Sep 042015

George Pullar of USAN by Suzanne KellyWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

The Pullar family, operators of USAN and it’s subsidiary the Scottish Wild Salmon Company, recently entered guilty pleas on nine charges of salmon conservation legislation breaches and USAN now has a criminal record.

Salmon and other fish are confronted in Montrose with a vast system of huge ‘leader’ nets that direct fish straight into the bag nets until eventually they are hauled onto a boat, and as they panic and suffer, are clubbed to death.

It is a hard thing to witness. But there are other casualties in those nets that suffer and die.

Jenny Green of the Hunt Saboteurs Association shared her observations:

“Coastal salmon netting season ended at midnight on the 31st of August. All equipment had to be out of the water by then. The Scottish government is banning coastal salmon netting after this season, because salmon numbers are at their worst for 40 years. This is an excellent result for us in terms of our Seal Defence Campaign because if there are no nets in the water, Usan can’t claim to need to shoot seals to protect the salmon in those nets.

“The recent court case saw Usan plead guilty to breaking netting regulations in previous seasons and they were charged with 9 offences, and fined £7000.

“Usan had their leader nets in the water after the 6pm Friday night weekend close time (known as keep-ins) – the rule is in place for salmon conservation purposes.

“Usan, now guilty of 9 counts of breaching salmon conservation legislation will not be netting again for many years. Indeed, when they do apply to start up netting again, it’s going to be very difficult because in order to get netting permission they’ll have to prove salmon sustainability…. And you can’t count wild fish.

“So it looks like they are not going to be salmon netters for a very long time. However, during the protracted court case, which lasted all summer, Usan continued to miss weekend close times. In court it was said by the judge that Usan will not be prosecuted by the Crown for 2015 illegal keep-ins. Apparently, as netting is stopping after this season, it’s said to be an obsolete point.

“I find this ridiculous. To me it’s like saying it’s ok to burgle a shop because it’s going out of business anyway. Seal Guardian Campaign operatives submitted 34 videos of illegal keep-ins over the last 5 months to Blair Wilkie, wildlife crime officer for the Angus region. She could choose to prosecute, but apparently she has chosen not to.

“The wild salmon are not the only casualties of netting operations. My pictures show some of the birds drowned in these leader nets, including an adult puffin and a guillemot. I took the pictures with an underwater/submarine ROV. These protected sea birds drowned in a net that was sunk at Scurdieness, adjacent to the protected sea bird haven of the Montrose basin.

“How such a death trap was allowed to be sunk in a site of special scientific interest, adjacent to an internally important and protected sea bird haven for decades is a question the council and SNH both say isn’t in their remit. This net drowned hundreds of protected sea birds. Both were asked why Usan were allowed to put a net here unchallenged, and both said it was down to the other organisation.”

Some 34 instances Usan nets fishing out of hours, constituting wildlife crime, were brought to the attention of wildlife officer Blair Wilkie – no action seems to have been taken to bring cases whatsoever. She could push to prosecute these crimes, but isn’t doing so. Aberdeen Voice asked for an explanation, and was directed to Police Scotland media relations.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said,

“Police Scotland can confirm that information has been received in relation to concerns regarding salmon netting in the Montrose area and enquiries into the matter are ongoing. Police Scotland is committed to the investigation of wildlife crime and reports of criminality are taken very seriously. Wildlife crime is any act that is made illegal in Scotland under legislation with regard to certain birds, animals, aquatic life and plants including their habitats, both on land and in water.

“Such crimes cause significant harm to the species targeted by the criminals, as well as the communities who rely on wildlife for employment and tourism.

“All reports of wildlife crime will be investigated by Police Scotland and appropriate action will be taken. Extensive investigations into these matters can often be challenging and complex, requiring a multi-agency approach, with input and assistance from specialists within partner agencies, including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“Our aim is to reduce wildlife crime and we ask the public to report any concerns or suspicious activity to Police Scotland on 101. In an emergency contact 999.”

