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Seals, Cod, Ecology and Mythology

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Meisenheimer, Peter
Date: 1996
Agency: International Marine Mammal Association, Ontario, Canada
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3932
Sector: Fisheries
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): seals
water resources
resource management
Abstract: "Canadian elected officials and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff have stated that the culling of seals will benefit the recovery of Northwest Atlantic cod stocks. In contrast, published reports in scientific journals, including those authored by DFO biologists, unequivocally conclude that seals are having no demonstrable impact on cod recovery. 'Common sense' arguments that culling seals will 'obviously' benefit the fishery are premised on a mythological view of predators that is unsubstantiated by most scientific evidence. Research conducted in other fisheries has indicated that the complexity of marine food webs, and the diversity of seal diets mean increased seal numbers can sometimes lead to positive effects on commercial fish stocks. Consistently, recent research in terrestrial systems indicates that top predators can have a significant positive impact on numbers of herbivores by reducing numbers of smaller predators. The Canadian political agenda for dealing with the collapse of the cod stocks has evolved to include a subsidized seal cull, and suppression of internal reports contradicting the 'common sense' position adopted by the political leadership."

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