Canada Puts Bounty on Grey Seals

Scientists say it will hurt fish

Ryan O'Hanlon

A planned multimillion-dollar grey seal cull in Canada is being met with resistance from scientists, who say there is no evidence that it would help the recovery of depleted fish populations.

In October, the Canadian Senate approved a proposal that would pay bounty hunters to kill 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The cull is designed to revive the Atlantic cod population, which collapsed in the early ’90s due to overfishing and has failed to recover despite a near ban on fishing them. The justification is that the burgeoning seal population—up from a few thousand in the ’70s to 400,000 today—is to blame.

But in an open letter to the government last week, a group of scientists in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said there is “no credible evidence” to support that theory. “Seals are being used as a scapegoat, just like whales were once blamed for fishery declines,” said Hal Whitehead, a marine biologist and one of the letter’s signators. “I don’t like the idea of slaughtering all these animals for no reason.” They also maintain that cod aren’t fatty enough to consist of a substantial portion of a seal diet and that other fish are the biggest predators in the ecosystem, not marine mammals.

Only a few hundred grey seals have been killed since 2009, and legislators have yet to determine the bounty that would make hunting the species worthwhile. Canadian government officials said that the cull legislation is currently under review.

Via The Guardian