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Healy-Rae: Seal cull ‘badly needed’ to protect west coast fishing industry

However, industry and animal welfare organisations recommend awaiting analysis of government reports into the animal’s population.

Seals in Howth Harbour
Seals in Howth Harbour
Image: infomatique via Flickr/Creative Commmons

THE EFFECT OF a growing number of seals on the west coast of Ireland on the fishing industry has reached the stage where a cull is needed, a TD has said.

However, animal welfare and fishing in industry representatives say such a move would be ‘premature’, and authorities should await the analysis of a reports into the animals presence in Irish coastal waters.

The ISPCA says there is “no evidence” to suggest that seals are having an effect.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae made the call earlier this month to the Minister Jimmy Denihan, who has responsibility for the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Kerry South TD stressed that there would be “no joy” in such a move.

Livelihoods

“I would be all for the protection of wildlife, such as seals,” he told TheJournal.ie, ” but this is affecting fishermens’ livelihoods.”

“Management of seal populations will also require careful consideration of recently published studies from Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute concerning seal depradation (fish eaten by seals during fisheries operations) and bycatch of seals in set nets,” Minister Denihan said.

I understand further work is underway to enhance our understanding of this complex area.

He added that a license to hunt seal can be sought where damage is being caused.

“This redress is available to individual fishermen to control damage to fisheries by seals at particular locations,” the Minister noted.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation echoed Healy-Rae’s concerns for fishermen, but instead recommended that some form of “management measures” need to put in place to protect the fishing industry.

CEO Eibhlin O’Sullivan said that options including putting measures which either physically block the seals from some areas, or alter their behaviour.

“Complex issue”

She noted that many fishermen have experienced problems related to seals, either through damage to nets and other equipment, and called it a “serious and complex issue”.

Some fisherman have faced entire catches being rendered useless by seals.

While seals have been to blame for many of these incidents, the ISPCA believes the animal is being “scapegoat-ed”.

“No evidence”

The animal welfare charity’s CEO Dr Andrew Kelly said there is “no evidence” that seals are affecting the fishing industry.

“Until that study has been done,” he said, “there’s little point for calling for a cull.”

In mid-2012, two seal heads were found at the gates of the Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary, with “RIP CULL” and “RIP I AM HUNGRY” written beneath.

A number of other seals were found shot dead on the west coast in 2012, months after Deputy Healy-Rae warned Minister for the Environment that a cull was needed.

Charlie Bird: Remember when he was cuddled by a seal? >

Britain: 5,000 badgers culled to stop spread of TB >

2012: Eight seals found dead on beaches in the South East >

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Nicky Ryan

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