THE SCOTTISH salmon farming industry is asking government to consider financial compensation for fish lost to seal attacks.
It comes after the practice of the licensed shooting of seals was banned in Scotland earlier this year.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) is also looking for clarity on what fish farmers should do if a seal gets into a pen, or how to deal with the marine animals harassing or attacking fish from outside.
The change in legislation on shooting seals – which was welcomed by environmental campaigners – came into force to ensure that Scottish salmon can continue to be exported to the US after 1 January 2023.
The SSPO said shooting seals was a “last resort” and that 79 were shot in the last 12 months – the highest number for seven years.
The organisation added that more than 500,000 farmed salmon were killed by seals last year, although “many more are likely to have died from the stress of being in close proximity to a seal in a salmon pen”.
The SSPO said this equated to more than £13 million in lost revenue – a loss that salmon farmers say they should be compensated for.
The organisation’s chief executive Tavish Scott said: “The Scottish Government has stopped fish farmers taking action to protect the welfare of fish without putting anything else in place. The law is a mess with three conflicting legislations.
“Farmers don’t know what they are legally permitted to do if a seal gets into a salmon pen.
“Our farmers dedicate their careers to looking after their livestock and they also have a legal duty to protect their fish but ministers have given them no options at all. We need detailed, workable guidance and we need it urgently.”
Scott added that more than £8 million has been invested in anti-predator nets in the last year, but that seals can still find their way into pens.
The SSPO said that the Scottish Government regularly compensates land farmers for lost stock. For instance, in 2013, famers had access to a £500,000 fund to meet the costs of disposing of livestock killed in severe weather.
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