History of the Grey Seal



Before the late nineteenth century, there was no real sense of people taking delight in seals in Britain. There was some ‘celebration’ derived through the seal’s role literature and Gaelic folklore (as the ‘selkie’) but the most traditional response was to use seals for food, for their oil, and for sealskins made into waistcoats, sporrans and fashionable motoring jackets.  To fulfil these economic roles, seals were brutally hunted on places like Haskeir in Outer Hebrides.

Gradually concerns began to arise about over-hunting and there was a belief that populations had dwindled to less than 500 individuals. In reality the population was probably closer to 2,000-4,000 but, nevertheless in 1914 the grey seal became the first wild mammal protected by Parliament.

The Act set up a close season from 1 October to 15 December (breeding season) which ended centuries of subsistence and commercial exploitation of the grey seal.