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Call to end agony of birds in sea nets
Louise Hosie

The Scotsman

3rd August 2004

An animal welfare organisation has appealed to salmon fishermen to end the suffering of seabirds which die in nets every year.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) say guillemots at the Bullers of Buchan, on the Aberdeenshire coast, die after becoming stuck in the salmon-fishing nets.

They want the fishermen at Peterhead’s Cruden Salmon Fishing Company either to stop fishing next to the colony during the birds’ breeding season, or move the nets further up the coast. But fishermen have said they are unwilling to do this unless they are paid compensation.

Mike Flynn, a superintendent with the Scottish SPCA, said: "There is a fishing company which has a legal right to catch wild salmon near the Bullers of Buchan, and this is causing us concern. The area is directly below a guillemot breeding area and all the birds dive into the water to get sandeels.

"But they are getting caught in the nets and are drowning, which, for a seabird, must be a horrible death. They die from a mixture of exhaustion and drowning. It is not unusual to see 20 or 30 dead birds a day."

Six years ago, a procurator-fiscal determined that the guillemots’ deaths were as an incidental result of lawful action, after the Scottish SPCA took a case to court.

"There are two solutions - either for the company not to fish in that area during breeding season or just move the nets," Mr Flynn said. "We are appealing to the company to change their policy."

A spokesman from the Cruden Salmon Fishing Group said yesterday: "The issue first blew up six years ago and there were some people who were really distressed, so we offered to take the nets out as long as we were compensated for it. That was refused point-blank by the Scottish SPCA."

The spokesman said that the Scottish SPCA had not been in touch with them in connection with their current concerns.

"We have been here for generations - we are not going to run away from the problem," he said.