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Seals: Conservation

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken to protect the UK’s populations of common and grey seals. (241071)

Seal conservation is a devolved issue, so I will answer with respect to England only. Seals are protected in England by the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. Under the 1970 Act it is an offence to take or kill common and grey seals out of season.

The 1970 Act also allows the Secretary of State if it appears necessary for the proper conservation of seals, to prohibit by way of an order the killing, injuring or taking of either or both the above seal species in any area specified in the order. There is currently such an order (The Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999) protecting common and grey seals on the East coast of England in order to allow the numbers to recover from the Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) outbreaks of 1988 and 2002 which greatly reduced the common seal population on the east coast of England.

Several marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been created around the UK to specifically protect, among other species, common and grey seals. Within SACs, competent authorities have to take appropriate steps to avoid significant disturbance to the species concerned or deterioration of their habitat.