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Wildlife Protection

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 6 October 2020

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Ceisteanna (320, 322, 329, 330, 361)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

320. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the an Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta the proposal in respect of the seal culling scheme that was recently announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28315/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

322. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a proposal to initiate a cull of seals has been considered by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28743/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

329. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason for allowing the method of culling seals with high velocity rifles; if all other non-lethal options were considered in relation to the management of seal rookeries; and if a full biodiversity and environmental impact assessment was conducted in relation to the consequences of issuing licences. [28198/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

330. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on the serious environmental and animal welfare concerns raised in relation to the planned pilot seal culling programme by which wild seals will by shot in the sea from boats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28200/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

361. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he plans to issue licences for seal culls in the near future; if so, the reasons for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28744/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320, 322, 329, 330 and 361 together.

Neither I nor my Department has any plans to undertake a cull of seals, nor would I agree to it.

Both species of seal in Irish waters - the Harbour or Common Seal and the more numerous Grey Seal - are protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Ireland is obliged to maintain their populations at favourable conservation status. We are also required to monitor these species and report to the European Commission on their conservation status. A standardised monitoring programme has been in place for both since 2009. The most recent report on their conservation status was submitted to the European Commission in April 2019 and is available on the NPWS website (https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2019_Vol3_Species_Article17.pdf ). Both species are assessed as being at favourable conservation status.

Section 42 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (as amended) provides, inter alia, that where protected wild animals or birds are causing serious damage, persons affected may on application to the Minister seek a permission to take appropriate steps to mitigate the damage. A very small number of such applications in a given year will concern seal damage.

Applications are investigated by local staff to determine if serious damage is being caused and if so the most practical method of controlling the problem. Consideration of the license applications made under Section 42 includes reference to any conservation issues facing the protected species in question. Applications under this section normally involve very small numbers of animals and an environmental impact assessment is not required to issue licenses.

My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, will be writing to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Bord Iascaigh Mhara to arrange a meeting to discuss seal conservation and problems for fishermen from seal damage on fishing nets.

Furthermore, I understand that the Irish Seal Group has been re-established and is to meet online in mid-October. The group includes the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department, the Irish Seal Sanctuary, the Irish South & West Fish Producer’s Organisation, the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, BIM and marine mammal researchers from UCC. It will be chaired by the Marine Institute.

The group's main focus will be to agree, where possible, joint research and other recommendations to progress and address the seal-fisheries conflict issues.

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