Scottish Government to implement seal hunting ban at salmon farms to save US exports

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Compliance with US animal welfare law, otherwise Scotland will not be able to export farmed Atlantic salmon to the US from 1 January 2022.

The Ferret reports that the Scottish Government intends to introduce an amendment at Holyrood which will outlaw seal shooting by the industry.

In a letter to Holyrood, Gillian Martin MSP Convenor of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, explained that officials are in discussions with the UK and US Governments regarding new provisions in the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”).

In 2019, SalmonBusiness reported that Scotland’s salmon farmers had four years to stop shooting seals or risk losing the U.S. market. This was down to a new trade rule from U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which could ban Scottish salmon exports worth nearly GBP 200 million a year, if salmon farmers continue to do so. Scotland could be classed as what U.S. officials call a Category III violator, or a fishery that shoots too many seals.

“On that basis, if we do not implement the proposed amendments to the seal licensing system by 1 March 2021 when nations have to demonstrate equivalency with the MMPA, Scotland will not be able to export farmed Atlantic salmon to the US from 1 January 2022,” wrote Gillian Martin.

The proposed amendments currently being drafted are to:
• Amend the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to remove specific grounds for which Scottish Ministers are able to grant licences to kill, injure or take seals.
• Increase the penalties associated with the offence of killing, injuring or taking a live seal (intentionally or recklessly) in line with the most serious wildlife offences as laid out in the Animals and Wildlife Bill.

The amendments will be introduced to parliament at stage three (the final consideration stage before a bill is passed) of the Animals and Wildlife Bill, instead of stage two as usual.