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Seal licence claims disputed

SEVEN Shetland salmon farms have been granted licences to shoot 115 seals in 2012.

The companies include Meridian Salmon Group, two of whose managers are due to appear in court later this year to face charges of unlawfully killing seals at its site in Hoganess, near Walls.

The Scottish government has said just 362 seals were shot under licence during 2011, roughly a quarter of those for which a licence was held.

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said this was sign of the scheme’s success, saying environment groups had claimed 3,000 seals were unlawfully killed each year prior to the licences being introduced.

However marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd said privately the government insisted just 1,000 seals were killed every year.

Sea Shepherd UK trustee David Scott the licensing scheme was “a charade” that made killing seals legally permissible and questioned why licences had been granted to shoot 1,100 Scotland-wide this year.

He added that it was impossible to police the licences, but a government spokesman said any claims of unlawful killing are investigated.

The seven Shetland companies to be awarded licences are Meridian Salmon Group, Hjaltland Seafarms Ltd, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd, Thomson Brothers Salmon Ltd, Balta Island Seafare Ltd, Uyeasound Salmon Company and Bound Skerries Seafoods Ltd.

The companies had applied to shoot 341 greys and 32 commons, almost double the safe limit set by the experts. Instead they have been granted permission to shoot 109 greys and six commons.

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