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Annals Of Inane Fisheries Management: Grey Seal Cull

November 15, 2012

“Hey, don’t blame me. You guys are the ones who wiped them out in the first place.”

Let me see if I have this right: Humans overfish and wipe out the Atlantic cod population in the Gulf Of St. Lawrence. Cod fishing is banned (have you noticed how many fish bans get put in place when there are, um, no fish left?). But the Atlantic cod population is not bouncing back as expected. So now the plan is to wipe out a big chunk of grey seal population (on the assumption that the grey seals must be eating up al the cod and keeping the population down).

That’s classic. We wipe out a population, and when it seems we did such an effective job it stays wiped out, we conclude the solution is to wipe out another population. This would be sort of funny if it weren’t so stupid.

Luckily, a group of scientists (you know, those nerdy folks who study things, and bring fact into the argument) have stepped forward in opposition to Canada’s plan to kill grey seals so the cod population can revive enough for cod to be killed again, too.

Their argument? There’s no solid evidence that killing a lot of grey seals will revive the cod population:

In October, the Canadian Senate approved a controversial plan to kill 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St Lawrence under a bounty system next year, ostensibly to revive the cod stocks that the seals were eating.

But a group of marine scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have said in a recent open letter: “There is no credible scientific evidence to suggest a cull of grey seals in Atlantic Canada would help depleted fish stocks recover.

“Seals are being used as a scapegoat, just like whales were once blamed for fishery declines,” said Hal Whitehead, marine biologist at Dalhousie, told the Guardian. He called the proposed cull an abuse of the science. “I don’t like the idea of slaughtering all these animals for no reason.”

Ironically, the seal population has grown dramatically because humans were forced to stop killing so many seals, too, when the fur market collapsed thanks to fur bans. That raises the question of how cod flourished in the waters before humans were killing either cod or seals. Seems like the cod did fine despite all those unkilled seals.

There’s more, so read the whole thing. It’s like a story in The Onion, only it’s real.

(h/t to Outside)

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