More information on wildlife crime can be found on the Police Scotland website at”

John Robins of Animal Concern commented:

“Usan should be prosecuted for their repeated blatant breaches of wildlife conservation law. They profited from the fish they caught illegally and if they are not prosecuted it is proof that crime pays. It is all the more sinister when you realise that Usan Director, George Pullar, is a Government Advisor on wildlife conservation law. Has this helped him evade prosecution?

“Wildlife crime can be difficult to detect and prosecute so it is all the more galling to see such well documented crimes go unpunished. Hunt Saboteur operatives put themselves at great risk to collect this evidence. They deserve their day in court.”

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Jul 242015

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally ho! Or not as the case may be. The SNP decided not to vote with the Conservatives on the proposed fox hunting amendment. This would have allowed people to resume the sporting life of chasing foxes to exhaustion to be ripped apart live by dogs. Some say this was set up as a test to see who would align with who on votes, and the Conservatives were outfoxed. Either way, it’s a sad day for good old-fashioned healthy tradition.

Elsewhere Denmark fights to uphold the Faroe Islands tradition of butchering far more whales and dolphins than can possibly be safely eaten (by those who’d want to eat them in the first place; I prefer puffin and swan).

Some find Denmark’s position a bit at odds with their EU obligation to protect marine mammals. But first things first, how’s a Faroese boy to become a man without a good hearty bloodbath on the shores?

Sadly, a collection of protestors showed up in London the other week to protest against Denmark, which seems to think arresting Sea Shepherd personnel and impounding their vessels indefinitely also fits in well with EU law. I joined them as I was there; it’s almost as if they all believed that culture was less important than animal welfare and EU laws. Funny lot.

I also visited one or two London BrewDog spots to try the local beer cocktails which vary from bar to bar. The finest cocktail remains the Aberdeen flagship bar’s Jackhammer Margarita. Perfect for these nearly warm Scottish summer nights.

Old Susannah escaped from the vibrancy and dynamism of Aberdeen for a bit and went to London and the south. At times I needed to use this cream called sunblock; apparently there are parts of the world where you might get too much sun on you. Who’d have guessed. I dropped in on Rock n Roll Rescue in Camden; the proprietor is my old friend Knox from The Vibrators.

If you have any old clothes, music or memorabilia, Knox would be delighted to hear from you. Contact him here: (The original Vibrators line up plays in London on the 31st July; am hoping for a tour).

Alas! Another culture/heritage icon is in a spot of bother. After postponement upon postponement, it looks as if the Pullar clan are in hot water over their convenient failure to remove leader nets from our waters, thus catching more wild salmon than they should have. They claimed that supposed bad weather made them break the laws 9 times in their favour, for health and safety reasons.

Oddly, there don’t seem to have been any days when it was too rough to go to sea to put the leader nets out; it’s only been too rough to take the nets back in.

While they claim the heritable, traditional right to net wild salmon, it’s funny though- they don’t use traditional nets. Where a small scale traditional operation once caught small numbers of salmon, the modern, non-traditional system of catching the poor creatures uses vast complicated systems the Pullar ancestors never dreamed of. Innovation is good, as long as it doesn’t make you give up your traditions.

what’s wrong with a little good-natured racist banter Trump might wonder?

“It’s our right/tradition/culture/heritage” seems to be the cry of the fox-hunters, Pullars and butchering Faroese.

When I was travelling, Donald Trump’s presidential nomination got off to a bang-up start.

He’s going to keep all those drug-dealing, raping Mexicans out of the US. He’ll even build a wall between the two countries. Some cynics think he wants to keep them in Mexico where they work making his luxurious clothing line. Businesses are dropping links with the hirsuit typhoon with alacrity. But not Aberdeen Sports Village.

Trump Golf International Links Scotland’s logo is proudly displayed on their page. I’d love to know how much money Trump gives them, and I’d love to know how much money we taxpayers give the Sports Village as well. Doubtless my request to them to end their sponsorship will be dealt with swiftly. In other words, a petition might be launched shortly. Watch this space.

So, what’s wrong with a little good-natured racist banter Trump might wonder? Unfortunately, the trouble with a little racist teasing is that people here are doing it to families travelling on trains. Men beat up women who speak with English accents and visiting sports stars get beaten up by yobs. So if Aberdeen Sports Village don’t see the problem with aligning with racists, they would seem to be in good company with some of our fine citizens.

