Operation Seal Guard – April 2014

[Update: Usan returned to catch salmon in Gardenstown & Crovie on May 10th, but haven’t resumed seal shooting]

On April 21st, Sea Shepherd UK asked for more hunt sabs to come to Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire in North East Scotland, to help them stop Usan killing seals in the area. Already wondering if we could help with the campaign, we packed our bags, and some sabs from other groups into our van, and set off later that day to join them.

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Sea Shepherd and hunt sabs had been in the area for some time, waiting for the killing to begin over the Easter period, and directly stopping it as soon as the salmon company attempted to shoot. The campaign was going perfectly, with Usan unable to illegally shoot any seals at sea whilst tailed by Sea Shepherd, when the seal killers launched an aggressive outburst on Sea Shepherd crew members on the 21st, prompting the call for extra bodies in the area.

On the 22nd, we introduced ourselves to the Usan team as they returned to the harbour after checking their salmon nets, tailed by Sea Shepherd. The killers didn’t seem too brave once we queried which of them had assaulted a Sea Shepherd member the day before. Our meeting on the pier made the front page of The Press & Journal newspaper, and from then on, Usan stopped taking a gun to sea and only went out to check their nets, not to shoot.

We spent the next 3 days in Gardenstown, taking over watching the harbour from the Sea Shepherd crew. We made it clear we were still watching Usan even though they weren’t carrying guns, but mostly watched them from afar. Our continued presence in the area was welcomed by many locals, who quietly told us how pleased they were with what we were doing, but clearly rattled others. A gathering of around 20 Usan supporters on the pier was quietly ignored on the 23rd, followed by the Harbour Master failing in an attempt to bill Sea Shepherd a huge amount of money for being filmed by a news crew in the harbour the next day, and Usan employees turning up and starting arguments at our extensive clean-up of Crovie Beach on the 25th. In spite of USAN turning up, the beach clean-up was a very satisfying way to spend a few hours, with around 30 bin bags of rubbish being collected.

On the 25th, Sea Shepherd met with local police, the council and Usan. Sea Shepherd made it clear that they wouldn’t be leaving the area until Usan handed in their seal shooting licences, but it was agreed that hunt sabs would leave the area on the understanding that Usan would not kill seals in the 5 days they were given to consider handing in their licences. So we left for home! On Friday May 2nd, the Hunt Saboteurs Association announced that, rather than giving up their licences, Usan have taken in their salmon netts and appear to have closed down their operation in Gardenstown! It was also revealed that seals had been spotted in the area, who, along with the local salmon, will now be safe.

We would like to congratulate Sea Shepherd on their achievements with this campaign and thank them for all the amazing work they do, and for putting us up in Gardenstown. We look forward to working with them again in the future. We would also like to thank our supporters for funding the entirety of our long trip, and the helpful individual who set up the GoFundMe appeal for us.

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