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Marine Scotland
Seal Licensing Team

Email: seal.licensing@gov.scot

Seal Licensing Review Report

Under Section 129 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, a report on a review of the operation of the seal licensing system is required within 5 years of Section 110 of the Act coming into force on 1 September 2010.

This report covers 4 complete licensing years, namely 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and the period from 31 January 2011 to 31 January 2015 and considers all aspects of the operation of the seal licensing system including all developments and improvements that took place during the period, previous interim reviews into the operation of the system and any significant changes made in the light of all of these.

The report was the subject of consultation with the Natural Environment Research Council as required by the Marine Act.

Topic Sheets

Seal Licensing

Photo of SealOn 31 January 2011, Part 6 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 came into force.

Part 6 seeks to balance seal conservation with sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and its introduction means:

  • It is an offence to kill or injure a seal except under licence or for welfare reasons, outlawing unregulated seal shooting that was permitted under previous legislation
  • A number of seal conservation areas around Scotland will begin to be introduced, designed to protect vulnerable, declining Common Seal populations
  • A new seal licensing system, providing a well-regulated and monitored context for seal management in Scotland, has been introduced

Two graphs are now available to download showing:

  • The comparison between the numbers requested in seal management applications and the actual numbers granted by Marine Scotland from 2011 to 2015.
  • The comparison between the numbers granted in the licence against actual numbers shot from 2011 to 2014.

2016 Seal Licences

Marine Scotland received 48 applications for seal licences and 43 licences have been granted. (Three licences are pending approval.)

Table 1 below provides a full breakdown. (This information is correct as of 31 January 2016.)

TABLE 1
           
 
Application Type
 
 
Licence Type
 

 

 
Seal Management Area
Protection of Health and Welfare
Prevention of Serious Damage
Total
Protection of Health and Welfare
Prevention of Serious Damage
Total
 
           

East Coast

0

6

6

0

5

5

Moray Firth

0

1

1

0

1

1

Orkney & North Coast

2

6

8

2

5

7

Shetland

5

0

5

5

0

5

South-West Scotland

2

2

4

2

2

4

Western Isles

7

2

9

7

2

9

West Scotland

12

3

15

12

3

15

             

Grand Total

28

20

48

28

18

46

The 28 licences issued for protection of health and welfare and one issued for prevention of serious damage, cover a total of 214 individual fish farms.

The maximum number of seals involved is 283 Grey and 115 Common. Table 2 below provides details. This maximum represents less than 0.1% of the Grey Seal population of 101,000 and 0.1% of the minimum Common Seal population of 23,400. The numbers are significantly lower than previous estimates proposed by non-government organisations at between 2,000 and 5,000. (This information is correct as at 31 January 2016.)

TABLE 2a

Grey Seals    

Seal Management Area

Grey Seals Applied For

PBR*

Grey Seals Granted

East Coast

46

327

14

Moray Firth

45

81

18

Orkney & North Coast

215

1234

64

Shetland

72

235

55

South-West Scotland

79

57

15

Western Isles

153 574 42

West Scotland

149

628

75

       

Grand Total

759

3136

283

The maximum number of Grey Seals allowed on licences granted in 2016 represents over 57% reduction on numbers involved in the previous year's licences, and an over 72% reduction since the system was introduced in 2011.

TABLE 2b

Common Seals    

Seal Management Area

Common Seals Applied For

PBR*

Common Seals Granted

East Coast

8

1

0

Moray Firth

6

4

0

Orkney & North Coast

20

11

0

Shetland

5

18

3

South-West Scotland

55

35

17

Western Isles

73 82 19

West Scotland

232

582

76

       

Grand Total

399

733

115

The maximum number of Common Seals allowed on licences granted in 2016 represents a reduction of 41% compared to the previous year's licences, and an over 63% reduction since the system was introduced in 2011.

*Potential Biological Removal (PBR) is the number of individual seals that can be removed from the population without causing a decline in the population, and is calculated annually by Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) using the latest seal counts.

For more information, a series of frequently asked questions and answers on the implementation of the new seal legislation was produced 2011.