About 60 grey seals, most of them pups, have been culled off the Kerry coast, wildlife officials reported today.
The Irish Seal Sanctuary blamed local fishermen for killing the animals because they eat fish, and are therefore their "competitors" for fish stocks.
“There’s only one direction the finger can be pointed at: the fishing community,” said group spokesman Sean Eviston, who travelled to Beginish Island off the coast of the Dingle peninsula to confirm reports of the cull.
Eviston said the grey seals killed were mostly ”whitecoats”, pups about three weeks old. He said the attackers appeared to have used several methods to kill, including gun shots, beating the animals with rocks, and driving nails into their skulls.
“They ripped some of these seals open from the nape of the neck,” he said.
Gardaí were expected to accompany Eviston and other wildlife activists back to the unpopulated island today.
Fishermen have been blamed for occasional slaughters of seals on islands off the western and southern coasts. Nobody has ever faced charges.
Grey seals are supposed to be a protected species under Ireland’s Wildlife Act of 1976.
Beginish is part of the Blasket Islands, Ireland’s largest sanctuary for grey seals. The Irish Seal Sanctuary estimates that fewer than 400 grey seals are resident in the islands, down from about 2,000 a half century ago.