New laws proposed for managing the seas around Scotland include a year round ban against killing seals. If passed by MSPs, the new laws will make killing or injuring a seal an offence except under licence or for animal welfare concerns.

Licences will be given in certain circumstances, e.g. to prevent serious damage to fisheries. Killing without a licence will only be allowed in certain situations where animal welfare is a consideration, e.g. “mercy killing”.

Current legislation on seal conservation dates back to the 1970s and only makes license a requirement during the breeding season.

The curbs are a part of Scotland’s very first Marine Bill. The proposed laws will cover the Scottish sea from the shoreline to the 12-mile limit and is an attempt to balance competing interests through a legal planning framework.

The Marine Bill is not only focused on wildlife but aims to provide better protection for marine archaeology and wrecks as well. Under the Bill’s wider provisions, marine planning partnerships will be formed with local bodies, and a more straightforward licensing system involving less red tape is planned for areas like renewable energy.