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Report highlights impact of seals on Canada's fish stock

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec20,2023

Report highlights impact of seals on fish stock in Canada

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The population of gray seals in the Atlantic has increased from 8,000 individuals in 1960 to more than 300,000 (archives )


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MPs say seal populations pose a danger to fish stocks and disrupt marine ecosystems in the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

A bipartisan report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans says urgent action is needed, including calls for an increase in humane seal hunting.

The objective of this report is to draw the attention of DFO, relevant departments and the Canadian government to significant observational evidence that overpopulation of pinnipeds on Canada's three coasts has a significant and damaging impact on the health and conservation of fish stocks and creates an imbalance in our marine ecosystems, the study concludes.

It is for this reason that the Committee makes 17 recommendations addressed to the Government of Canada that affect the science of pinnipeds; the importance of sustainable, humane and ethical pinniped harvesting; the development of the infrastructure necessary for an increased harvest of pinnipeds and the promotion and marketing of seal products in Canada and abroad.

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Ginny Boudreau is a member of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen's Association in Nova Scotia.

Conclusions well received by one of the witnesses who appeared before the committee. Ginny Boudreau of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen's Association was also a member of an Atlantic seal science task force assembled by DFO in 2020 to study the impacts of seal predation on fish stocks in the Atlantic.

We're relieved that finally someone is hearing the problem and hopefully taking action, she said.

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It's not even a question of doing a better job, because that work hasn't started yet.

In May 2022, the The Atlantic Seal Task Force called DFO's efforts to measure the impact of the massive Atlantic seal population woefully inadequate.

The report disputes DFO's assertions that, for the most part, seals do not harm fish populations.

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The gray seal colony on Sable Island, about 175 km from Nova Scotia, is the largest in the world, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The gray seal herd on Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, is the largest in the world and is home to the vast majority of the Scotian Shelf population, estimated at 310,000 individuals.

This month, DFO scientists reduced their estimate of the population of harp seals that live primarily off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The population increased from 7.6 million to 4.7 million, based on new modeling, which reflects higher child mortality since 2000.

The committee report does not call for a cull, but MPs say the federal government should promote a humane increase in seal hunting.

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Cédric Mimeault, Rémi Thenevot and Sarah Bergeron return from seal hunting on the beach at Pointe-aux-Outardes, on the North Shore.

Since 2009, the European Union has banned imports of seals, except those captured by indigenous communities. Any effort to increase the seal hunt in Canada is therefore challenging. Unlike the seal population, the market for seal products is not healthy.

During spring hearings, Canada's seafood industry called for extreme caution when it comes to measures to control the growing seal population.

The industry has warned that these measures could jeopardize market access and acceptance of Canadian seafood. p>

Some importers and domestic buyers do not want to be tied to companies or countries associated with the sealing industry, the government must “We must therefore exercise extreme caution so as not to jeopardize existing customers of Canadian seafood companies,” Paul Lansbergen, president of the Fisheries Council of Canada, told MPs.

With information from Paul Withers of CBC

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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