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* No evidence that seals 'eating all the cod'

* Poor ice conditions could mean many seals drown

* Yarmouth fishing group condemns abuse of seal

* Three fishermen charged for abusing grey seal pup

* Grey seals used to gather data



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Issues Affecting Seals and Other Pinnipends Other Than Sealing, Including Environmental Issues, Fishing Industry Effects On Seals, Abuse Cases, Etc.

Note: we reprint and archive articles as they are written, complete with erroneous information.

We strongly encourage opponents of the seal slaughter to respond to these articles with letters to the editors of the newspapers and magazines and also with comments on the websites after becoming informed by reading factual information on Harpseals.org and other factual websites on sealing.

We will also include some of our comments, which we often post on these websites.



No 'strong indications' harp seals are gobbling up all the northern cod: DFO scientist
Belief widespread, but needs further study, says John Brattey

By Garrett Barry
CBC News
Mar 29, 2017

Seal with sealing boat in background - Jonathan Hayward - Canadian Press
A harp seal looks towards a seal boat from Newfoundland as he sits on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, P.E.I. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

It's a widespread belief in fishery circles, but one DFO scientist says that for now, you just can't assume that it's true.

John Brattey says the scientific evidence does not support the notion that harp seal populations are hindering the rebuilding of northern cod stocks by gobbling up all the fish.

Brattey admits it's not easy to get good data on the diets of harp seals, but says what studies have been performed do not support the notion.

Some evidence can be found just by looking at the recovery rates in the last decade, he said.

Northern cod -Hans-Petter Fjeld
DFO scientist John Brattey says the strong growth of cod biomass, despite the presence of a big seal population, is some evidence that seals are not interfering (Hans-Petter Fjeld )

"[There has been] a substantial increase. In fact, the rates of growth have been quite high," Brattey told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

"This has happened during a period when the seal population has been at or near an all-time high, so that information doesn't jive with the notion that seals are a major impediment to recover, at least in the recent period."

More study needed

Brattey said some research has shown that capelin availability and fishing are bigger drivers of northern cod stocks.

"We often find that seals are blamed for a lot of things," he said, who noted the preferred diet of costal harp seals seems to be capelin.

"There is some conflicting information out there, and I certainly believe it does need to be looked at more, but at the moment we don't have strong indications that harp seals are having a big impact on cod recovery."



Seal pups could die because of poor ice around P.E.I.

Grey seals adapting, but thousands of harp seals could die because of lack of ice

By Nancy Russell
CBC News
Feb. 10, 2017

Young harp seal - Paul Darrow - ReutersHarp seals 'do not seem to be able to adapt to pupping on land,' said Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Mike Hammill. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

The ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could put thousands of harp seal pups in jeopardy, while grey seals in the Northumberland Strait appear to have adapted to changing winter weather patterns.

Harp seal pups on-shore Newfoundland - DFO
Female harp seals tend to abandon their pups if born on land, which leads to a high mortality rate. This photo is from Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010 when there was a lack of ice in the Gulf. (Submitted by DFO)

A team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been conducting a seal survey over the last couple of weeks, taking off by helicopter from the Charlottetown Airport.

"Our main interest this year has been to try to find out where the seals are pupping and to get an idea of the timing of pupping," said biologist Mike Hammill.

Grey seals adapting to ice

Grey seal colony - Pictou Island - DFO
There is a large colony of grey seals having their pups on Pictou Island because of light ice conditions in the Strait. (Submitted by DFO)

The grey seals are the first to pup around P.E.I. — at the end of January — and biologists are observing "a lot less ice."

Grey seal - Pierre Yves Daoust
Grey seals will pup on land or on ice and seem to have adapted to the changing ice conditions in the Northumberland Strait. (Submitted by Pierres-Yves Daoust)

"If we go back into the 1990s, almost 100 per cent of the pups were born on the ice between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.," said Hammill.

"This year, and for the last two or three years, it's been down around one per cent of the pups are born on the ice and the remaining pups are born on the islands in the Strait," he said, including a large colony of grey seals on Pictou Island.

Young grey seal - Charles Caraguel
A young grey seal on the ice. Grey seals have adapted to the light ice and are choosing to pup on islands in the Northumberland Strait. (Charles Caraguel)

"It's an interesting species because it's one of the few that will pup either on the ice or pup on land," he said.

However, the grey seals that tried to pup on the ice in the Strait this year have not fared well.

Harp seal pups on thin ice- DFO
Light ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could put thousands of harp seal pups in jeopardy. (Submitted by DFO)

"We've flown over one day and seen the animals and then we've gone back and all the ice has disappeared so those pups have probably drowned," said Hammill.

