A scientific study for the Scottish government by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University has confirmed that seals caught in ducted propellers suffer horrific and fatal “corkscrew” gashes. Larger seals could be decapitated by the blades, it suggests.
Ducted propellers run inside a casing, which makes them more efficient at low speeds, but it is thought the animals get trapped between the propeller blades and the casing.
Angered by the slaughter, a coalition of 26 wildlife and conservation groups is now demanding a Scottish, UK and international ban on the guilty propellers. They have written to the Scottish and UK governments warning that they are breaking the law by failing to protect seals.
“This is one of the UK’s biggest marine conservation and welfare tragedies,” said Sarah Dolman, Northeast Atlantic programme manager for Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the group that co-ordinated the joint letter.
“This latest evidence confirms that seals are being sliced up by some kinds of ships’ propellers and possibly in much greater numbers than previously realised. Despite the worst affected populations of harbour seals heading for local extinction, we have not seen any evidence that the UK and devolved governments plan to act to stop these needless deaths.”