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Salmon farmers deny netting seals

TWO salmon farm managers have pled not guilty to unlawfully killing seals in Shetland and will go on trial on 15 November at Lerwick Sheriff Court.

Graham McNally, aged 51, of 89 Sandveien, Lerwick, and Ross Morrison, aged 30, of 1 Union Cottages, Lerwick, face charges of using nets to unlawfully take or kill grey and common seals between August 2009 and August 2011.

The two men were employed as regional manager and site manager of the Hoganess Salmon Farm, which is now owned by Meridian Salmon, based in Rosyth. They have since been suspended.

The nets are alleged to have been set at two sites in Vaila Sound, off Shetland’s west coast, near the village of Walls, in breach of the European Habitats directive.

The charges follow a raid by the animal welfare charity Scottish SPCA in August last year. The men were formally charged in December, since when their lawyers have been in discussion with the specialist wildlife and environment prosecutor in charge of this case.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly told the sheriff court on Thursday that much of the evidence could be agreed and the trial would be “sharply focussed”.

He said the defence would be employing an expert witness to examine the nets in question.

In February the company said that both men had been suspended and it was carrying out an internal investigation into the allegations.