Generally salmon farms, seals and other marine mammals co-exist without any conflicts of interest. However, seals occasionally cause significant damage to salmon farms, and when they do the results can be devastating.
Hundreds of salmon can be killed or harmed in a single attack. In 2018 alone, over half a million farmed salmon in Scotland died as a result of seal attacks, either directly from the physical attack or indirectly from injury or stress.
To prevent this, Scottish salmon producers are investing millions of pounds in technology and innovation each year to discourage predators from attacking salmon farms. Mostly, this technology – such as anti-predator netting and acoustic deterrents - is effective in deterring attacks, but a few seals remain undeterred and continue to attack fish.
When this occurs, producers can apply for licences from Marine Scotland to shoot seals, as a last resort. Licences are required because seals are protected by legislation in the UK, and when granted carry strict rules around how any shooting is carried out and recovery of bodies.
The use of such methods and number of licence applications have declined greatly in recent years, as salmon producers have innovated and invested in new nets to keep seals away from fish. The ultimate aim of investment in these new technologies is to reach zero seal deaths.
To view a full report into 'Scotland's seals and the salmon farming sector' please click here.