Perceptions and costs of seal impacts on Atlantic salmon fisheries in the Moray Firth, Scotland: Implications for the adaptive co-management of seal-fishery conflict
The Moray Firth Seal Management Plan (MFSMP) was introduced in Scotland in 2005 as a pilot for resolving conflict between Atlantic salmon fisheries and conservation imperatives for protected harbour and grey seals. This adaptive co-management model is now being applied nationally through the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010). However, no information exists on salmon fishery stakeholders' perceptions of seal predation impacts and related costs, which could influence the success of the MFSMP and other similar initiatives. In 2006 a questionnaire survey of the 95 salmon rod fisheries in seven major Moray Firth rivers was undertaken, and all 20 active salmon netting stations in the Firth. Forty-five fishery owners, 39 ghillies, 120 anglers and 11 netsmen (representing 17 netting stations) responded. The majority (81%) believed that seals had a significant or moderate impact on stocks and catches, 77% believed that all seals were responsible and 47% supported seal culling. Seals were sighted by 38% of rod fisheries, and 18% lost angler days from seal interference. Overall, 0.2% of total reported angler days were lost annually. The estimated direct cost of seal interference for responding rod fisheries was £14,960 annum-1, and losses of catches and damage to nets was £16,500 annum-1 for responding netsmen. Stakeholders' perceptions were largely inconsistent with their low direct costs and the aims of the MFSMP. Possible reasons for this are discussed, and implications for the governance of future adaptive co-management initiatives for seal-fishery conflict.
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