Scilly’s Maritime Officer says the suggestion that fishermen in Scilly could lawfully kill seals under special circumstances is incorrect.
Steve Watt, who manages the islands’ Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, has spoken out following the controversial shooting of an Atlantic grey seal.
It was found dead at Pelistry last week.
There’s no evidence to suggest that a local fisherman or an islander killed the seal but some locals have shared their belief that Scilly’s fishermen have legal dispensation to kill seals if they interfere with nets or catch.
Steve says that can’t happen in the islands’ waters because grey seals within the Isles of Scilly Marine Conservation Zone are specifically protected under a European Directive and it’s illegal to kill them.
And he says that the clause allowing fishermen to shoot them if they interfere with fishing tackle doesn’t apply within these zones.
Steve says Scilly’s commercial fishermen are aware that the practice is against the law here and he says if IFCA officers saw anyone shooting a seal they would have to report it to the Marine Management Organisation.
He admits there can be some confusion. In some areas of the UK, such as parts of Scotland, a seal cull is allowed in the closed season between the start of September and end of December, but only outside the Marine Conservation Zones.