SASWG - Salmon, Aquaculture and Seals Working Group

Establishing The Facts

Recent Seal Population and Shooting Estimates

Until recently, there was no process in place to assess how many seals were being shot annually by salmon farmers in Scottish waters, or the animal welfare implications of these shootings. In 2011, the Scottish Government introduced the Seal Licensing system, outlawing unregulated seal shooting. Quarterly reports of actual shootings are published on the Marine Scotland website at:

  • During 2011, a total of 461 seals were shot - 242 across 235 individual fish farms and 219 across over 40 river fisheries and netting stations
  • During 2012, a total of 433 seals were shot - 208 across 230 farms and 225 across 40 river fisheries and netting stations
  • During 2013, a total of 274 seals were shot - 105 seals across 216 individual fish farms and 169 seals across over 40 river fisheries and netting stations

There is still much to learn about how and why seals are attracted to salmon farms and how they are able to bite fish through cage mesh panels. For example, seals may be attracted to seal cages when wild fish aggregate around them because of feed in the water. However, according to a Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF) report, published in December 2010, seal depredation on salmon farms has declined significantly over the past decade, probably due to better practices that reduce opportunities for seal predation.

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This is likely to be due to preventative measures such as proper net tensioning, lower stocking densities, seal blinds, the timely removal of dead salmon and use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs).

The SASWG is exploring the most effective and benign methods of preventing any seal depredation in the future.


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