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Anger as Sammy the seal is shot

ANIMAL activists have described the decision to shoot Sammy the seal as unnecessary, unjustified and unethical.

Fisheries bosses confirmed a marksman had shot him dead despite a public outcry to keep him alive.

Their order came as they grew increasingly concerned that the seal’s appetite would affect already sparse spring salmon stocks on the water way.

That was an argument dismissed by experts at the Scottish Sea Life Centre, who tried to rescue Sammy from the River Annan and take him to a safe haven.

The Oban-based centre’s displays manager Jamie Dyer said: “From our point of view, this was certainly not necessary and not justified. It was not illegal, but was certainly unethical.

“I saw him myself down there. We had four rescue attempts over three days and had between 12 and 15 people scouring a two-mile stretch of the river and we did not see him.

“Figures about the number of fish he ate were grossly exaggerated.

“This decision was not about conservation, it was about economics. They needed the seal out of the river so he would not take the fish that people pay to catch.”

Sammy was first spotted in the River Annan, near Annan, in November and quickly became an attraction for walkers, many of whom campaigned to keep him alive and are angry and upset by his death.

Fishermen claimed Sammy’s eating habits - killing, eating a small amount of fish and moving on to another one - meant salmon stocks were being hit.

It is an accusation denied by Mr Dyer, who said a seal of Sammy’s body weight - between 25 and 30 kilos - would only eat two or three fish a day.

Fisheries bosses, however, said the decision to kill the seal was taken on “special conservation grounds” and to reduce his predatory presence as they attempt to conserve spring salmon stocks.

Nick Chisholm, environment manager at the River Annan Fisheries Board, confirmed Sammy was shot by a trained marksman in safe conditions last Thursday night.

He said: “The seal would not have known what had happened. Its death was instantaneous and as humane as it could be.”

Mr Chisholm admitted that the final decision to call out a marksman had been difficult.

But he added: “It is one of those things conservation groups sometimes do.”

“The RSPB routinely kills foxes on its reserves to protect nesting birds and Scottish Natural Heritage has recently eradicated all hedgehogs in the Outer Hebrides.

“These are hard decisions to make but ultimately we have such tremendous biodiversity in this country because it is managed.”

Mr Chisholm said human exploitation of the waterway had been tackled in recent years and that they wanted to reduce the extra pressure Sammy brought.





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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