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Predation by seals

Colin MacDonald collecting seal scat for diet analysis

Colin MacDonald collecting seal scat for diet analysis

Both Common seals and Grey seals occur around Wester Ross. Seal numbers increased around Scotland during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1989 there was an estimated 67,000 adult grey seals around the Scottish coastline; by 1998 this had increased dramatically to 110,000 (Sea Mammal Research Unit). Formerly, salmon netsmen around Wester Ross culled seals in the vicinity of netting stations. Following cessation of salmon netting, seal numbers may have increased in some areas. Seals eat many kinds of fish including sea trout and salmon. Sea trout may be particularly vulnerable to being taken by seals if they become infected with sea lice.

'Rogue' seals are seen in river estuaries during the summer months when adult sea trout and salmon are returning to freshwater. Since 2005, the Scottish Executive has granted special permission to estates with fisheries interests to shoot small numbers of rogue Common seals during the close season if it is clear they are targeting wild salmon.

In 2004 and 2005, WRFT monitored seal numbers at Kyle Rhea in collaboration with St. Andrew's University Sea Mammal Research Institute.

Grey seals and Common seals on their haul out near Kyle Rhea

Grey seals and Common seals on their haul out near Kyle Rhea