Cookies on our website

The Natural Resources Wales website uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more details about cookies and how to manage them, see our cookie policy.

Seal Licensing

The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 prohibits the killing / taking of seals by certain methods and during close seasons. Natural Resources Wales can grant licences for specified purposes so you can stay within the law

There are two species of seal found around the UK, the grey (or Atlantic) seal and the harbour (or common) seal. Of these two, the grey seal is much more common in Wales.

The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 prohibits the following methods of killing or taking seals:

  • Use of any poisonous substance
  • Use of any firearm other than a rifle with specified ammunition

There is a close season for grey seals from 1st September to 31st December, and for harbour seals from 1st June to 31st August.

  • It is an offence to take or kill a seal during the close season

There are certain exceptions under this legislation, which are not considered offences and for which a licence is not required:

  • Taking / attempting to take a disabled seal for the purposes of tending and releasing it
  • Unavoidable killing / injuring as an incidental result of a lawful operation
  • Killing / attempted killing a seal to prevent it causing damage to a fishing net / tackle, or to fish held in the net, if the seal is in the vicinity of the net / tackle

Licences

NRW can grant licences, under powers conferred by the Secretary for State, for the following purposes (Section 10(1)):

  • Scientific or educational purposes (to kill or take, other than by use of strychnine)
  • Zoological gardens / collections (to take)
  • Prevention of damage to fisheries (to kill or take)
  • Reduction of population surplus for management purposes (to kill or take)
  • Use of population surplus as a resource (to kill or take)
  • Protection of flora or fauna within areas specified in subsection (4)

Licences to prevent damage will be issued only where all three of the following apply:

  • Seals are causing, or likely to cause, sufficiently serious damage to justify a licence
  • Other methods of control have been shown to be ineffective or impractical
  • The licensed activity is likely to be successful in solving the problem

Where a licence application proposes the use of methods prohibited under Regulation 45(3) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, we will consider the application under those Regulations.

Related document downloads

Is there anything wrong with this page? Give us your feedback.