Of course, this kind of light-hearted racism is no obstacle to keeping an honorary degree from Robert Gordon University, especially as it was handed over in person to the Donald by Sir Ian Wood.

It would be nice to think the Village will re-think its position. A sincere apology from Trump would also be nice, but there is as much chance of that as Sarah Malone inviting me for a round of golf .

Apologies, as long as carefully worded and checked with legal departments are wonderful things. They can help you keep your job. They can make for good press releases. The only thing they can’t do is undo what is done. And with that, herewith some definitions.

Apology: (English Noun) An expression of sorry or regret

Pity Sir Stephen House, head of our ever-changing Police Scotland force. He had the sad job of issuing an apology on the force’s failure to investigate a reported car crash. This had fatal consequences for a woman who lay injured for three days next to her dead partner. But Sir is sorry:

“Firstly I want to apologise to the families of John Yuill and Lamara Bell and to the people of Scotland for this individual failure in our service. Everyone in Police Scotland feels this most profoundly.

“Our duty is to keep people safe and we’ve not done that effectively on this occasion, with tragic consequences, and I want to apologise to everyone for that. 

I completely understand the level of concern being raised about the circumstances surrounding the handling of the incident of the crash near the M9 slip road at Bannockburn and, in particular, Police Scotland’s response to information received. That we failed both families involved is without doubt.”

So, it’s an individual failure, but everyone in PS feels badly about it. That’s nice to know. Just for the record though, the duty of PS is to uphold the law, do so equally and fairly. Not everyone is happy with Sir’s fanatical devotion to stop and search targets, his unilateral arming of police on patrols, or how data protection is getting just a bit lost in the sauce as spying on people routinely is on the up.

Must be hard to have to read out a statement. If only there were something Police Scotland and its head could have done to make sure its resources were robust and officers were employed where needed. If there had only been some warning signs that the new all-encompassing force and its local call centre closures were problematic, I’m sure the kindly, understanding man who issued that statement would have done something with his powers.

I’m sure the apology that Sir Stephen issued to the press is good enough

Of course it slightly weakens his apology that he says the new system and his leadership are not at fault; enjoy a lovely video clip of Sir Stephen here. He’s got a job to do, he provides leadership.

Just because the call centre system is failing, centralisation’s value is questionable or the leadership has failed it’s no cause for his resignation. He’s sorry – but not that sorry.

Denial: (Eng Noun) Negation of any culpability, responsibility or involvement.

Two young people are dead; one could have been saved. Two children are orphaned who didn’t have to be. Things happen.

It’s not the fault of Police Scotland, or its head Sir Stephen. They were told that a car had come off the motorway which they didn’t bother to follow it up –or even record. Three days later, a second call came in, and when they did bother themselves to stop spying on people and searching juveniles long enough to investigate, they found a dead man next to his dehydrated, dying partner.

I’m sure the apology that Sir Stephen issued to the press is good enough for all the people concerned and that should be the end of the matter. As he also explained, while they’re all very, very sorry, it wasn’t really his fault:

He said:

“We’re in the middle of massive change in our call-handling. It’s been going on virtually since day one of Police Scotland and it’s still going on and it has some way to go.

“I remain confident and convinced the reform we’re pushing through is the right way to go and provides a more efficient and more professional service. The tragedy is that I’m saying this against the background of two people who have died and that’s been our error which we’ve acknowledged.

“We do work within a budget. Our budget has reduced for the past two years and we’re working to an ambitious savings target for this year.” 

Ah, if not for the changes in the call handling and for the need to work within a budget. He’d love to help; but it was outwith his abilities to make the force he’s in charge of do its job.

I digress, but I wonder what the Tayside branch of Police Scotland were doing over those three days. It would be wrong to wonder how many children were stopped and searched as easy targets while that car spent three days off the road. An experienced police officer who will soon resign puts the huge increase in stop and search at Sir Stephen’s doorstep. This officer said:

This guy [Sir Stephen] is a complete control freak. In the 20 years I have been doing the job I have never wanted to do another job until Police Scotland came into force… I am being honest, in all my time on the force I had never heard the words ‘stop and search’ in Scotland before Mr House arrived. 

