A History of the fund ... continued
In 1988, a farmhand at The Maclennan Salmon Company on Skye wrote to me claiming that seals were regularly shot at the intensive salmon unit where he worked. I went to Skye to investigate and was horrified to discover that a shotgun was being used to maim and kill seals. My contact, Simon Upton, bravely agreed to give evidence and, with his testimony and that of several others, we secured the first (and to date only) successful prosecution under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.
It emerged in court that the company-owned shotgun was used on a regular basis to shoot seals. The accused, Dane Reeve, had admitted to Alex Scotland of the Sunday Mail newspaper that he used the shotgun to kill 6 seals in one month alone. On 1st of August 1989 Mr. Reeve was found guilty and fined the grand total of £200. This was equivalent in value to a dozen of the several thousand salmon in just one floating cage at the farm.
While I was researching the terrible toll humans inflict on the seal population a natural disaster wrecked havoc on these animals. It was the first phocine distemper virus epidemic of 1988 which prompted me to establish the Save Scotland's Seals Fund (SSSF). An offshoot of Animal Concern the SSSF was created to bring together all the major organisations involved in seal protection. We invited all the main groups to put a representative on the SSSF board. The idea being that we could co-ordinate fundraising and rescue work thus saving time and money and avoid duplicating work and wasting resources.
Regretfully not one organisation agreed to join with us and went off to do there own thing. The first thing most seemed to do was to put adverts in newspapers seeking funds. These massive ads competed with each other to bring in money. On the ground the lack of co-ordination meant that some areas (usually those with the biggest media presence) were swamped with seal rescue teams while other areas were totally ignored.
The Save Scotland's Seals Fund decided to concentrate on helping small local rescue groups which lacked the backing of the big organisations. We also decided that our main aim would be to highlight the human persecution of Scottish seals which all the other organisations seemed to ignore.
It was at this time I received a telephone call from a softly spoken young woman from the Hebridean Isle of Islay. She told me how she sang to the seals at Kildalton and wanted to do something to help protect these animals. I took a flight to Islay, half expecting to meet someone who was overdoing it on the very nippy sweeties from the local distilleries.