Salmon farmers using beanbag bullets to fend off seals in Australia

Seals in Australia’s Southern-most State of Tasmania are being being shot with riot guns to deter them from approaching salmon farms.

According to over the past five years salmon farmers have used almost 8,000 beanbag bullets to shoot at seals and have set off almost 40,000 underwater explosives to scare the seals away from fish.

Seal attacks on salmon stocks are a regular occurrence on farms. The animals, which can grow up to 7.2 ft, kill by taking single bites out of each fish then leaving them to die. On occasions, a single seal attack might cause the death of hundreds of fish.

However the use of the ammunition, which is used by police and law enforcement agencies, has been was described as “unacceptable” by animal welfare proponents.

The non-lethal, short range is used as ammunition for wildlife deterrent. It’s also used for suppressing prison riots.

The publication used freedom of information laws to retrieve documents that revealed that 3,770 beanbag rounds were used and 39,024 underwater Seal Control Units explosives called “crackers” in 2016.

In 2017, the number fell to 1,000 bean bags and 28,748 “crackers”.

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment regulations stipulate beanbags cannot be used in a manner likely to cause injury to a seal and to minimise risk or injury can not be fired towards the head of a seal or within two metres of the animal.

“From an animal welfare perspective beanbags are high risk, they are inappropriate and likely to injure the animal,” former chairman of Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee Rick Campbell told the national broadcaster.

Aftermath of a seal attack. PHOTO: SSPO

“It is certainly a concern, especially if the animals are too close, these are fast-moving animals and it is most likely the head that is above water — the risk of significant injuries is high,” he added.

In a statement, Tassal said it used the deterrents to safeguard its staff as well as stock.

“The use of seal deterrents across the salmon industry in Tasmania has remained relatively unchanged since 2013, and reduced since 2016, despite an increase in operations and production volume,” it said.

“This is primarily due to the roll-out of seal-proof infrastructure by the salmon companies. Tassal has invested $70 million in its sanctuary pens, which so far have proved very effective in keeping seals, stock and people safe.”


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