Update: 14th August 2014
Phase 1 of the campaign – Gardenstown, Crovie and Gamrie Bay in Aberdeenshire
The initial successful deployment in April to June 2014 of a shore crew, a small coastal rigid inflatable Boat (RIB) and then our addition of ‘Spitfire’ at Gamrie Bay followed reports of a gunman being seen and intelligence from a covert team from the Hunt Saboteurs Association. Sea Shepherd’s presence immediately ended the killing of Grey and Common Seals. Following a subsequent intimidating confrontation initiated by the employees of the Scottish Wild Salmon Company and shortly after with the support of a newly arrived contingent of activists from the Hunt Saboteurs Association - the owner (George Pullar) of SWSC announced they would no longer be carrying a rifle on their boat ‘Gamrie Lass’ which is based in Gardenstown Harbour. Our campaign crew also deployed to the SWSC main wild salmon fishery just south of Montrose from Fishtown of Usan down along Lunan Bay and to Ethie Head with shore crew and with ‘Spitfire’ in a surprise 193 nautical mile round trip which was perfectly timed to catch both SWSC boats just minutes after they launched from the company’s moorings and photographs being gained of a rifle being carried onboard one of their boats.
For further links to news from the previous phase of the campaign please visit: http://www.seashepherd.org.uk/news-and-media/sea-shepherd-news.html#archives
Sea Shepherd UK still has our Joker Coaster RIB in Gardenstown Harbour ready to be deployed and local volunteers observing the situation and should the Scottish Wild Salmon Company (AKA – Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd of Montrose) decide to deploy their marksman and rifle once again then Sea Shepherd UK will be able to react within 24hrs.
New locations, challenges and capabilities in phase 2 of the campaign:
Following reconnaissance work carried out in June and July – Sea Shepherd UK deployed small team and a vessel in early August to the coastline around Dunnet Bay near Thurso in the North of Scotland.
At West Murkle bay our team immediately discovered two employees of the same wild Salmon netting company (SWSC) with a rifle which resulted in a beach standoff with two members of our Sea Shepherd crew blocking any attempts by the gunman to kill the local grey seals.
Since that initial confrontation we have launched at Castletown a rigid hull vessel which has been patrolling the coastline and our on-shore crew has increased in size with more vehicles with constant patrols not only of the Thurso to Castletown coastline but of additional areas nearby where another company has mixed Salmon/Trout nets deployed and we have local information about further (potentially illegal) seal shootings.
Following information received from a member of the public – Sea Shepherd UK rapidly deployed ’Spitfire’ and three crew to the Burnt Islands (Kyles of Bute) in Argyll to investigate possible seal shootings by an unknown person(s) within a few miles of an operational fish farm and in the vicinity of previously operated fish farm nets. Fortunately our crew observed no activity and found no evidence which would suggest seals were being shot (though we will continue to periodically monitor that location).
Following the initial media attention of the confrontation at West Murkle Bay where our team members physically blocked the killing of seals the attention on the Scottish Wild Salmon Company has increased. Last Friday evening our crew recorded a confrontation between the fishermen of SWSC and the local River Superintendent, Thurso River Bailiffs and shortly after officers from Police Scotland. The situation was caused when SWSC failed again to remove the leader nets from the Wild Salmon fixed engine bag nets both at Castletown and Murkle Bay which must be removed from 6pm on a Friday until 6am on a Monday. The Thurso River Superintendent with a River Bailiff on land and three further River Bailiffs in their Pioner work boat at around 7pm removed and seized the now illegally deployed leader nets at Castletown thereby disproving the SWSC claim that the sea conditions were too poor to remove the nets and were a Health and Safety risk to their crew (coincidentally on a Friday evening as most weeks when this seems to occur very conveniently in SWSC’s opinion as they often leave in leader nets over the weekend near their headquarters at Fishtown of Usan and previously also at Gamrie Bay).
The River Bailiff’s seizure of the SWSC leader nets at Castletown and their intent to do the same at West Murkle lead to heated vocal confrontations between the senior Usan employee (who was photographed by our team with a rifle the previous Sunday) and the river Superintendent and Bailiffs with both sides filming each other during the confrontation. Police Scotland officers arrived very quickly at the location and had a partial success in calming the situation. The result was that the river Bailiffs successfully seized the SWSC leader-nets at Castletown and proved by using their Pioner boat with is a comparable size to the fishermen’s boat ‘Ethie Lass’ that the SWSC claims of the sea conditions being too dangerous to bring in their nets was absolutely false (bearing in mind that they had been collecting salmon from the same nets in the same sea conditions just 30 minutes before) and the Police Scotland officers taking no action to prevent this action by the bailiffs. The SWSC employees also had to agree to take in the leader-nets at West Murkle Bay as soon as possible which was observed subsequently by our crew. A police investigation is now ongoing regarding the incident.
Sea Shepherd UK continue to patrol on land and at sea and we have now transported two fast RIBs into the local area. During one land patrol on the 12th August our beach patrol team reported a man with a rifle walking around the coast in the direction of the known seal haul out to the north west of Murkle Bay. Any attempts to shoot seals were quickly thwarted by our crew and we deployed a vehicle ahead of his only possible path. An hour later two of our crew in the Sea Shepherd UK van were approached at speed by an SWSC vehicle containing the same two employees photographed attempting to shoot seals on a Sunday at West Murkle Bay. The SWSC truck deliberately blocked in the Sea Shepherd UK van and the SWSC driver (who was also their marksman previously mentioned) this time with a video camera instead of a rifle decided to film our now trapped vehicle and video both of our crewmembers by approaching each side of our vehicle in bizarre silence. The passenger of the SWSC vehicle (known to us after his threatening abusive tirade in a previous confrontation with one of our crew in Gardenstown Harbour) also approached the front of our vehicle with a camera. Eventually both SWSC employees decided to get back in their vehicle and return to their base near Murkle Bay before then going to film our volunteers watching over the seals and netting operations at Murkle beach.
Sea Shepherd UK has prevented any further shooting of seals by SWSC around Dunnet bay since we arrived earlier this month. Sea Shepherd UK is recruiting local volunteers to help us in covert observation roles and to assist with the campaign in the future should SWSC continue to not declare themselves a ‘Seal Friendly Salmon Company’ and no longer shoot seals.
Sea Shepherd UK will be expanding our campaign to further areas over the coming weeks and into next year to patrol other wild fish netting operations and fish farms which also shoot seals around the entire Scottish coastline including the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland islands.
Sea Shepherd UK is offering a £5000 reward for photographic or video evidence which directly leads to the successful prosecution of employees, representatives, contractors or agents of the Scottish Wild Salmon Company (USAN Salmon Fisheries Limited) or ANY companies or individuals for illegally killing Scotland’s iconic seals.
To submit information or evidence on the illegal killing of seals by the Scottish Wild Salmon Company or any other company or individuals - please e-mail Sea Shepherd UK’s campaign crew at: [email protected] including as many location and time details, clear photographs and/or video as possible.
Call to action: If you live on or near a wild salmon netting station/area or near a Scottish fish farm which may be also killing seals and you wish to join Sea Shepherd UK on this campaign - please email: [email protected]