accounting for "struck and loss" figures (which may account for up to 50% of all reported clean kills)".
Mind-Set.It is worth noting the 'mid-set' of those in the industry when thinking about seals being shot, as it is not your normal 'town or country' public perspective. Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, which is still in force in England and Wales the term 'rogue' developed. Rogue seals could be shot under the terms of the Act. The associated industries turned this around, with many stating that ALL seals were 'ROGUE' and therefore could be shot. There have been personal accounts witnessed (Pers Comms) of fish farm workers laughing about it on site and in local hostelries. Even under the new Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 this false and illegal ideology exists.
Not Listening. Marine Concern and previously Hebridean Partnership have been involved with the seal shooting issue for more than 20 years. During that time communication with the relevant authorities and the Scottish government has been attempted, with limited success. Often the criteria set by the authorities is altered to exclude 'conservation' groups, in the case of the Scottish Seals Forum a leading member of the Scottish government stated, "I have no intention of creating a balance in the group", which at the time was three to one in favour of the commercial industries.
Recent contact with the government once again called for a 'level playing field’ that includes ALL 'Stakeholders', which includes the public and NGO's. That's nothing new and is laid down in the principles of the Rio 'Earth' Summit under Agenda 21...involving communities. However, the government failed to even supply a definition of 'sustainable', a word currently being banded about by politicians like confetti.
'Sustainable', was covered in The World Commission's Report, 'Our Common Future', known as the Bruntland Report states,"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs", however current authorities and politicians generally appear not to want to adopt this widely accepted reference when dealing with growth in their own back yards!
Currently salmon production in Scotland is far from being 'sustainable'. Closed-containment would go someway to enabling expansion of the industry without further damaging Scotland's pristine coastal waters and good reputation.
References Used, Further Reading and Links
Plus much more, if you would like futher information please contact Marine Concern via the Contacts page.
2018 Update on seal numbers being shot under license
N.B. Archive: Note(above) US MMPA Update: Imports/Seal Shooting
The Scottish Government is required under the Special Committee on Seals (SCOS) to provide updates on the seal populations and situation. In Scotland much of this is conducted by the Seal Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and on occasions Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Now called Nature Scot.
The figures listed for 2018, correct as of the 31/03/2018 are: -
245 Grey Seals and 113 Common or Harbour Seals.
Scot. Gov. Figs. 358
Struck & Lost (50%) 180
Pregnant or lactating (30%) 161
Unreported (25%) 175
Estimate of Seals Shot in Scotland = 875
Figures rounded and likely to exceed 900 seals shot in Scotland under the current license system administered by Marine Scotland.
The archived figures section remains due to the fact that there are still no checks on the shooting of seals. It is simply unknown what occurs in remote, rural, marine locations.
Changes in England and Wales: Individual seals can no longer be controlled under the ‘netsman’s defence’ as this defence was removed from the legislation as of 1 March 2021.
Follow the links to join in on the
Marine Concern & Seal Scotland Facebook & Twitter Pages
NB. All photographic stills are copyright © of Mark-MC.