Flawed report calling for massive grey seal cull is nonsense

Mass exterminations of grey seals have been called for many times over the years in Canada, so it comes as no surprise to us that the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC)–a fishing industry-dominated advisory group to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans--is calling for one yet again now in a report they released recently.

The key difference this time is that a number of marine scientists are saying “enough is enough” and loudly speaking out in opposition, describing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans workshop that informed the FRCC report as biased. Many scientists agree that there is no scientific evidence to support a grey seal cull--something that International Fund for Animal Welfare experts have been saying for years.

IFAW’s science advisor, Dr. David Lavigne, with five other prominent marine scientists, have sent an open letter to Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans condemning the FRCC report that recommends a massive cull of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to “test the hypothesis that predation by grey seals is the major factor preventing recovery of groundfish stocks.” As the open letter notes, the suggestion that the cull be conducted as an experiment is nonsense. It is simply not possible to control variables in the natural world and there is no possibility for replication.

Should the cull proceed, there will be no way of determining what might have happened in the absence of a cull. A significant flaw with the FRCC report is that it does not evaluate the interactions between seals and other species and, like DFO’s Science Advisory Report, it ignores entirely the positive effects of grey seals and other top predators in the ecosystem.

The body of scientific research that challenges the notion that seals are responsible for impeding the recovery of groundfish stocks is ever growing. A recent study from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Queen’s University (published in Nature) indicates that cod and other groundfish stocks on the eastern Scotian Shelf are recovering--despite the fact that this area is home to the largest population of grey seals in Atlantic Canada. This latest call for a grey seal cull is nonsense.  Blaming seals, and ignoring the problems arising from overfishing, climate change and bycatch may be an easy option for politicians. Unfortunately, it will do nothing to help the recovery of cod stocks, it could further damage the marine ecosystem and it will undoubtedly be inhumane. -- SF 

Comments: 3

JC Bouvier
6 years ago

Wonderful stuff!

6 years ago

Once again thank you for taking a look at the whole picture.

6 years ago

Absolutely NO culling of seals. Get over it!

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Directrice France et Afrique francophone
Directrice France et Afrique francophone
Rikkert Reijnen, Directeur du programme criminalité faunique
Directeur du programme criminalité faunique
Sheryl Fink, Directrice des campagnes pour la faune sauvage, IFAW Canada
Directrice des campagnes pour la faune sauvage, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice-présidente des Opérations internationales
Vice-présidente des Opérations internationales