Sweden sets seal hunt quota of 200

Sweden's annual seal hunt, aimed at killing off grey seals that damage fishermen's nets and equipment, opens on Monday with a quota of 200, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The hunting season runs from April 16 until December 31 along Sweden’s Baltic Sea coastline. No more than half of the seals can be killed before June 1.

“Seals can be hunted from Norrbotten in the north to Kalmar county in the south,” the agency said in a statement.

Seal stocks in the Baltic Sea are increasing by seven percent a year and are now estimated at 24,000 seals, it said.

According to the Swedish Board of Fisheries only a small number of seals damage fishing equipment, but the cost is estimated at some 55 million kronor ($8 million) a year.

The 2007 quota is largely unchanged from 2006.

One change introduced to the hunt this year is that fishermen will now be allowed to kill seals from a ship, providing they seek a permit to do so first. Previously, the hunt was only allowed from land.

“Professional fishermen must have better chances to eliminate the grey seals that are causing problems. That is why we are making it possible to hunt from ships. But it will only be allowed under controlled forms,” the agency said.