Ottawa considering request to increase seal quota

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

A call by Nova Scotia's fisheries minister for an expansion of the province's annual grey seal hunt is being considered by federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

Ron Chisholm encouraged Ottawa last week to press the European Parliament to reject a proposed ban on the import of seal products and added that he had approached federal officials about the possibility of expanding the harvest of Nova Scotia's growing grey seal herd.

HALIFAX - A call by Nova Scotia's fisheries minister for an expansion of the province's annual grey seal hunt is being considered by federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

Ron Chisholm encouraged Ottawa last week to press the European Parliament to reject a proposed ban on the import of seal products and added that he had approached federal officials about the possibility of expanding the harvest of Nova Scotia's growing grey seal herd.

When asked whether the file was under active consideration, Hearn's office replied in an email: "The issue of the growth of the grey seal herd is widely recognized. We will continue to have discussions with minister Chisholm on the issue, but at this point no decisions have been made."

The quota for Nova Scotia grey seal hunt stands at 12,000, which is small when compared with the harvest off Newfoundland's north coast where about 200,000 harp seals were taken last year. Hunters in Nova Scotia rarely take more than a few hundred annually.

But Chisholm maintains an expand hunt is necessary to help fishermen who are convinced the 300,000-strong grey seal herd is affecting the recovery of groundfish stocks.

He said fishermen want the quota increased to between 20,000 and 25,000 per year, which they believe would help level out the population over a period of time.

Scientific support

Don Bowen, a research scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, said the argument being made for an expanded hunt in the province might not be backed up by scientific evidence.

"From a science point of view, we simply know that the current quota of 12,000 is sustainable and that a higher quota would also be sustainable. But that is not directed to addressing this issue of whether grey seals are retarding the recovery of cod," said Bowen.

Bowen, said the main source of food for the grey seal is the sand lance, a small forage fish that is eaten by "most things in the ocean."

He said herring, mackerel and redfish are also eaten on a seasonal basis along with some groundfish such as cod, which makes up an estimated two per cent of the seal's diet.

"It's not so much as whether there's a link or not, the question is whether changing the abundance of seals has strong impact on the dynamics of these cod stocks ... we don't know the answer to that question," Bowen said.

The bulk of Nova Scotia's grey seal herd inhabits wind-swept Sable Island, but populations are also located in the Northumberland Strait and around Cape Breton as well as along portions of the province's eastern shore.

Organizations: European Parliament, Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Ottawa, HALIFAX Newfoundland Sable Island Cape Breton

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments