Seals are everywhere in the Atlantic. Scientists and DFO are concerned

According to the Atlantic Seal Science Task Force report commissioned by Fisheries and Oceans, the region has the highest concentration of gray seals in the world.

This number was about 30 times greater in 2016 than observed in the 1960s.

The number of harp seals nearly quadrupled between 2019 and 1970.

However, bottom fish stocks in Atlantic Canada are at an all-time low.

The results of this report were published last week.

Glenn Blackwood, former Vice President of Memorial University Fisheries Institute, co-authored the report of the Atlantic Seal Science Task Force commissioned by Fisheries and Oceans.

Photo: Radio Canada

To the former Vice President of Memorial University Fisheries Institute and member of the Fisheries and Oceans Research Team, Glenn Blackwoodfurther studies on this seal population are needed.

It reminds us that these animals are the natural predators of these fish.

The question is what effect this will have on fish stocks. […] These seal populations have experienced very high levels of fish consumption. »

Quote from Glenn Blackwood, former Vice President of Memorial University’s Fisheries Institute

The scientist explains that research should focus on the feeding habits of these animals.

We need to see these specimens being done inshore and in the sea where these seals are all year round, and in the north as they migrate to these placesspecific Glenn Blackwood.

The most traditional method for learning about seal eating habits is to collect samples of their food from their stomachs, Simon Nadeau, director of the Department of Marine Mammal Science at Fisheries and Oceanography, explains.

There are also other techniques we can use, like attaching cameras to seals, and seeing what they’re eating in real time. There are also tissue and DNA analyzes to see which ones are consumed the mostadds the world.

A small colony of gray seals in the waters of the Saint Lawrence River.

Gray seals can eat between one and one and a half tons of fish per year. (Archives)

Photo: Radio Canada

Explanations for the phenomenon

according to Glenn Blackwoodthe natural death of fish can be attributed to seals in some areas, but not in others.

For Simon Nadeau, the decline in the numbers of certain species of fish can also be attributed to other species.

It has been proven that two thirds of cod deaths are due to other fish. There are many predators in this area. Seals eat fish, but other fish eat cod tooHe says.

The scientist also explains that rising water temperatures can also contribute to the migration of some species and change their eating habits.

With climate change, there are changes in the food chain and water temperature and there are places where there is less oxygen for marine species. These changes will lead to changes in populations, particularly those in fish, and therefore those in seals. »

Quote from Simon Nadeau, Director of the Department of Marine Mammal Sciences in Fisheries and Oceans

He cites the example of harp seals, which depend on the presence of ice for reproduction.

The decrease in the amount of ice in certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean is forcing these species to migrate to places where the waters are cooler towards the north of the region.

It also changes their diet, which is why it is important to monitor what is happening.Simon Nadeau points out.

Harp seal on an ice floe off the Magdalen Islands

Lyre seal on an ice floe off the Magdalen Islands (archives).

Photo: Jill Threaault

Climate change could also lead to a difference in the size of marine concentrations in some regions, he said.

If searching for less abundant prey in a particular place requires a lot of energy, it is not worth it, so at that time their diet will changehe adds.

Since seal hunting was organized 20 years ago, the number of gray seals and harp seals has increased dramatically, Simon Nadeau recalls.

During a news conference in Newfoundland on May 12, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray pledged to follow the report’s recommendations and study this imbalance between these marine groups.

The report clearly indicates that there are elements that we need to work on. […] Our government bases every decision on the best science availableThe minister said in a written statement sent to Radio Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans plans to hold a summit on seals this fall to find solutions to this problem

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