Seals and the law

Grey seals were protected as early as 1914 when the Grey Seals Protection Act made it unlawful to kill seals between 1 October and 15 December each year, and never at Haskeir in the Hebrides. The Act was originally intended to protect seals for five years until the population had begun to increase, but it was then extended. Common seals were not protected, and in the 1960s, between 1,000 and 1,200 were killed each year in Scotland.

The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 made it unlawful to kill either grey or common seals during their breeding seasons (Grey seal close season 1 September 31 December; common seal close season 1 June 31 August) and limited the kinds of weapons that could be used to kill them at other times. In 1973, a special Order of the Conservation of Seals Act was passed which protects common seals in the Shetland Islands all year round.