Harp seal pups need ice to survive

The biologists will resume their work at the end of February when the harp seals have their pups.

Curious whitecoat harp seal - Natalie Loo
Poor ice conditions in 2013 forced seals around P.E.I. to the shore. This pup is curious about this pebble. (Submitted by Natalie Loo)

"That species is quite different in that they do not seem to be able to adapt to pupping on land, they seem to require ice for pupping," explained Hammill.

When harp seals pup on land, the females tend to abandon the pups after a few days.

"Usually in these conditions, the eagles will get the pups, the seagulls, the coyotes," said Hammill.

Harbor seal on Sable Island - Pierre Yves Daoust
A harbour seal pup on Sable Island, N.S. The harbour seals have their pups in the summer. (Submitted by Pierre-Yves Daoust )

"The best thing is to leave them alone and hopefully the female will stick around for a while and stick with the pup."

"This year we do not have much ice in the Gulf [of Saint Lawrence] at all so we expect to find animals along the north side of P.E.I. and the coast of New Brunswick," he said, adding that the seals will sometimes head back to Newfoundland if they can't find ice in the Gulf.

Hooded seal - DFO
DFO biologist Mike Hammill warns Islanders to stay away from hooded seals which can be 'quite aggressive' but could have their pups on land if the ice drifts in to shore. (Submitted by DFO)

The lack of ice is bad news for the harp seals, according to Hammill, because they have a high mortality rate when born on shore.

He predicts thousands could die, similar to 2011. To put that in perspective, Hammill says 200 thousand harp seal pups are born in the southern Gulf, and usually have about a 50 per cent mortality rate in their first year even when ice conditions are good.

Hooded seals can be 'quite aggressive'

There are two other species of seals seen around P.E.I., including the smaller harbour seals which breed in the summer.

Seal survey team - DFO
This team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada flies out of Charlottetown to conduct seal surveys around P.E.I. (Submitted by DFO)

Then there is the hooded seal, which is around the same size as the grey seal, and has pups with a blue-ish fur.

"You have to be careful with them," warned Hammill.

He says hooded seals also prefer to pup on the ice but, if the ice drifts up on shore, will stick around for a day or so.

"These animals can be quite aggressive and they can move quickly and they leave a really nasty bite so people should stay away from them."


Yarmouth fishing group condemns fishermen accused of abusing seal

Warning: Some readers may find the content disturbing

By David Burke
CBC News
Feb 02, 2017

Lobster fishing boat - Andrew Vaughan - Canadian Press
The Coldwater Lobster Association in Yarmouth says most fishermen obey the law and follow the rules. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A lobster fishing association in Yarmouth, N.S., is denouncing the alleged actions of three fishermen from the area who are accused of abusing a seal while on the water.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced charges Wednesday against the trio after the public alerted it to an online video that showed a seal being poked, kicked and taunted while on a fishing boat.

"We want to make sure that the general public realizes that this was a very isolated incident," said Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association. "It doesn't reflect in any way the behaviour of the fishermen that ply their trade in this area."

'Far reaching effects'

The group works to represent fishermen's interests in any matter that could affect the lobster fishery. Berry said most fishermen obey the law and follow the rules, and an incident like this hurts their reputation.

"It has far reaching effects and if this gets really ramped up it could have condemnations on particular fisheries, if the circumstances aren't fully explained to the public," said Berry.

Bloodied grey seal pup held by Jay Jenkins - facebook
DFO was alerted to a photo that showed Jay Jenkins holding a seal with its face bloodied. (Facebook)

The video of the seal being abused was posted on Mark Allan MacKenzie's Facebook page. He, along with Jay Alexander Jenkins and Brendon Dougles James Porter are all facing charges under the Fisheries Act related to the mistreatment of a marine mammal and the handling of incidental catch.

Jenkins and Porter are also accused of fishing without a registration card.

Checkered past

This isn't MacKenzie's first run-in with the law related to his activities on the water.

In 2005, he was accused of ramming his boat into another fishing vessel and was charged with assault with a weapon, uttering threats and dangerous operation of a vehicle.

According to Nova Scotia provincial court records, MacKenzie also has 17 prior Fisheries Act convictions. They include failure to comply with conditions of a licence and possession of female crabs.

In 2009, he was handed almost $25,000 in fines for offences, including the possession of lobsters bearing eggs and mutilated lobsters. He was required to install a vessel monitoring system for one year.

When asked about MacKenzie's previous run-ins with the police and DFO, Berry with the lobster association clammed up.

