Seal Hunt

Factsheets

Seals and Fisheries

When northern cod and other fish stocks collapsed in the early 1990s, Canadians were told that seals were to blame. Since this time, Canadians have also been told that seals are one of the factors impeding the recovery of groundfish stocks.

Neither of these claims can be justified scientifically. Both fly in the face of what the most respected Canadian and international scientists are currently saying about the role of harp and hooded seals in the Northwest Atlantic:

"What happened to the East coast fish stocks had nothing to do with the environment, nothing to do with seals, it (was) simply overfishing." R.Myers, 1995; Also See J.Hutchings et al., 1997

"…there is no evidence that increased seal predation of juvenile cod led to the recent decline and subsequent closures of several cod fisheries." A. Sinclair, R.Myers and J.Hutchings, 1995; Also see R.Myers and N.Cadigan, 1995.

"All scientific efforts to find an effect of seal predation on Canadian groundfish stocks have failed to show any impact. Overfishing remains the only scientifically demonstrated conservation problem related to fish stock collapse." From a petition signd by 97 scientists from 15 countries at the 11th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Dec.1995

"…interactions between seals and fisheries are complex and often misunderstood…The truth is we do not know what the effects of a change in seal numbers would have on commercial fisheries." W.Bowen, 1992

"It is not yet possible to predict the effects of an increase or a decrease in the size of the harp of seal population on other ecosystem components, including commercially exploited fish populations, or on the yields obtained from them." Harp Seal-Fishery Interactions in the Northwest Atlantic: Toward Research and Management Actions. International Scientific Workshop, St-John's, Nfld., Feb, 1997

There are thousands of different species in the Northwest Atlantic ecosystem, many of whom eat each other at various stages in their life-cycles.

It is obvious why reducing harp seal numbers through a cull will not result in a predictable increase in the numbers of cod available to the fishing industry. Cod have many, more important, predators other than harp seals. Harp seals probably eat more of these other cod predators than they do cod. Reducing the number of seals may, in fact, result in an increase in the number of other cod predators-like squid-and the further reduction of the cod stocks.

In other words, killing seals may actually prevent cod stock recovery.

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