Section 129 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 requires that Scottish Ministers must review and publish a report on the operation of the seal licensing regime every five years. The first review was published in September 2015, with this review due for publication in September 2020.
The current review found that the seal licensing system operates effectively. Many of the recommendations from the last review have been implemented including improvements to the application and returns process, with the development of the online seal management portal which has streamlined both application completion and reporting of seals. Support has also been provided to the aquaculture and river fisheries sectors to improve the availability and efficacy of non-lethal measures, although more work is anticipated to be completed on this front. As a lower priority recommendation, the implementation of application fees has not been fully considered in this review period.
Four main areas have been identified as recommended for further action which are summarised below and set out in full within the document:
1. Seal licence application forms - a new form which encompasses all licensable purposes should be developed for any future applications to kill or take under the provisions of S110 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.
2. Seal Carcass Recovery - further work is required to encourage recovery of seals killed and reporting to the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS)
3. Seal Management Code of Practice – the code of practice should be updated to reflect the most up to date science and the changes to the purposes for which licences can be granted.
4. Non-lethal measures - work should continue in the aquaculture and river fisheries sectors to improve the efficacy of non-lethal measures in deterring seal predation.
Scottish Government will now consider and develop proposals on how best to pursue the recommendations listed above.