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Sanctuary urges fishermen not to kill grey seals

THE Irish Seal Sanctuary has appealed to fishermen on the west coast not to "take the law into their own hands" by killing grey seals.

The group, which rescues and rehabilitates distressed seals and other marine animals, said fishermen were "pointing the finger of blame" at seals for diminishing fish stocks and it was concerned that an "unofficial, unregulated and unsafe" cull would happen. Spokesman Johnny Woodlock said while he sympathised with fishermen, there was a tendency to blame any creature that ate fish for the collapse in stocks rather than overfishing, and seals were an "easy target".

"Of course, a seal will take an easy meal from a net if it can but if a fisherman has a problem with a 'rogue' seal persistently taking fish from his net the National Parks and Wildlife Service have a procedure in place to deal with this and we don't have a problem with this," he said. "Our concerns lie with unofficial, unregulated and probably unsafe culls whereby fishermen take it into their own hands to go out and kill seals, possibly using unsuitable weapons not capable of a clean kill. No reasonable person can condone these actions."

However, angry fishermen along the west coast have claimed their livelihoods are being threatened by an explosion in the grey seal population. They have called for the culling on the west coast of grey seals, which they say are preventing them from making a "decent living".

Dingle fisherman John O'Connor said the seals had always been a problem but the situation was getting worse every year.

"They're constantly there. They stay after the boat for nine or 10 hours and it doesn't matter what depth you're at," Mr O'Connor said.

The Department of the Environment, however, says there are no plans for culling the grey seal, which is a protected species in Irish waters.

Irish Independent