Scots risk U.S. market by shooting seals: paper

Editorial
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Do Scotland’s salmon farmers have four years to stop shooting seals or risk losing the U.S. market?

They do, according to newspaper The Herald in a report that implies other salmon-producing countries ought to find other ways to keep seals out of salmon pens or risk their trade with the United States.

In The Herald story, Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals defends its November decision to support the shooting of seals by salmon-farmers “as a last resort”, once other methods to keep them away from penned fish have failed.

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The trouble is, a new trade rule reportedly shaped by the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, could ban Scottish salmon exports worth GBP 200 million a year, if the shooting of seals by salmon growers continues. The Herald report suggests Scotland is what U.S. officials call a Category III violator, or a fishery that shoots too many seals.

UK ranking
SalmonBusiness found that NOAA still only vaguely categorizes fisheries by type —  as in aquaculture or long-lining — and not by country, sticking mainly to noting numbers of seal deaths caused by the American fishery. So, is trade with seal-killing fisheries now at risk?

According to the paper, Scotland has a reported “four years” to comply with seal cull quotas we found no trace of. The deadlines for other salmon-producing countries — if they exist — were not reported.

U.S. seals
Meanwhile, NOAA says sea lions in a typical American spring eat 10,000 adult Chinook salmon, or three percent of returning fish, so the agency allows five-year licenses for what it calls their “lethal removal to prevent these (salmon) stocks from becoming further depressed”.

NOAA has allowed U.S. states to kill as many as 92 California sea lions each year for five years at a time. In all, 100 seals were said by the paper to have been shot in the U.K. in 2016.

So, who’ll ban whom?

Seal deterrent
For now, the RSPCA will reportedly point fish farmers and activists to new, non-lethal measures to keep the cute marine mammals away from pens: acoustic deterrent devices, or ADDs, and anti-predator nets.

“In some exceptional cases, and as a last resort only — and where the welfare of the fish has been compromised —  it may be necessary to (shoot) a seal to protect the welfare of the fish,” the RSPCA reportedly said. Scottish regulators, too, have enshrined in fish-farming licenses the allowed killing of what has become eight seals a month, the paper wrote.

The industry, meanwhile, has been looking at ADDs, while in Canada, at least, a seal-deterring protocol has long been apart of aquaculture permitting and includes the use of drop nets to catch and remove mammals straying too close.