Stakeholders Hold Different Views
The complete report tells a broader story. When the fisheries were shut down, people assumed stocks would recover more quickly than they have. However, surveys by Fisheries and Oceans Canada have given little reason to hope a full-fledged fishing industry can operate in eastern Canada any time soon. That is hard news in a region where fishing is more than a way to make a living. It is a way of life.
So the FRCC encountered strong and differing opinions when they held open consultations. Section 4, which summarizes those consultations, is particularly fascinating. The brief text reveals disagreements among industry, non-industry and Aboriginal participants. Having participated in many community consultations, I recognized the tension in this paragraph:
“Some non-industry presentations called for more areas to be closed to fishing while many in the industry doubted the value of closed areas other than in special cases, such as the protection of sponges and corals.”
Killing Tens of Thousands of Seals As an Experiment
Since the purpose of the FRCC’s process was to develop recommendations for reviving fisheries, they clearly felt a need to propose something that could be acted on quickly. So while the report calls for an ecosystem science approach to rebuilding stock and developing management plans, it also tosses a fish to those who blame seals for the industry’s sluggish recovery: a massive seal cull.
This is not the first report to call for reducing seal populations. In 2007, the Gulf Groundfish Advisory Committee published its report on seal predation. The committee pointed out three problems with seals: predation, parasites and damage.
Seals eat groundfish so fishers understandably resent the competition for their catch. Grey seals carry a heavy load of seal worms. (So do harbour, grey and hooded seals, though to a lesser extent.) The worms infect groundfish and cost processors millions of dollars annually. Seals also damage fishing gear. Fish trapped in nets are irresistible to seals attracted by the plentiful meal. All of these factors led the committee to call for a 50% reduction in the seal population in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sable Island.
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