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Trying to Get to the Truth About Shooting Seals

3rd November 2020
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A Cork Harbour Seal at Cobh A Cork Harbour Seal at Cobh Photo: Bob Bateman

One of the most difficult, controversial and upsetting marine environment stories I have reported in my time as a marine correspondent concerns seals. I've seen them rehabilitated by a sanctuary and marvelled at the work put into healing injured, sick seals and releasing them back into the sea. I've seen fishermen provide fish to feed those seals being rehabilitated.

I've also heard fishermen claim, in anger and fury, that their catches were taken from their nets, partially eaten and then discarded useless by seals.

I've seen injured seals and heard allegations by animal welfare groups and environmentalists that fishermen had taken the law into their own hands against protected species.

Under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, cetaceans and seals are protected species.

Under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, cetaceans and seals are protected speciesSeals are a protected species Photo: Bob Bateman

Dáil debate

In recent weeks the whole issue has come to the fore again, after a Dáil debate when national media reported that licences could be given to fishermen for a cull to shoot seals. There was another outburst of fury, particularly on social media. But what is the truth of this issue?

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Official records show that the State agency responsible for the conservation, protection and management of Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling applied three times for licences to shoot seals. A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries Ireland confirmed that it had applied for Section 42 authorisations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service on three occasions in the last 10 years. No application has been made this year. "One seal has been removed under a Section 42 authorisation in the last 10 years for reasons of public safety," the IFI said.

National Inshore Fishermen's Association

The National Inshore Fishermen's Association said there had been "biased reporting by mainstream media" which never interviewed anyone from the inshore fisheries sector. "If you take the time to listen and consider fishermen's complaints, you'll understand there are two separate aspects. The first is the amount of fish seals eat and the impact it has on fish stocks. The second is the economic impact seals have on fishers' livelihoods."

So, for this week's podcast, I spoke to the Secretary of the Inshore Fishermen's Association, Alex Crowley.

Listen to the Podcast here

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

Email The Author

Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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