“Up here we had policing by consent, this stop and search was an English phenomenon that he brought up from London. Mr House has brought a few of his cronies from down the road up to Scotland and they are ordering cops that they want ten searches every day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that all these searches are coming up negative because the officers are just searching anyone they see to get the figures up.”

We continue to allow police to do this to children, despite the psychological expertise advising against it, and despite the presumption of innocence. In fact, the vast majority of people stopped (and a huge percentage are non white you’ll be surprised to hear) have broken no laws at all. Herald Scotland reported:

“Frontline officers have contacted The Herald to complain about new practices within divisions and among officers who feel compelled to “massage the figures”. In some instances, officers have been forced to search innocent people as they leave pharmacies and off-licences to meet targets, according to those who have aired concerns…. In the first six months of Police Scotland, officers conducted a record 310,784 stop-searches and recorded a 20% increase in motoring offences….” 

I guess stopping innocent people to get those target figures up to Sir Stephen’s desired levels beats actually following up on calls. (Emergency callers are reporting unacceptable delays as well).

It would be wrong to wonder how many man hours were given over to snooping on our private emails and phonecalls while that woman’s kidneys started to fail. Sir Stephen is going to provide ‘a more efficient and professional service’.

Hard to see how he can improve on his stellar record – but we will be watching him. Am half tempted to write to Sir Stephen to offer commiserations over his budget woes. Must be awful. And he’s got to get by on a salary that’s under £208,000 per year. If only he’d had some previous indication that the new call centre wasn’t working out.

I’m sure that the imposed searches, the routine arming of police, the target setting is all greatly enjoyed by the whole force, despite the fact they’ve taken 53,000 days off with stress.

By the way, Aberdeen will lose its regional call centre in September. Old Susannah had to call emergency services for an ambulance some months ago; even with regional knowledge and detailed instructions of where the injured person was, the ambulance nearly drove right past. I’m sure someone sitting in a call centre in Glasgow will know all about Aberdeen’s back streets, pathways and parks.

So – we can expect more of the same then. Get ready to accept more armed cops, more unnecessary stop and searches, more red tape, increased centralisation – and less legal and human rights. At least we’re all going to be safe. Result!

We’ve had the apology over this latest fatality, which wasn’t really anyone’s fault anyway, because they have to work within a budget. What more do we want? Let’s see what they need to apologise for next, as they continue to eradicate ‘policing by consent’ from our vocabulary. Tally ho!

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May 222015

Restocking with sea trout fry from Kishorn

With thanks to Ythan District Fishery Board.

Following negotiations between local fishery boards and the Usan Salmon Company, commercial salmon and sea trout netting in the Ythan estuary and on the coast just to the south will not take place during 2015. The netting rights in question, which had been purchased by Usan in 2014, have not been exercised since 1997.

There is very considerable concern locally that renewed netting would do significant damage to already depleted salmon and sea trout stocks.

Mark Andrew, Clerk to the Ythan District Fishery Board, said:

“Usan, appreciating the sensitivities regarding netting in the Ythan, offered to refrain for the whole of the 2015 season if a compensation payment could be agreed. Following a successful negotiation we have now paid the company a considerable sum. In recognition of the mixed stocks nature of the fishery, four fishery boards have contributed – the Ythan, the Dee, the Don and the Spey.”

Mr Andrew continued:

“This is an excellent example of fishery boards working together and pooling resources for the common good and in the interests of fish conservation both in the Ythan and further afield.”

Alastair Hume MBE, Honorary President and founding member of Aberdeen and District Angling Association (which owns several beats on the Ythan), commented:

“We at the ADAA – as Scotland’s largest community-based angling organization – are immensely grateful to all four fishery boards which have joined forces to fund this deal. For this year at least the threat of renewed netting has been lifted.”

