Sir, Increased protection of seals is once again newsworthy following unfounded shooting allegations against fish farmers, anglers and fishermen.

Contrary to headline grabbing misinformation generated by lobbyists, the Scottish Government reports that the number of seals shot across the fishing, coastal netting, angling and fish farming sectors is fewer than 1,000 annually.

Scotland hosts one of the world’s largest populations of seals. Experts at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), which advises
the Government, have established that the total seal population has grown exponentially since the 1980s to more than 200,000.

The SMRU says the recent decline in common seals is connected to “large-scale process in the North Sea”. This is happening in many regions where there are no salmon farms – Lothian, Dumfries and Galloway and the eastern coast of the northern Highlands.

To protect fi sh, salmon farmers focus on deterring predators. All exclusion methods in the industry code of practice, developed with experts at the SMRU, are utilised. However, a persistent rogue seal can cause enormous suffering and kill thousands of fish. Shooting is only considered as a last resort.

Our continuing work to deter seals includes sharing best practice, updating farming guidance, development of acoustic deterrent
measures, equipment investment and new net trials.

Scott Landsburgh, Chief Executive , Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation