Found this article somewhat unfortunate — however fair enough that people are looking for culprits. Plus, I can only imagine the frustration of having food fish taken off nets… yet, that’s all the seals are doing as well.
Mark Hume’s article in the Globe and Mail yesterday.
I posted a comment to the article, reproduced here:
The week before last, Andrew Trites a Professor at UBC in the Marine Mammal Research Unit gave a presentation at the SFU Summit on Fraser R. Sockeye. Professor Trites quoted similar numbers as this article — for example, approx 108,000 harbor seals presently in the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait). Apparently, these numbers match estimates of the seal population back in the 1870s (coincidence that this is the same time that Fraser salmon canneries started going whole hog?).
[this is the problem with limited data — such as only looking back as far as the 1970s to compare population levels. We gunned so many down through the mid-1900s that no wonder it looks like the population of seals is booming]
The seal population apparently got down as low as 3800 before the Fisheries Act was implemented – and the population seems to have hit a ceiling, leveling off at present levels around 1995. In terms of diet, Professor Trites suggested that salmon only comprise about 4 percent of the seals diet and that hake make up the bulk of the diet (43%) with herring making up about 30 percent.
He asked the question: whether seals might actually be presenting a net benefit to salmon – as hake tend to prey substantially on baby salmon? With seals hammering the hake population, there could actually be a benefit.
The study that involved lights off the bridge and seals preying on fry was mentioned — however the question was asked whether this might just be an opportunistic situation due to the lights attracting the fry (i.e. a human created problem).
I tend to ask, why would seals prey on baby salmon when there is so much more out there?
I don’t know if I can re-state it enough – seals, sea lions, orcas, bears, eagles, and the other two hundred or so critters that depend on salmon – are not the issue.
Maybe less time looking for other culprits and more time looking in a mirror would lead us to make changes — rather than looking to gun down seals… or orcas (they actually eat more: apparently those red-listed orcas in the Salish Sea feast on Fraser Chinook salmon, 90% of their diet for at least two months of the year).
There’s also some impressive YouTube videos of orcas taking salmon off the hook. I don’t hear calls to gun them down…
The interventionist approach gets a little tiring to hear. We should probably shoot all the moose and deer so that they stop posing big costs to the car insurance business — we all save this way…
We should probably shoot all the seagulls so we can save on car wash (or drycleaning) bills.
I don’t hear anyone calling for the killing of white sided dolphins because they prey on salmon and salmon fry — on some years I’ve seen Pacific white-sided dolphins in such vast numbers that there’s no way they can’t be having an impact…
And, while we’re at it, let’s shoot all the crows, because they damn well wake me up too early on Sunday mornings and they eat the eggs of the endangered yellow-bellied sapsucker….
And what about the impact of robins on worms…? devastating…