Mr Hume added:

“The Ythan is known as the working man’s river and our fishings there are available to all our 1100 members. Any renewed netting would not only compromise their enjoyment but also jeopardize all the volunteer effort and funds our club has invested over the years to support fish conservation in the Ythan, particularly through the River Ythan Trust, which is at the forefront of salmon and sea trout conservation locally.”

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Apr 102015

Sea Shepherd announces the second year of its Seal Defence Campaign around the coastline and islands of Scotland. By Robert Read – Sea Shepherd UK

sea shepherd seal defense in action courtesy of SSUKSea Shepherd UK (SSUK) have deployed a seal defence crew to Gamrie Bay, Banffshire in the first phase of our 2015 campaign to prevent Scotland’s iconic seals from being killed illegally by coastal netting fishing operations, fish farms or indeed anyone else in Scotland.

This year’s deployment of a seal defence crew and a fast RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to Gardenstown harbour coincides with the start of the wild salmon netting season as employees of USAN Salmon Fisheries ltd (AKA: Scottish Wild Salmon Company) who operate fixed engine nets either side of Gamrie Bay.

USAN Salmon Fisheries Ltd claimed to have shot a seal before we arrived in 2014 and prevented any further seals being killed at this location for the rest of the 2014.

Sea Shepherd UK’s deployment of a land and boat crew to Gamrie Bay marks only the start of a much larger and wider ranging campaign for 2015 following our success in during 2014.

In 2014 at Gardenstown we were joined early in the campaign by members of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) who had a small team initially in the area on surveillance/intelligence gathering and who then sent a much larger team to provide support following increasing intimidation received from netsmen and their ‘allies’.

Wherever Sea Shepherd operates we always try to recruit local volunteers and find supporters and with the recruiting of local volunteers from Aberdeenshire we were able to expand our 2014 Seal Defence Campaign to Montrose/Lunan Bay then to the Dunnet Bay area in the far north near Thurso where we were able to focus our resources on coastal land and boat patrols for the duration of the 2014 wild salmon netting season.

SSUK’s deployment to the north coast and Orkney Islands was possible in part by the Hunt Saboteurs Association deploying teams in their own successful campaign to protect seals with intensive land based monitoring of the activities of salmon netsmen along the Montrose coastline.

Our patrols by land and sea in 2014 prevented any illegal shooting of seals and indeed any killing of seals where our teams and cameras were watching.

there are effective and proven methods of keeping seals away from netted fish

Sea Shepherd UK’s Seal Defence Campaign 2015 around Scotland will (as in 2014) provide monitoring of the activities of both fish farms and wild salmon/mixed fisheries netting companies which hold licenses from Marine Scotland to shoot seals to protect their catch/profits.

The licenses issued by Marine Scotland which specify numbers of seals, locations and conditions under which seals can be shot (the shooting of seals is always supposed to be a last resort option where all deterrent methods have failed) remains open to abuse by some fishing/fish farm companies with a complete absence of any government monitoring.

Years of successful scientific development and trials of acoustic devices (often called pingers) which keep seals away from coastal and river nets together with the effective use of secondary EcoNets around fish farm pens mean that there are effective and proven methods of keeping seals away from netted fish therefore making the shooting of seals unnecessary under the terms of the Marine Scotland seal shooting permits.

However some companies continue to invest fully in deterrent/ prevention equipment preferring the cheap option of buying bullets instead.

Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot – but this ‘official’ declared number of seals shot come solely from the companies and individuals who pull the triggers of the guns and Sea Shepherd UK is convinced the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have previously claimed up to 2000 grey and common seals are shot around Scotland’s coast.

Sea Shepherd UK calls on Marine Scotland to re-assess their current policies regarding seals due to the proven seal deterrent methods now available and request the cancellation of all licenses.

Due to the continued absence of any proactive government or contracted independent teams tasked with monitoring the activities of these fishing companies – Sea Shepherd UK’s campaign crews will continue to fulfill this role and provide much needed patrols providing information to Police Scotland and water/river bailiffs to enable prosecutions for poaching and any other illegal activities.

our crews will be operating from a number of mainland coastal locations

Our campaign crew will intervene if necessary to prevent the illegal killing or deliberate harassment of iconic Scottish seals which are all protected species under UK and EU legislation.

