FRCC recommends experimental seal cull

Adam Randell
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Fishermen have argued for years that seals have been impeding the recovery of the northern cod stock.

While some groundfish species in the waters off Eastern Canada have been listed as endangered or threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), seal populations have exploded.

In its latest report to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), says “seals have eclipsed humans as a major cause of mortality in some stocks of these fish.”

Stock assessments, the council notes, show the harp seal population at about 9.1 million animals. The grey seal population on Sable Island has increased 10-fold in the past 30 years, to reach 350,000 seals.

The FRCC says it’s time for government to take action to reduce those seal populations.

In its September report, which suggests measures to help groundfish fisheries rebuild, the council recommends that an experimental reduction take place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to maintain the number of grey seals foraging in that area to less that 31,000 animals.

It also recommends a “comprehensive monitoring of the effect on groundfish and ecosystem parameters be continued for a time sufficient to definitively test the effect on the groundfish population in that area.”

Seals should also be removed in other specified areas, says the FRCC, and scientific work should be carried out to further explore the hypothesis of whether or not seal reductions would affect groundfish recoveries.

The report acknowledges there is key information missing when it comes to seal diets, forage ranges, behaviours and methods of population control.

To find the missing information, the council suggests the government provide funding for targeted research.

Gerard Chidley, chair of the FRCC, said in a news release DFO should proceed as soon as possible with targeted grey seal removals to test the hypothesis.

According to a spokesperson for DFO, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield is analyzing the recommendations.

A statement provided by his office said initial examination suggests most of the recommendations are in keeping with the departments polices and approaches.

There is no word on whether the recommendations will be implemented.

 “As fishermen have been clear about the impact of growing grey seal populations on cod and other groundfish, DFO is working with provincial and industry partners on developing a plan that is cost-effective and sustainable in order to promote the long-term health and sustainability of both the cod and grey seal populations,” the DFO statement read.

The Packet 

Organizations: Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, DFO, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife

Geographic location: Eastern Canada, Sable Island

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Recent comments

  • Henry Jefford
    October 23, 2011 - 00:12

    The seal herd is destroying the largest renewable food source in the world. There was a paper I picked up at the Dept. of Fisheries many years ago called "ONE IN A MILLION". This paper told how one cod egg in a million survive to become a mature cod fish. The only way to protect the largest renewable food source in the world is: 1. Reduce the seal herd which is destroying the cod stock (this can be seen on a TV Documentary which was aired on NTV NEWS which showed a herd of seals hunting cod fish like a pack of wolves. The seals are seen herding cod fish upon the shore line like a pack of wolves. On the news people can be seen picking up cod fish on the beach like capelin. There are millions of straving seals. Seals are going up rivers after salmon & trout. they have been seen in the rivers next to the TCH near Roaches Line miles from the ocean after trout. The seals are in epedimic porportions and something has to be done to stop the breeding of the seals, they are destroyed everything. So a seal cull to help save the cod stock is needed. They can be hunted or some kind of fish can be spread on the ice laced with a chemical that would help stop and reduce the seal population which is out of control.

  • bayman
    October 22, 2011 - 11:04

    A seal cull is a good idea in this area and a few more around the province. My question is, what are they going to do with all that meat and pelts ?? will it be harvested or destroyed ??