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Ministers shoot down seal-cull plan as 'unacceptable'

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Stock picture of a harbour seal

Stock picture of a harbour seal

Stock picture of a harbour seal

A Green Party minister said a plan to shoot seals from moving boats would be "politically unacceptable" and suggested a compensation scheme for fishermen should be considered instead.

A controversy had erupted over suggestions that the Department of Housing was considering a pilot scheme to allow hunters and fishermen to cull seals using high-powered rifles from their vessels in Cork and Kerry. However, the idea was quickly rejected by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan and Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien, according to internal emails.

Asked for his views, Mr Noonan said, as well as being politically unacceptable, such a plan would be "of no value in addressing the real problem here; dwindling fish stocks affecting fishing livelihoods and seals' food source".

"I think a compensation scheme would be a better approach," he added. In an email from an official, Mr Noonan was told that his colleague Darragh O'Brien shared that view.

"Minister O'Brien is also very clear in his direction on this," said the message. "No culls of any sort supports National Parks & Wildlife Service longstanding position."

A later email between officials said both ministers were "very clear" they would not approve any scheme involving rifles and moving boats.

"Folks, I spoke to both ministers," it said, "neither will contemplate a pilot of the nature described so that needs to come out of the Leader's Questions."

A briefing note prepared for the two ministers said they should be on the alert for opposition attack lines as a row flared late in September.

This included questions from "both angles - those who wish to see seal numbers reduced and those who wish to see no seals killed".

A lengthy list of answers was prepared by the department, including what to say if asked if shooting seals from a moving boat was not dangerous.

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The department said they were not going to carry out a cull of seals but that licences may be issued to cull individual seals.

They are in active discussions with the Marine Institute on developing new approaches for managing "seal-fishery" interactions.


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