August 4th 2014
On Sunday the 3rd of August, three members of Sea Shepherd UK's Seal Defence Campaign team deployed to the Thurso area on the North coast of Scotland in response to reports of shot seals at Dunnet & Murkle Bays. Almost immediately on arrival our crew who had gone to the location intending to be covert had to break their cover and be identified as Sea Shepherd Crew in order to prevent seals being shot by two employees of USAN Salmon Fisheries Ltd (AKA Scottish Wild Salmon Company).
The Sea Shepherd UK reconnaissance crew had gone to survey Murkle bay on the Sunday and were surprised to discover the Murkle bay leader nets deployed. Our crew encountered a Scottish Wild Salmon Company employee with a dog (next to a SWSC sign-written truck) and this employee soon moved away. Our team noticed SWSC employees on the beach and one with a rifle who was actively shooting from the land over the water (our team witnessed the distinctive noise of a shot being fired from a rifle fitted with a suppressor).One of the Scottish Wild Salmon Company employees was openly carrying a rifle (with telescopic sight and fitted with a large suppressor) while the other was carrying a gun case and a green case of ammunition. Both employees of the Scottish Wild Salmon Company have been identified and indeed encountered before (see: http://www.seashepherd.org.uk/news-and-media/2014/04/21/violent-seal-killers-threaten-sea-shepherd-crew-caught-on-camera-1576 ) by our Seal Defence Crew at Gardenstown (Gamrie Bay) in April to June 2014 when we successfully prevented any further killing of seals at that location.
Two Sea Shepherd crew members managed to position themselves between the SWS employees and their targets refusing the seal killers demands to "leave the area" which is actually a public beach accessed by public right of ways.
After a 30 minute standoff, the Scottish Wild Salmon Company employees left the beach and subsequently called the police. Our crew also contacted the police to report that SWSC were engaged in netting of Salmon during the weekend despite fishing regulations stating that their leader nets (which guide wild salmon into the main bag net) have to be removed from the water to allow some wild salmon to make it past the nets over the weekend.
One of the SWSC employees admitted they were actively fishing during the Sunday and therefore flouting the regulations. SWSC are well aware of this restriction as it has been in place for over 20 years and is even detailed on SWSC's own website at: http://www.usansalmon.com/catch.html
The Scottish Wild Salmon Company employees were also shooting seals on the Sunday when there is not meant to be any active salmon netting. Therefore they were shooting seals either for sport or to protect their illegal catch of wild Salmon. Sea Shepherd UK is investigating whether this breaches the conditions under which they were granted a licence to shoot seals under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.
Our team do not know if any seals were killed prior to their intervention though one of the SWSC employees asked if our team had managed to film him killing a seal earlier (we presume in reference to the shot our team had heard).
Sea Shepherd will be patrolling the shores for evidence of shot seals during this phase of the campaign and indeed our crew did this Sunday afternoon find a seal dead, approx 100m along the shore line from where these two SWSC employees were located which appeared to have been shot a few days earlier. The dead seal was reported to the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) and following a call from our team was also inspected by the local area coordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and an employee of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA).
Sea Shepherd UK is deploying further campaign crew to two further locations around the coast of Scotland while sending reinforcements to the Thurso area. The Sea Shepherd team launched a boat at Castletown this Monday and have a further fast vessel arriving in the area shortly. Sea Shepherd UK also now has a permanent monitoring presence in the Gamrie Bay area with a small fast RIB based at Gardenstown Harbour.
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]
For previous articles from the first phase of this campaign in 2014 please visit: