Fisherman wants licence to shoot seal
A FISHERMAN has been urged to think again after he applied for a firearms licence to shoot a seal he claims is threatening his livelihood.Joss Wiggins, chief fisheries officer with the Kent and Essex Seas Fisheries Committee, said he would not endorse the actions of a Clacton fisherman who wants to kill a bull seal, which is swimming off the shores of Mersea.
A FISHERMAN has been urged to think again after he applied for a firearms licence to shoot a seal he claims is threatening his livelihood.
Joss Wiggins, chief fisheries officer with the Kent and Essex Seas Fisheries Committee, said he would not endorse the actions of a Clacton fisherman who wants to kill a bull seal, which is swimming off the shores of Mersea.
The Clacton man has told police that the large seal, which could weigh up to 300 kgs, is taking fish from his nets and under law, if he can prove that he might go bankrupt, he could be allowed to shoot to kill.
A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed they had received an "exceptionally rare" application - only the second in 10 years.
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He said: "He has applied for a licence to eradicate the problem of a bull seal, which is taking his fish from his nets in fishing grounds six miles from Colchester.
"If it is granted, the permit will allow him to deal with this seal and after that it expires."
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Conservationists said that seals had been bred off the Essex coast mainly around the Crouch and Dengie areas, but that they often moved to where they could find food.
A small breeding colony, or common, appeared off the Pyefleet Channel, East Mersea, five years ago. If the bull seal is shot, the rest of the colony could be destroyed.
Mr Wiggins said that while seals, which can follow trawlers, get into nets and eat fish stocks, can do damage to fishermen's livelihoods, most skippers learnt to live with them.
He said: "Fishermen should work with nature, not against it. We learn to work around problems like this, rather than going in so hard.
"Seals can be a problem, but most of us just tolerate them – live and let live.
"This is the first time that I've heard anybody wanting to do something like this and I'm a bit hesitant to endorse it really – I'd urge this man to think about other ways, or move into another area."
Marianne Fellows, from the National Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall, said he was not shocked by the application, because fishermen in her region were always complaining.
"It's unfortunately an unpleasant reality what this man wants to do. The seals were there first and it's their fish as much as any fisherman's.
"There have been suggestions that the seals could relocate, but that's not really possible. They are reasonably intelligent creatures and learn where to move.
"If they were taken somewhere else, they'd probably just come back. It's people's attitudes that need to change."
Seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, but under that statute, fishermen can apply for a licence to kill, if damage to nets can be proved.