"On that particular avenue we're going to leave that up to the authorities, they're doing their due diligence," he said. "They're on top of this and that's their kind of duty, we're just going to stay out of that side of it."

With files from Richard Cuthbertson and The Canadian Press



3 charged over video showing alleged mistreatment of baby seal

CTVNews.ca Staff
February 2, 2017

Three fishermen have been charged after a video posted online appeared to show a seal pup being taunted prior to its death.

The video, which was posted on Facebook by one of the accused, appears to show fishermen shouting at the seal and occasionally prodding at it. A photos posted along with the video shows one of the fishermen posing with the baby seal after its death.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has charged three men from Nova Scotia with alleged mistreatment of a marine mammal in connection with the incident. "Our officers are taking this offence extremely seriously," Doug Wentzell, regional director general for the DFO, told CTV Atlantic. He declined to comment on what punishment the accused could face if they are convicted.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Sara Iverson of the Ocean Tracking Network says the seal in the video appears to be approximately one week old, which would make it too young to be hunted by a licensed sealer.

"The fact that it's covered with lanugo, that white fur, indicates that it's definitely a newborn seal," she said.
The seal hunt is legal in Canada, but federal law prohibits fishermen from killing seal pups that have not shed their white fur. "Harp and grey seal cannot be legally hunted until they have moulted their first fur and are living independently," the DFO website says.

Mark Allan MacKenzie, who is among the three fisherman accused, says he and his crewmates were examining the seal, not taunting it. He told CTV Atlantic the seal pup became tangled in a hook and the crew decided to put it out of its misery. He added that he posted video and photos of the animal online because he thought it was interesting.

MacKenzie declined to appear on camera for an interview with CTV Atlantic.

Activist Caitlin Buchanan plans to hold a rally outside the DFO's office in Yarmouth to demand punishment for the three accused.

"I want to see their licences revoked," she told CTV Atlantic. "I don't want to see them suspended, I don't want to see fines. Their licences should be revoked."



Feds give $11M to Dalhousie ocean project that employs seals as researchers

Outfitted with receivers and Bluetooth devices, seals gather and transmit the ocean's secrets

By Paul Withers
CBC News
Jan. 09, 2017

Sleeping grey seal - Jarrett Corke - Dalhousie University
Headquartered at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the Ocean Tracking Network studies the movement and habitat of aquatic species. (Jarrett Corke/Dalhousie University)

Ottawa has announced five years' worth of funding for a Halifax-based aquatic research network that includes gathering information from the depths of the ocean using wired seals.

Andy Fillmore, the Liberal MP for Halifax, announced $11.4 million for Dalhousie University's Ocean Tracking Network at an event Monday.

The money, from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, is part of $328 million in federal funding being doled out to major research projects and scientific endeavours across the country.

"OTN research generates incredibly important information about climate change, the impact of offshore development," said Fillmore.

Seal with tracking device - Jarrett Corke - Dalhousie University
This seal is outfitted with a mini receiver and a Bluetooth device that will allow the mammal to gather and transmit data from the ocean. (Jarrett Corke/Dalhousie University)

"This knowledge is used to guide the management of responsible fisheries policies and understand the sustainability of the world oceans."

The Ocean Tracking Network builds and deploys Canadian-designed acoustic receivers and oceanographic monitoring equipment around the world.

Its sensors track the movement of more than 100 at-risk and commercially important species.

Putting grey seals to work

Sara Iverson, the network's science director, said technology has advanced to the point where researchers are now putting the grey seal herd on Sable Island to work.

Scientists have attached mini receivers and Bluetooth links to the large mammals that transmit data gathered underwater to satellite when the seals surface.

"It's a lot less expensive putting it on the animal because they are going to be running around the ocean anyway," said Iverson.

Seal with tracking device - Jarrett Corke - Dalhousie University
They may not know it, but this seal is an integral part of the Ocean Tracking Network's research. (Jarrett Corke/Dalhousie University)

"They can go to depths of the oceans in times of the year where it's too dangerous or costly to use expensive ship time."

Exploring the ocean

The sensors provide basic data on ocean conditions throughout the water column and also record when an animal with a tag swims by a seal carrying a receiver.

Scientists have found that grey seals and bluefin tuna are targeting the same foraging hotspots for the same prey.

Masters student Benia Nowak recently returned from Sable Island, where she started recovering tags from the grey seal herd.

"I think it's really important," she said. "I think we don't know enough about the biology of the ocean, about how these species are moving.

"The more we know about them, the better we can manage the species and oceans overall."


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