Hundreds of seals could be suffering painful deaths

Hundreds of seals could be suffering painful deaths, says animal welfare charity OneKind.
Hundreds of seals could be suffering painful deaths, says animal welfare charity OneKind.

An animal welfare charity claims new information has revealed hundreds of seals could be suffering painful deaths at the hands of the salmon fishing industry.

Despite stipulations that carcasses should be recovered where possible for examination, the majority of carcasses are lost and over 97 per cent of seals killed were not subjected to a post-mortem.

Between 2011 and 2015, 1531 seals were killed by salmon farms, salmon netting stations and angling groups, yet only 91 carcasses were recovered.

The information came to light following parliamentary questions to the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, from Scottish Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell.

Under the licensing system which allows seals to be killed in Scotland, carcasses should be recovered and sent for post-mortem.

Post-mortems are critical to determining the extent of suffering endured by the seal before death.

However, only 91 (six per cent) of carcasses were recovered and just 40 (2.6 per cent) had a post-mortem.

Harry Huyton, director of OneKind, a Scottish charity working to end cruelty to animals, said: “Whilst we understand that safety must come first and therefore many carcasses cannot be recovered, the extremely low recovery rate is surprising and disappointing.

“It also suggests that many seals are being shot whilst in the water, which risks prolonged deaths and injury.”

Mr Ruskell, the Scottish Green Party’s spokesman for climate, energy, environment, food and farming, said: “It is shocking that there is such a low rate of carcass recovery and post-mortem on seals killed by the fishing industry.

“These are crucial steps in preventing unnecessary suffering and pain to Scottish seals. I urge the government and fisheries across Scotland to step up and reinvigorate their commitment to increasing carcass recovery and post-mortem rates.”

Of the 40 post-mortems that were carried out, the Cabinet Secretary has confirmed that 36 seals died ‘almost’ immediately.

Mr Huyton added: “‘Almost’ is a very vague term and does not rule out suffering. We are calling for clarification as to how long it is taking shot seals to die.

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Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

“Furthermore, of these 40, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the post-mortems suggested welfare concerns for two seals and uncertainty for another four.

“OneKind is calling for the Scottish Government and the fishing industry to continue to phase out seal shooting, with a target of ending it entirely by 2020.

“Until then, we want to see a fresh commitment to increasing carcass recovery and post-mortem rates and to transparency with the public on the results of these post-mortems.”

Alan Knight OBE, chairman of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “Even though the salmon farming industry has reduced the seals they shoot over recent years we now need them to take the extra step of employing new techniques to remove the need to shoot any seals at all.”