An application for a seal-shooting license has now been withdrawn after ‘careful consideration’ from the company.
Usan Fisheries of Montrose applied to Marine Scotland for a permit to shoot seals following the acquisition of the Ythan estuary from Udny Estates.
But the application saw concerned local residents and animal protection groups take action by setting up a petition and a Facebook page: Stop the Ythan seal cull, which included over 800 ‘members’.
The company had stressed that lethal means would only be used as a last resort if non-lethal measures proved ineffective, but the firm have now announced that they have withdrawn their application to Marine Scotland.
Director of Usan Salmon Fisheries, George Pullar, said: “Our company has invested substantial resources in the trialling and operation of non-lethal predation measures (Acoustic Deterrent Devices) in association with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews.
“We also use modified anti-seal nets at our fisheries. We plan to use acoustic seal deterrent devices at the Ythan.
“This equipment is non-lethal and is widely used successfully throughout Scotland as a measure to deter seals from entering freshwater.
“Additionally, these devices are also widespread throughout the fish farming industry.
“After careful consideration our company has decided only to deploy non-lethal seal control measures at our Ythan fishery. Marine Scotland have been informed of our decision.”
Ellon resident, Elaine Sherriffs, 59, who is studying for a post graduate in MSc People and the Environment at Aberdeen University, has conducted surveys to find out public opinion on the issue.
Elaine told the Times: “Members of the public who spoke to me about ‘culling’ seals were in the majority completely against, the few (including a fisherman) said ‘maybe’ if it were for serious issues such as disease or if seals endangered the survival of another species. Commercial fishing was not considered as a valid reason to kill seals.”
Before the application had been withdrawn, campaign director for the Seal Protection Action Group, Andy Ottaway said that the group would ‘launch a boycott campaign if Usan shoot any more seals’.
Forvie National Nature Reserve manager, Annabel Drysdale added that the entire Ythan Estuary is within the Reserve and that most people do not realise that Scottish Natural Heritage manage the area.
She said: “Harbour seal numbers on the East coast have declined recently and remain very low, while Forvie NNR is popular with visitors who like to watch the grey seals hauled out there and we have concerns about safety.”
Ellon and District Councillor, Rob Merson said that he has been made aware of many accounts of seals habitually hunting at the Ythan estuary, and the devastating impact it was having on fish stocks in the Ythan.
Mr Merson said: “Concerns were expressed regarding the sustainability of the fisheries, and the knock-on effect on the hotels in the area, which benefit from visiting fishermen.
“Usan Salmon Fisheries were in touch with me to confirm that they would be deploying sonic seal deterrents, and that lethal means would only be used as a last resort. However, this is clearly a very emotive issue, so I am pleased to hear that they have since felt able to withdraw their application.”