§ Mr. Hancock
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any proposals for a seal cull this year.
§ Mr. Gummer
[pursuant to his reply, 27 February 1987]: Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 the authority to issue a licence under which seals may be culled in England and Wales rests with the Home Secretary.
My Department has an interest in any effect that seals may have on fisheries. In order to obtain information on which to assess the impact of seals on fisheries we make a financial contribution to the research carried out by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) which includes monitoring the populations around our coasts. I am advised that the seal population around the Farne Islands, the major population on the English coast, has remained relatively stable in recent years. In response, however, to complaints about increasing seal damage from fishermen operating with fixed nets off the north east coast of England we have, in addition to the ongoing work of the SMRU, commissioned Hull university to carry out a survey to assess the extent of such damage. This work is still in progress. I have no plans to seek the Home Secretary's authorisation for a seal cull this year.