‘Nearly 80 seals were legally shot in Scotland in 2020 – highest in seven years’

This young harbour seal lies dead after being shot on a salmon farm that supplies British supermarkets.

He was euthanised on welfare grounds due to a substantial wound to the rear flipper, according to the firm responsible.

But animal welfare groups say the seal is another victim of a bloody slaughter that is cruel and unnecessary.

Last year, nearly 80 seals were legally shot in Scotland – the highest number in seven years.

That means since 2011, more than 1,000 have been killed by marksmen, including pups.

There have been conflicts between seals and the salmon farming industry for years. Seals attempt to access farm cages in lochs to eat the salmon, and farmers try to stop them with nets, scarers or guns.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation claims seals were only ever shot as a last resort by farmers protecting their stock and said the rise in numbers was due to the booming populations.

More than half a million caged salmon were killed by seals in 2020, it says.

The Scottish Government ceased granting licences to shoot seals to protect farmed salmon on February 1. This was to save exports to the US, which is banning imports from countries that allow seals to be killed to protect fisheries, on cruelty grounds.

But there is concern the killings will continue as farmers ignore the ban.

John Robins from the campaign group Animal Concern accused the ­Government of ignoring breaches to the seal shooting rules.

He has offered a £5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for ­illegally shooting seals at salmon farms.

He warned: “Salmon farmers in remote areas may simply ignore the ban and continue shooting, knowing there are no eyewitnesses to what they are doing.”

Don Staniford, from Scottish Salmon Watch, accused “trigger-happy” salmon companies of a “killing spree”. Scottish salmon was “stained with the blood of dead seals”, he claimed.

“Over 1,000 seals have been ­slaughtered since 2011 according to official ­statistics. Many more have been killed ­illegally. Boycotting ­Scottish salmon is a surefire way to save seals.”