Calls for seal census as cull may be required

THE National Salmon Commission yesterday called for a census of the seal population and said a cull may be necessary.

“Seals do destroy fish stocks, and salmon in particular. There should be a proper census done and if it finds there are too many seals, there should be a proper cull taking place,” said Salmon Commission chairman Joey Murrin yesterday on RTÉ radio.

More than 40 grey seals were found killed on Beginish Island last week and post mortems on three of the seals revealed that one had been shot, another had been bludgeoned and the third had had an instrument driven through one of its eyes.

The Irish Seal Sanctuary (ISS) agreed that a seal census should be carried out.

“We have been calling for a grey seal census for years,” said ISS secretary Pauline Beades. “However, we can find no evidence to support the argument for seal culls, with respect to increasing fish stocks or assisting stock recovery.”

However, Mr Murrin yesterday warned against pointing the finger too soon.

“The perception that it has been carried out by fishermen is wrong until it’s proven. Unfortunately we live in a society where this could have been done for kicks,” he said.

Meanwhile, gardaí and wildlife officers yesterday visited the scene of the slaughter in an effort to find evidence that might lead them to the culprits. The search was concentrated on tiny Beginish Island, close to the Great Blasket.

An appeal was also issued to fishermen, or others, who may have been in the vicinity of the Blaskets on Monday last week when the killings are believed to have occurred, to come forward.

As nobody lives on the Blaskets, it may be difficult to find witnesses to the brutal slaying of the seals.

A small number of fishermen are suspected of the killings. Seals are known to interfere with nets and also eat into scarce salmon stocks, fishermen claim.

Sergeant Mossie O’Donnell, Dingle, said a thorough investigation was continuing. He also said the fishing community in general did not condone the killings.

Sergeant O’Donnell said it appeared most of the seals, which are protected under the Wildlife Act, were shot and some appeared to be bludgeoned with blunt instruments.

Duchas regional manager Paddy O’Sullivan said they were helping the gardaí to trace the perpetrators and urged people with any information to telephone Duchas, in Killarney, on 064-31440.

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