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FFAW Launches Seal Research Initiative to Further Understanding of Distribution and Impacts

September 27, 2023

FFAW Launches Seal Research Initiative to Further Understanding of Distribution and Impacts

September 27, 2023 

Earlier this month, the federal government announced funding for several seal and sea lion research projects across Canada, of which FFAW-Unifor was a recipient. The Union is pleased to announce the launch of the online survey associated with that research project, which is aimed at documenting seal distribution, local abundance and impacts of seal species in Newfoundland and Labrador waters.

“Fish harvesters’ on-the-water observations can and will contribute to an improved understanding of seal species’ distribution, behaviour, and impacts to Newfoundland and Labrador marine environments. FFAW-Unifor is happy to launch our project that aims to document harvesters’ current on-the-water observations but will also, importantly, document harvesters’ knowledge of changing seal distributions and abundance over their fishing careers,” explains Dr. Erin Carruthers, FFAW-Unifor Senior Fisheries Scientist who is leading the project.

FFAW-Unifor has long called for the federal government to undertake better research of seal population and impacts on important fish stocks. This research project will also lay the foundation for increased collaboration with DFO-Science in documenting the extent of seal populations and their impacts.

“Fish harvesters know that there are a lot of seals out there. Far more than there have ever been in living memory – that’s plain to see for those who live the reality. But until those observations are systematically documented and analysed, our federal government will not take action to address the imbalance,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “This research is an important first step to address that ecosystem imbalance,” Pretty says.

FFAW-Unifor’s project aims to document local changes in seal abundance, distribution and seasonality over a 20-40 year time period through the collection of current and historical seal observations by fish harvesters. The first phase of the survey has been launched today and will be re-launched several times over the next 2 years in order to collect on-the-water observations from fish harvesters and/or other ocean users/observers.

“It may be too late to reverse some of the damage that has already been done by seal overpopulation in Atlantic Canada, but this is an important first step in making change for the future,” concludes Pretty.

Additional information:

FFAW Seal Survey Link

DFO Media Release

DFO Backgrounder on Seal and Sealion Funding