Public attention died down after that, as people thought the cancellation of the cull meant the seals were safe. But it was still legal to shoot seals without reporting the killings, and so the Scottish seal culling continued for years - only in secret, Ottaway said. Each year, thousands of seals were shot without anyone, including the government for the most part, knowing much about it.
Protests in 2010 led to the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, a new law that requires seal hunters to be licensed and to report their killings. Seal deaths have since dropped, according to the self-reported numbers; a total of 205 seals were killed in 2014.
But Ottaway said this law is inefficient, as there's no way to tell if people are actually reporting all the seals they kill. He compared the law to Canada's lax marine mammal protection legislation, which does little to stop tens of thousands of the mammals from being killed each year.
"It protects or conserves seals from everybody except those who want to kill them," he explained.