Protecting grey seals in Canada
The Canadian fishing industry – and many politicians - have been calling for a seal cull for most of the past century, in the belief that seals are ‘eating all the fish’. These claims ignore the fact that large populations of both seals and fish have co-existed for millennia.
There are renewed demands for the mass-slaughter of grey seals in Canadian waters, and the Canadian government is currently considering a cull of tens - or hundreds - of thousands of seals.
Science doesn’t support a cull
The impact of seals on fish remains the subject of scientific inquiry and there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that culling seals will help fish stocks. In fact, most examples of seal culls around the world have been found to have either unknown or no effects on fish stocks!
Ocean ecosystems are highly complex, and it is difficult to predict the results of the mass removal of one species on another. Culling seals could have unintended and unpredictable consequences, and could ultimately weaken the structure and functioning of ocean ecosystems.
A cull will be cruel
A grey seal cull would undoubtedly be inhumane. It would likely involve shooting seals in open water, a practice several veterinary panels called unacceptable due to the high potential for seals being injured but not killed. A cull that involved herding and clubbing or shooting of animals would present additional animal welfare concerns.
A cull will be costly
The cost of a cull would be significant, with estimates between $15 and $35 million - or more. At a time when the Government of Canada is cutting critical funding in many areas, wasting millions of dollars on a scientifically-unsupported seal cull is indefensible.
Finding a buyer for the dead grey seals seems unlikely; there are currently no markets for grey seal products and attempts to exploit them commercially have failed, despite considerable government support.
Culling seals distracts from the real issues
Blaming grey seals for the lack of recovery of fish stocks and culling them might be politically popular, but it will not likely help fish stocks . Blaming seals distracts from the true problems facing fisheries: poor fisheries management, continued overfishing, bycatch, climate change and ocean pollution.