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Impact of Seals on Declining Fish Stocks

April 5, 2018

By now you have likely seen the news on the most recent DFO stock assessment of Northern Cod. The news is certainly not what we had hoped for, but it is no cause for panic. DFO Science attributed the bulk of the stock decline to natural mortality causes, including predation.

FFAW-Unifor is calling on DFO to focus more on the impacts of predation within the ecosystem, particularly grey and harp seals and their contribution to the very high natural mortality rate. An adult seal can consume as much as two tons of prey per year, a substantial portion of this being cod.

Seals are also impacting the key food source for northern cod – capelin. As you can see from the graph below, capelin consumption is driven by seals, not the commercial fishery. Seal consumption is close to 1 million tons, approximately 50 times more than the fishery.

FFAW-Unifor is echoing the Canadian Sealers Association in our support for lifting the current freeze on commercial seal licenses.