MOVES have been made to defend Scotland's seal culling policy after a couple on holiday claimed they would never return north of the Border after witnessing the animals being shot on a beach.

Valerie and Joe Jackson, of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, cut short their holiday in Crovie, Aberdeenshire, after claiming that 14 seals had been shot in 10 days with a number of carcasses left on the shoreline.

Ms Jackson, 56, said: "We saw three seal carcasses on the beach and thought there had been some sort of accident at first. Then we found out they had been shot.

"It was a bit weird knowing there were people round us with guns, a bit creepy really. We were shocked. We didn't expect to see this happening on holiday."

The couple contacted the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG), also claiming that local residents have themselves protested to Usan Fisheries of Montrose.

Usan Fisheries has permission to shoot a restricted number of seals under a Scottish Government licence scheme which was set up to protect fish stock.

The Scottish Government introduced the Seal Licence scheme in 2011 to curb seal shooting after a SPAG campaign claiming thousands of seals were shot in Scottish waters every year by salmon farmers, nets-men and the sports-angling industry.

George Pullar, director of Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd, said his company had not experienced such a high level of predatory seals since it started business in the 1960s, with salmon rendered unsaleable or lowered in value due to injury. "We operate according to strict licensing conditions and protocols imposed by Marine Scotland. This regime allows us to take steps, where necessary, to protect our livelihood. We realise that the shooting of seals is unpalatable to many and are committed to exploring non-lethal alternatives to this which at the same time offer protection to our way of life."

A Scottish Government spokesman said that police had investigated the issues raised by the holidaymakers and there was no evidence the fishery had breached its licence.

He said: "Marine Scotland has included strict conditions on seal carcass recovery in their seal licence and investigations undertaken by Marine Scotland and the police have, to date, found nothing to suggest the netting station have breached their licence."