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Minutes of the Seals Forum (2)


Scottish Executive Environment &Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD)
Sea Mammal Research Unit, St Andrews
Scottish Natural Heritage
Fisheries Research Services (FRS) - Freshwater Laboratory
Fisheries Research Services (FRS) - Marine Laboratory
Marine Biological Station, Millport
Marine Conservation Society
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
WWF - Scotland
Scottish SPCA (SSPCA)
The Atlantic Salmon Trust
Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFBs)
Spey Fishery Board
Salmon and Trout Association ( Scotland )
Tourism and Environment Forum

The Chair introduced herself and welcomed everybody to the second meeting of the Working Group, particularly the new Branch Head for the Marine Protection Team (SEERAD).

Minutes of the last meeting
A slight amendment was made to Paragraph 10 with the removal of the word 'otoliths.' All participants agreed the minutes of the last meeting.

Terms of Reference & draft Work programme
Papers SSWG 04 were circulated prior to the meeting with only two minor wording changes and agreed without comment.

The Group agreed that the Work Programme would not be finalised at this time, but would be informed by the outcome of the workshop discussions.

Future Operations
Paper SSWG 05 was based on discussions at the previous meeting. It was considered that the Working Group would function more effectively by delivering the work programme through two small sub-groups: Research and Management respectively. These sub-groups would facilitate progress on specific issues and allow for further work to be tackled in a more focused manner. It was proposed that the sub-groups would comprise of 6 to 8 representatives, with members of the Working Group encouraged to offer themselves (or other members of the Group) for one or both groups. Final selection to be made to SEERAD. ACTION: Participants interested in taking part in the sub-groups should put themselves forward to SEERAD for nomination.

SCOS Presentation
Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has a duty to provide scientific advice to government on matters related to the management of seal populations. NERC has appointed the Special Committee on Seals (SCOS) to formulate this advice. This advice is given annually based on the latest scientific information provided by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). The group were given a brief presentation based on the latest advice. The SCOS 2002 Report can be accessed on the SE and SMRU website.

The report also addressed specific questions raised by the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) in response to ongoing issues and concerns. It was agreed that the Working Group would be involved in drafting questions for submission to SCOS in June 2003. ACTION: Suggestions for possible questions by the next meeting.

Workshops and Plenary Session
Following the workshop discussions (please refer to the attached papers for information), it was felt that the main issues for future consideration would be:

  • Identification of conflicts between seals and human activities;
  • Current limitations in science and future options;
  • Legal frameworks relating to the protection and management of seals; and
  • Prioritisation of actions to be taken

It was felt that there would be a benefit in establishing a Steering Group that would identify the main conflicts and questions that need to be addressed by the two sub-groups.

The Steering Group would meet up prior to the next meeting to identify possible questions and conflicts for future discussions. The Steering Group will consist of 6-8 members. ACTION: Participants interested in joining the Steering Group should inform Ricky Verrall, Marine Protection Team (SEERAD) by 7 February.

The two sub-groups would be set up in the wake of the Steering Group meeting. They would seek to co-ordinate their work and inform each others progress through the Working Group.

Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) - The current Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) outbreak has had a limited effect on the Scottish seal population with approximately half of the 863 dead seals washed up, attributed to the Phocine Distemper Virus. However, scientists have not yet ruled out the possibility of a re-emergance of PDV in early summer when seal populations haul out for the breeding season.

Conservation of Seals ( Scotland ) Order 2002 - The Conservation of Seals Order 2002 was put in place on 4 September 2002 , with a commitment made by Scottish Ministers to review its status if circumstances changed. Since the results of the next seal survey will not be available until late 2003, it is unlikely that the Order will be reviewed before this time. However, SMRU/SCOS will try to produce an interim report in September 2003 on the effects of PDV.

Habitats Directive - There is a proposal at the UK level to amend legislation, to ensure compliance with the Habitats Directive. Draft legislation will be issued for consultation in March 2003.

Next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 7 May 2003 at 10.30am . Venue to be confirmed.