Advice on River Spey seal licence application: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Information requested

In response to the rejection letter of 7 June to our 2022 application for a licence to kill or take seals to conserve seals or other wild animals (including wild birds) or wild plants, dated 18 February 2022, we have a number of concerns in relation to the licensing process including, but not limited to MS-LOT’s interpretation of the Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016, and the subsequent river gradings.

  • Our understanding is that these gradings relate to the maximum sustainable yield as a benchmark, rather than to a fully saturated river.
  • We are mystified by the advice given by NatureScot in relation to the lethal removal of some seals potentially having an adverse impact on the conservation objectives for designated sites within the River Spey catchment. The River Spey is a Special Area of Conservation for Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel, otter and sea lamprey. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We do not understand how the removal of a limited number of seals could adversely impact on the conservation objectives of these sites.
  • The identification of specialist seals within rivers, when we had made clear in our application that the presence of any seal within the freshwater river system, having broken-away form the marine-based colonies, in itself identified them has being specialist.
  • The weighting placed on non-lethal measures such as ADDs, when we had made clear in our application that the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew’s University had visited the Spey and determined that the deployment of ADDs would not be efficacious.
  • We are also concerned at what appear to be inconsistencies in the approach adopted between different rivers.

It therefore appears to us that the licence determination in respect of the River Spey was unreasonable and we are minded to appeal this decision. However, in order to inform this appeal, we request to see the full set of advice received by MS-LOT in making this determination, including, but not limited to, advice from NatureScot and Marine Scotland Science. Following receipt of that advice in full, we also reserve the right to lodge an appeal to the licence decision, which will necessarily fall out with the 14-day period quoted in the rejection letter we received. As far as we understand, this 14-day period is not a statutory deadline.


I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exception under Regulation 11(2) (personal information of a third party) of the EIRs applies to that information.

The reason why that exception applies is explained in the Annex B to this letter.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

EIR - 202200306814 - information released - Annex A
EIR - 202200306814 - information released - Annex B


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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