ANTI-SEAL-shooting activists have launched a campaign aimed at crippling the tourism industry in the North-east.
The move comes after the number of seals slaughtered in Scottish waters to protect commercial salmon farming and netting concerns in a little over two years passed the 1,000 mark.
The Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) has issued a "stay-away" call to potential visitors to the North-east after TV presenter Neil Oliver, the face and voice of Visit Scotland’s £350,000 "Surprise Yourself" tourism initiative, launched a campaign promoting Scotland as a top location for wildlife watching.
The Visit Scotland campaign, which highlights Scotland’s "Big 5" animals to see – red deer, otter, red squirrel, golden eagle and harbour seal – is specifically geared to draw more visitors to Scotland from the rest of the UK and Ireland.
SPAG director Andy Ottaway believes potential visitors should stay away from Scotland and from the North-east.
He said: "At least 1,000 seals have been reported shot in Scotland in just over two years.
"Tourists are in for a very nasty surprise indeed if they find themselves watching seal slaughter while on their holiday."
The Scottish Government’s new tourism campaign was launched at a time when local eye-witness reports say that at least 20 seals were shot in just two weeks by Usan employees, who operate two netting stations in Gamrie Bay.
Mr Ottaway has called on Montrose-based Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd, to commit fully to trials of acoustic deterrent devices (ADD) in Gamrie Bay on the Banffshire coast, where residents of the picturesque former fishing villages of Gardenstown and Crovie have again complained that they are under siege from fishermen shooting seals in open, public view.
SPAG recently wrote to Usan offering to meet and discuss the situation at Crovie and, according to Mr Ottoway has yet to receive a response to an offer which he insists is still on the table.
"We are extremely disappointed that the trial of an acoustic seal-scaring device at Crovie has met with unnecessary delays and technical difficulties meaning that seals are still being shot," said Mr Ottoway. "We appeal to Marine Scotland and Usan Salmon to commit fully to making these trials a success.
"On average, 10 seals are shot every week in Scotland. That’s not a statistic to be proud of.
"We believe that the non-lethal deterrence of seals is perfectly possible and essential for the salmon industry, for Crovie and for Scotland’s image as a tourist destination."