Description

Control of seal

Key locations

Throughout the North Northumberland and Berwickshire coast

Frequency

Continuous

Potential issues

  • Seal deaths
  • Seal disturbance

Features of Marine Protected Areas which might be affected

  • Grey seal

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (England)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Protection of seals from unauthorized methods of killing Conservation of Seals Act 1970

(Section 1)

Marine Management Organisation
All year protection of seals  from being killed, injured or taken on the east coast The Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999 Marine Management Organisation
Prohibition on use of certain methods for trapping or killing of seals Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regulation 45)

 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (Section 11)

Marine Management Organisation
Requirement for Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regulation 63) All Competent or Responsible Authorities as defined by the Regulation

Details of Current Management (England)

Legislation covering the protection of seals differs significantly in England and in Scotland.

Seals in England are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 (CoSA). There are no specific measures in the act dealing with disturbance of seals and the main provisions relate to regulating the ways by which seals can be killed. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 also provide restrictions on the methods that can be used to kill or capture seals. The shooting seals is not permitted on land and at sea requires a wildlife licence the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).  Certain defences are recognised for activities which would otherwise be illegal.  This includes what is known as the ‘netsman’s defence’. For more information about these defences please contact the Marine Management Organisation

The Northumberland and Tyneside coast falls within the area covered by The Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999. As a result of this Order there is no open season on seals and their control would require a wildlife licence from the MMO. Grey seal is one of the designated features of the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC. As a result, an application for a wildlife licence of this type may require a Habitats Regulations Assessment prior to any consent being given.

The MMO and the police enforce the Conservation of Seals Act in England. Monitoring of populations is carried out by Sea Mammals Research Unit (SMRU)  and advice is provided by the statutory nature conservation bodies (Natural England and Joint Nature Conservation Committee) as to risks to the population and whether management measures are required. MMO liaises with the IFCAs and other bodies through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife (PAW) Marine wildlife enforcement working group. Shooting incidents are reported to either the MMO or the police; however, generally all these can do is add to the snapshot of activity as enforcement is difficult due to the regulations mentioned above, and could be perfectly lawful.

A more detailed note on seals and the laws is available in our guide to Marine Wildlife and the Law

Gaps in Management (England)

The ‘Netsman’s Defence’ makes it difficult to distinguish whether a seal has been shot lawfully or not. This creates problems with collecting information on unlawful incidents.

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (Scotland)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Offence of  intentionally or recklessly killing, injuring or taking a seal at any time of year, except under licence or for welfare reasons Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (Section 107) Marine Scotland
Designation of protected seal haul out areas Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014 Marine Scotland
Prohibition on use of certain methods for trapping or killing of seals The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (Regulation 41) Marine Scotland

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (Scotland)

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
Guidance on the Offence of Harassment at Seal Haul-out Sites (June 2014) Guidance on Part 6 of The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 about the offence of seal harassment Marine Scotland Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (Scotland)

Legislation covering the protection of seals differs significantly in England and in Scotland.

Under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a seal at any time of year, except under licence or for welfare reasons. The number of seals that can be shot in any given year is informed by the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) (number of individual seals that can be removed from the population without causing a decline in the population) which is calculated annually by Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) using the latest seal counts. The seal licensing process considers all Special Areas of Conservation individually and collectively.

It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass seals at significant haul-out sites under the Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014. One of the designated seal haul-out sites is located between Dunbar and Eyemouth. A map of this area can be found at https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00454620.pdf 

A more detailed note on seals and the laws is available in our guide to Marine Wildlife and the Law