LERWICK, Scotland, May 29 (UPI) -- A Shetland salmon farm manager is the first person convicted under Britain's Conservation Act for setting nets dangerous to seals, an investigator says.
Graham McNally, 52, of Lerwick entered a guilty plea Tuesday in Sheriff Court, The Shetland Times reported. He was fined 800 pounds ($1,200).
McNally was a regional manager for Meridian Salmon Farms in the Shetlands, the Scottish island group north of Britain. He admitted setting nets in 2011 that could have trapped and drowned grey or common seals trying to feed on the enclosed salmon.
The judge, describing "a significant tension between the fish farming industry and conservation interests," said he had no interest in sending McNally to prison because he was not harming seals for sport and no animals actually died. But he said he hoped the fine would be a deterrent to others.
Mike Flynn, superintendent for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which investigated the case, called the plea "a landmark for seal conservation." He welcomed the first criminal conviction under the 1994 act for nets dangerous to seals.
"Common seal numbers are decreasing and the illegal trapping and killing of seals is contributing to their decline," he said.