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Navigator Magazine | Seals Continue to Plague N.L. Fishery

Seals Continue to Plague N.L. Fishery

As winter arrives, we have time to reflect on this past year’s fisheries pros and cons, quotas, catch rates, challenges and management issues.

There are planned advisory meetings and consultation on future direction, fisher challenges, quotas and impacts of climate change, commercial fishing and natural mortality.

Recently there has been discussion on the impact of grey seal predation on groundfish stocks in the Gulf. There are an estimated 500,000 grey seals (DFO census 2014) or seven per cent of the harp seal population at 7.4 million (DFO census 2014).

Whether it is a grey seal or harp seal, the impact on fish stocks has been well documented. DFO and other international scientists have studied seal diets for decades and concluded that fisheries are impacted by seals. Unfortunately, we have not taken any appropriate action to assist with fish stock recovery and the correction of the ecosystem imbalance.

Recent DFO research is pointing to stable seal populations, smaller adult seals and lower pup production as a result of less food fish. The high seal numbers have forced an ecosystem imbalance, resulting in a loss of fish stocks (all species).

During a recent visit to Iceland, I included a discussion of seals with industry representatives and provided photos of seal abundance and their fish diet in N.L.

In Iceland there is an unwritten rule that seals and fish do not mix and they have taken appropriate action to control the population. The census for all seal species in Iceland this past year totalled under 25,000 or 0.3 per cent of the harp seal population off Newfoundland and Labrador.

The result has been a stable, abundant commercial fishery, without continued crisis. Iceland, like Canada, is also having to manage its fishery with changing environment and warmer oceans. Also, worthy to note is that it would be unforeseeable to allow seals to enter any fresh water river system to destroy native trout and salmon in Iceland. These occurrences are well documented here.

I visited several high-tech facilities with individual plants producing more than 10,000 metric tonnes of groundfish annually — more than the entire 2018 Northern cod quota at 9,600 metric tonnes in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I encourage you to speak up about seal predation during fishery advisory meetings because it makes no difference whether it is by grey or harp populations, the results are the same.

 

Bob Hardy

Conception Bay South, N.L.

 

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