“He has a lot of personality, but he couldn’t possibly defend himself in court…”

Angry fishermen in Scotland wanted a grey seal shot for eating valuable salmon stocks.

The hungry grey seal found his way into in a shallow stretch of the River Leven near Balloch, south of Loch Lomond, and appeared to get trapped there while attempting to make his way back to sea.

After pressure from the media and hundreds of locals who turned out to protest, plans to shoot the three-year-old grey seal were dropped.

Andre, also known as Salty, has delighted hundreds of onlookers by steadfastly refusing to be rescued. Instead, he played ball with a buoy, frolicked with a pet dog and swam under or around carefully laid traps as divers looked on. Rescue co-ordinator Gareth Norman said the sea mammal had out-witted them.

In a creative and good humoured response, Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association generously decided to award the grey seal an official £150 fishing permit, under the name of André – Permit No 999, featuring a passport-sized photograph, giving him official permission to fish until October 31.

Michael Brady, the association’s chairman, said: “André has been committing a poaching offense by eating all our salmon. He has already cost us thousands of pounds in fish and through loss of permit sales, so the least we could do until he is caught is to make it legal. He has a lot of personality, but he couldn’t possibly defend himself in court.

In a letter to his newest member, Mr Brady wrote: “We have decided to issue you with a fishing permit for the season. This will allow you to fish in Loch Lomond and the River Leven. Last year some of your friends (two otters) moved into the River Endrick, so you may wish to visit them and (unfortunately for us) share a salmon or two with them.”

Chairman of Uckfield-based British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Alan Knight, said: “He’s got a stay of execution but is being remarkably elusive. He’s got lots of fish to eat and just sits there thinking: ‘What a load of idiots!’

Despite being a protected species, people are allowed to shoot fish hungry seals in Scotland if they go anywhere near fishing rods or nets. They got permission to shoot Salty but we asked them not to kill him. We have an internationally-important population of grey seals and don’t want to see any of them shot.

The fishing club has now issued him a license to fish – which must be the first time this has ever happened.”

Mr. Brady called for a pilot area to be created to protect fishing and wildlife stocks. Doreen Graham of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said: “There is also an international responsibility here – Scotland is home to the world’s largest colony of grey seals.”

Adapted from reports in www.timesonline.co.uk and BBC News, April 2003

Photo: Grey seal in Harbour by Murray Stanley

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