Sea Shepherd’s 2015 Seal Defence Campaign in Scotland will be significantly larger than our campaign crew of last year already numbering over 60 volunteers joining us at their own expense from around Scotland as well as travelling from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, USA and Chile to help defend Scotland’s seals.

For the next five months our crews will be operating from a number of mainland coastal locations and islands covering areas where seals are currently being shot illegally or allegedly legally under permit from Marine Scotland. Our international crew will be patrolling along the coastline by land and will use Sea Shepherd UK’s fast RIBs as well as being supported by two privately owned/operated vessels.

Sea Shepherd UK is offering a £5000 reward for information, photographic or video evidence which directly leads to the successful prosecution of any individuals or any companies (including their employees, representatives, contractors or agents) for deliberately and illegally killing any marine mammal (including seals) or endangered marine creature around the coastline of the United Kingdom or in UK territorial waters.

To submit information securely and confidentially please e-mail Sea Shepherd UK on: with as much information as possible including the location, date, time of the offence with clear photographs and/or HQ video when possible.

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Apr 282014
scottish wild salmon company sign in gardenstown 27 april 2014

Scottish Wild Salmon Company sign in Gardenstown 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

By Suzanne Kelly.

When Scottish Wild Salmon Company (SWSC), a subsidiary of Montrose-based USAN Salmon Fisheries Ltd arrived in Gardenstown, the landowner made it clear there was no permission to shoot seals from his property.  At least one such illegal seal shooting took place last year, yet no one was charged.

Tourists who had witnessed the episode last year abruptly cancelled bookings and left; some locals were concerned; some angered.

This year the SWSC pledged not to use lethal methods to deter seals from going near its salmon nets near the Ythan Estuary. The SWSC arrived in Gardenstown and Crovie this year to net large numbers of salmon (we have asked for figures but no answer has been received yet). They arrived with guns.

Sea Shepherd arrived to monitor the situation this year. Here’s what’s happened since.

A Video Nasty

Sea Shepherd personnel were harassed by SWSC operatives, and a video was released, showing an example of this. The video showed three SWSC operatives cursing at, and intimidating Sea Shepherd and trying to stop them filming which Sea Shepherd had every right to do.

The owner of the area of land in front of the building and yard SWSC operates from has forbidden shooting. Sea Shepherd’s internet posting reads:-

“We have debated long and hard over whether to release this video showing Scottish Wild Salmon Company staff behaving in a threatening and abusive manner to one of our volunteers. Our final decision was made for us when these very same employees arrived at our beach clean last Friday to intimidate our staff, even making sexually explicit comments to one of our female volunteers.

“We hope that the residents of Gardenstown and Crovie will continue to come forward to tell the Scottish Wild Salmon Company that they are bringing disgrace to this otherwise beautiful part of Scotland not only with their seal slaughter but also with their behaviour in public.”

In a concurrent development, invoices were hand delivered to the Sea Shepherd charity demanding thousands of pounds in fees for filming in the harbour area; these invoices were since withdrawn. It is understood that not everyone in the harbour board was happy with these invoices being issued in the first place.


It is proven that Sea Shepherd were threatened by people intent on shooting seals who had rifles; why there is no prosecution forthcoming is unclear.

Crovie looking towards location of wild salmon netting 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

Crovie looking towards location of wild salmon netting 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

It has also been proven that there is no permission to shoot seals granted by the landowner:  no one can shoot seals in Gardenstown and Crovie lands.

What men are doing walking around the area with shotguns then is something of a worry and certainly reason for the law enforcement agencies to step in. (Aberdeen Voice readers may well want to compare and contrast the way in which men with rifles are walking around these coastal towns, having been proven to engage in threatening behaviour, and the ‘Siege of Heathryfold’).

Aberdeen Voice has been told that the SWSC’s operatives are living in a non-residential building. While that is not a huge violation of law, it is still illegal. However, the more serious accusation has been made to Aberdeen Voice that guns are being stored in the SWSC’s building.

