Fish Harvesters Welcome Minister’s Announcement of Task Team on Seals
August 14, 2019
ST. JOHN’S, NL – FFAW-Unifor members are applauding an announcement made today by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on a Task Team that will investigate the relationship between seals and fish populations. For years, fish harvesters have been calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to collect more accurate information on seal populations around Newfoundland and Labrador and their impact on the abundance of adjacent fish resources.
“Without a doubt, there is an overpopulation of harp and grey seal populations in our region. There is significant predation within the ecosystem that has an impact on important fish species. The magnitude of that impact is what is unknown, and we are hopeful this Atlantic Seal Task Team will provide the data needed to push DFO to take action to control the seal populations to protect rebuilding fish stocks,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer David Decker.
It is vital that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans study the impacts of predation within the ecosystem, particularly grey and harp seals and their contribution to the very high natural mortality rate of species such as northern gulf cod. An adult seal can consume as much as two tons of prey per year, a substantial portion of this being cod.
Seals are also impacting the key food source for northern cod – capelin. Capelin consumption is driven by seals, not the commercial fishery. Seal consumption is close to 1 million tons, approximately 50 times more than the small capelin fishery.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans successfully implemented seal control programs until the 1980’s and have since commissioned studies to find solutions to grey seal overpopulation. In 2017, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the government “make every effort to control the seal population through a sustainable and responsible harvest to ensure the seal populations do not prevent the northern cod stock from replenishing in the future.” Yet to date, and despite the repeated efforts of FFAW-Unifor and sealers' associations, the government has done nothing to control seals in the Atlantic and very little to publicly defend this vital and sustainable economic activity.
Coastal communities depend on healthy ecosystems for survival, and as groundfish recover it is of utmost importance that we do what we can to support a balanced ecosystem and a sustainable seal harvest. FFAW-Unifor members are currently circulating a petition to the federal government calling for action to control seal populations.
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