A GREEN MSP is demanding a ban on the shooting of common seals to help boost declining numbers.
Robin Harper says 3,000 to 5,000 common seals are shot in Scotland every year.
The Lothians MSP has lodged a motion seeking support for an outright ban on shooting the animals and enhance seal protection measures.
Currently seals can be shot under licence by anyone looking to prevent damage to fish farm cages and protect stock.
Mr Harper says research by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University has shown a population drop of 56 per cent between 2000 and 2007.
“This decline in common seal numbers is extremely alarming,” he said.
“They are an iconic symbol of Scottish marine life, but they are also at the top of the food chain and provide us with strong indicators of the health of the marine environment.
“In addition to the devastation of the Scottish common seal population, we are also seeing rapidly declining populations of Scottish seabirds.
“This would all seem to indicate that a substantial environmental change is taking place out in the North Sea.”
The government says seal populations may have shown signs of improvement since measures were introduced in the Moray Firth to regulate shooting.