A controversial marine conservation group has sent a "defence team" to the Scottish coast to stop the slaughtering of seals.

Sea Shepherd UK is patrolling the north-east coastline this summer in a bid to cut down the number of animals killed by the salmon industry as fishermen try to protect their livelihoods.

Over 200 seals were shot last year under licence from Marine Scotland - as it is illegal to kill the animals without seeking permission.

But many animal welfare groups fear that the actual figure for the number of seals killed in Scottish waters could be much higher.

Sea Shepherd UK (SSUK), which has courted controversy in the past over some of its allegedly aggressive methods, has now launched land and sea patrols in the Gamrie Bay area of the Aberdeenshire coast.

SSUK, which was founded by activist Paul Watson who left Greenpeace in the late 1970s over a "disagreement" over tactics, hopes the watching eyes of volunteers will stop the use of deadly force being brought against the wild animals.

A spokesman for the group said: "Sea Shepherd UK have deployed a seal defence crew to Gamrie Bay, Banffshire, in the first phase of our 2015 campaign to prevent Scotland's iconic seals from being killed illegally by coastal netting fishing operations, fish farms or indeed anyone else in Scotland.

"The licenses issued by Marine Scotland which specify numbers of seals, locations and conditions under which seals can be shot remains open to abuse by some fishing/fish farm companies with a complete absence of any government monitoring."