Aberdeen Voice will share this allegation with SWSC and the police, and will report back with any responses.

If the rifles are not being stored in the building in question, then where are they being legally stored? Did the police investigate how the guns are being stored when they investigated the video of Sea Shepherd’s man being threatened by people who had rifles?

A Walk on the Wild Salmon Side

Aberdeen Voice visited Gardenstown and Crovie, and spoke to locals and Sea Shepherd. No SWSC employees were visible, and their premises locked; it was a weekend. SWSC has given their position in an earlier email, the contents of which appear in the comments section of a previous article, and will be welcome to explain some of the issues arising from this article.

Despite proponents saying that shooting seals is essential and no concern to the people of the north east, many locals are very much opposed to the idea of shooting seals. As one explained:

“A presentation was made to the local heritage society [about studies done involving St Andrew’s University about sonic deterrents to seals]; there are ways to stop salmon being eaten by seals. There are sonic devices which keep the seals away, and there are ways to construct salmon nets so that seals can’t get in. Shooting should not be happening.”

Another said:

“I put the blame for this on Marine Scotland.  I tried to get answers from them and find out how and why they issued any permits to kill seals.  I telephoned – but I never got the promised answer back. With salmon farming taking place (which has lots of room for improvement in how the salmon are treated), there should not be any large scale netting of wild salmon. The smaller anglers are against what’s happening as well.”

And another local added:

Gardenstown harbour 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Gardenstown harbour 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

“I have been documenting seal shooting since the seal was shot from Crovie pier last year. I will keep doing so, and I am opposed to SWSC shooting seals. I think there are two net areas (to the east) of Crovie.”

Finally, one local resident commented:

“…there are studies done on the material found in seal waste; I believe the study showed that salmon is not a large part of the seal’s diet.”  [seals eat a wide variety of sea life; salmon is far from their only food].

During our visit, Aberdeen Voice did not find a single local resident who wants gunman shooting seals in the area.

Non Net Income:  Value of Wildlife Tourism

Some would spread the belief that the salmon industries, wild and farmed, must be allowed to do as they please for the benefit of the rural communities.  The government says otherwise; wildlife tourism is big business. A Scottish Government  2010 report, ‘The True Value of Wildlife Tourism’ advises:

“… wildlife tourism annually brings in a net economic impact of £65 million to Scotland’s economy and creates the equivalent of 2,760 full time jobs.

“The report also found that 1.12 million trips were made every year to or within Scotland with the main aim of viewing wildlife. This form of tourism appealed greatly to UK-based visitors and Scots themselves, accounting for 56 per cent of trips. And it was these UK visitors who generated 75 per cent of the income.”

Seals under threat

The UK  has common and grey seals; the common seal population is declining. We know that illegal shooting takes place (in areas other than Crovie). Aside from the danger of being shot, seals are suffering from pollution from the oil industry, marine activity and plastic waste in the water; depleted fish stocks further threaten seals, sea birds and other marine life.

Arguably we should be protecting the seal population, cleaning our water, and perhaps even taking less Atlantic salmon. An Irish-based research paper reports a drop of 75% in Atlantic Salmon populations:

“Atlantic salmon stocks in Ireland have declined by 75% in recent years (Anon 2008), and although conservation measures have been put in place, salmon stocks in many Irish rivers are below their conservation limits (Anon 2008).” – A pilot study on seal predation on salmon stocks in selected Irish rivers and estuaries.

The Gardenstown and Crovie communities do not operate solely on the basis of salmon fishing; tourism, leisure pursuits and arts play a part. These activities have demonstrably been hit by the arrival of seal shooters with rifles, witness the tourists who left after they saw the shooting last year.

Sea Shepherd will continue to monitor the activities of SWSC, as will concerned locals.

John Robins of Save Our Seals Fund said:

“Sea Shepherd and the Hunt Saboteurs Association have done a great job in bringing this issue back to public attention. I have no doubt they saved many seals from being shot at Gamrie Bay. We now need the general public to help save seals from being shot all around Scotland by signing our Petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to stop issuing licenses to shoot seals.”

Aberdeen Voice will likewise report on any further developments.

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