SASWG - Salmon, Aquaculture and Seals Working Group

Regulatory Environment

Government Legislation

On 31 January 2011, Part 6 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 came into force. It seeks to balance seal conservation and welfare concerns, with sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Its introduction means:

  • It is an offence to kill or injure a seal except under licence or on welfare grounds, outlawing unregulated seal shooting that was permitted under previous legislation
  • A Seal Licencing system for seal management in Scotland was introduced in 2011
  • A number of seal conservation areas around Scotland are being introduced, designed to protect vulnerable, declining common seal populations

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The RSPCA's Freedom Food

Freedom Food is the RSPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Scheme. It assesses farms to strict welfare standards set by the RSPCA. The welfare standards for farmed salmon focus on non-lethal and humane control of predators on salmon farms. Notably, this includes adequately tensioned nets, the use of top nets, the regular removal of any dead fish and the use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices. Shooting of a seal must only be carried out under licence and as a last resort, and only when all other methods of deterrence have been deployed and have demonstrably failed. Inability to demonstrate full adherence to the welfare standards can lead to withdrawal of Freedom Food membership.

All Freedom Food salmon farming members are required to report any shooting within 72 hours of the incident occurring. This allows for swift analysis of the incident, further investigation and remedial action where required.

Over 70% of all Scottish salmon aquaculture production in seawater is covered by RSPCA welfare standards.

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SSPO - Industry Code Of Good Practice

Scottish fish farmers believe that exclusion and deterrence form the most effective policy to manage seals that approach fish farms.

To protect the welfare of the fish, all exclusion methods in the industry’s Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture (CoGP), which was developed with the support of seal experts and some conservation groups, are explored.

Farmers have a duty under the provisions of The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to protect fish under their care from harm and unnecessary suffering.

The CoGP outlines specific measures to deter seals from approaching the pens, such as correctly tensioned pen nets, box nets, cone nets and false bottomed pens, as well as seal blinds and acoustic deterrent devices.

Farmers also comply with the seal licence system as part of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, which seeks to balance seal conservation and welfare with sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

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We are keen to identify any ongoing or past industry trials to reduce any seal depredation, without harming seals or other wildlife. We would welcome input from individuals, businesses or organisations in this area.

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Salmon Farm