Fishermen call for cull of seals after repeated damage to catch

TONNES of haddock, pollock and cod were dumped yesterday after seals ravaged fishermen’s catches and equipment in Dingle harbour.

Gillnet fishermen demanded a cull of grey seals off Kerry but the National Parks and Wildlife Service together with the non-governmental Irish Seal Sanctuary said they would vigorously oppose such measures.

However, fishermen provided dramatic accounts of seal damage to stocks, claiming equipment on both small and large boats was attacked.

Mick Hennessy who operates Realt na Mara, a small, 12-metre boat, said there had to be a sensible approach.

“We don’t want to get rid of the seals. But there are so many of them there they are gone savage.

“We can’t go gill netting. There are 16 to 17 people idle today who should be fishing,” he said.

Local fishermen claimed thousands of euro of white fish stock had been destroyed by seal attacks in recent days.

The fishermen claimed they had been “hunted” off fishing grounds at Brandon Head and also north west of the Blasket over the last two days— such was the ferocity of the attack on their equipment and on their catch.

John Paul O’Connor who owns the trawler, Atlantic, said white fish stocks from Kerry to Donegal had been “wiped out” by grey seals.

“They are gone outrageous. We had to come off the fishing grounds yesterday,” he said, claiming there were seven to eight seals around each boat

“The smaller seals did as much damage as the bigger ones because they attacked the guts of the fish.”

He could not understand why a cull was being ruled out and said fishermen wanted to act in accordance with the law.

“Thousands of deer were culled last year. They are protected species too,” he said.

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