It is currently legal for licensed individuals in Scotland to shoot the common seal. This is unusual for the United Kingdom, which has strict gun laws and where fox hunting was banned despite hundreds of years of tradition.
Scotland has had a large population of common seals. Shooting licenses are granted to cull the seals and help prevent damage to fish farm cages.
Recent research by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University suggests that the seal population has dropped by 56% in the last 7 years. This figure is much larger than expected.
The new research is being used by Robin Harper, a MSP from the Green Party, to call for an emergency ban on the culling. He has lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament to try and push the ban through.
Andy Ottoway from the Seal Protection Action group is also calling for an immediate ban. Ottoway told the BBC that he wanted a ceasefire to protect globally important seal populations before it was too late.
The Common Seal
Also known as the Harbour Seal (Harbor Seal) is found on the Arctic and temperate coastlines in the Northern hemisphere. Females can live up to 35 years, about 10 years longer than an average male.
Common Seals are most easily spotted due to their V-shaped nostrils. They can be grey, tan or brown in colour and reach a length of about 1.85 meters (which is just longer than 6 foot).
The global population of common seals is in the region of about half a million. This is largely due to seal hunting now being illegal in most countries.
In Pure Spirit
You can contact the Scottish Parliament about this if this is an important issue for you. Do you think culling is ever justified? Does mankind have an obligation to maintain the ecological balance now that we’ve been responsible for the introduction of some animals to new environments?