New rigid fish pen netting systems are thought to have contributed to a substantial reduction in Scottish seal deaths.
Only two seals have been killed on fish farms owned by salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms in the first six months of the current reporting period, spanning February 2019 to January 2020. By comparison, the same period last year saw seven Scottish seal deaths; eight occurred in the first six months of 2017 and nine in the first half of 2016. Scottish Sea Farms has equipped more than half of its facilities with £4.2m (€4.64m) of Seal Pro nets, designed to protect farmed fish from the advances of seals; and intends to deploy a further £1.5m (€1.66m) between August and October 2019, to include the ‘next generation’ Seal Pro Excel netting.
Scottish Sea Farms’ Managing Director Jim Gallagher said: “We won’t be happy until we achieve zero seal deaths, however our multi-million pound investment to roll out protective Seal Pro netting across as many of our farms as possible, as quickly as possible, is another example of our commitment to farm as responsibly and as sustainably as we can. Not only do the tougher, more rigid nets help to deter seals, but by protecting our salmon from the stress of predation and the subsequent health challenges that can cause they also contribute to fish welfare.”
Dr Ralph Bickerdike, Head of Fish Health at Scottish Sea Farms, commented: “Seals naturally feed on a variety of wild fish and other marine life and are thought to consume up to 7kg a day, depending on species. In the hunt for food, seals are occasionally relocating from farms that have Seal Pro nets to nearby farms that have previously had no significant seal challenge, hence our drive to protect all farms. We’ve also seen seals climb up and into pens. Both types of event happened earlier this year, accounting for the two shootings which were carried out under licence.”