The groups have written to the UK and Scottish governments demanding immediate area bans on the covered propellers blamed for inflicting horrific “corkscrew” injuries on hundreds of seals and porpoises around the country.
More deaths could wipe out declining populations of harbour seals on the east coast of Scotland, they warn. This would expose ministers to multi-million pound fines for breaching the European habitats directive, which gives the seals legal protection.
Over 80 seals have been confirmed killed by corkscrew injuries in Scotland, 67 of them between 2010 and 2012, plus four porpoises. Of the total, 32 were harbour seals and 48 were the more common grey seals.
The National Trust has also seen over 50 seals killed by corkscrew injuries washed up at its Blakeney national nature reserve on the north Norfolk coast in recent years, including six in December and January.
Scientists suspect, however, that there are many more victims whose bodies are never found. All the deaths are caused by a characteristic deep gash in the flesh spiraling around the body.