Conservation of Seals
The Bill will introduce improved protection for seals. This will be based on a comprehensive licensing system for all seal management, including monitoring of population impacts and improved welfare. The licensing regime will allow protection of fisheries and fish farms where necessary.
There are large numbers of seals in Scottish waters (164,000 grey seals and a minimum of 20,000 common seals), many more than anywhere else in the EU and representing a significant conservation success. The reporting requirements in the Bill will provide vital information on the population impacts of seal management and will inform improved seal conservation.
With such large numbers of seals there are inevitable local conflicts between individual seals and fisheries or fish farms - such conflicts must be managed to balance seal conservation and sustainable fisheries and fish farming. The licensing arrangements in the Bill will provide the context for improving the balance between seal conservation and seal management.
Under the current system there are inconsistencies across various sectors with regards to the circumstances in which shooting is permissible. Figure 11 demonstrates the variability in options available to different sectors undertaking seal management. Figure 12 illustrates the new simplified licensing provisions, providing a level playing field across all sectors.
The Moray Firth Seal Management Pilot provides a good basis for the new seal licensing provisions. It successfully reduced seal shooting by 60% and focussed management on critical areas. The licensing arrangements will seek to replicate the benefits of this pilot in relation to fish farms and netting stations in a flexible and responsive way.
FIGURE 11. CURRENT COMPLEX SEAL LICENSING SYSTEM.
FIGURE 12. NEW SIMPLIFIED SEAL LICENSING SYSTEM.