PORTLAND: Nick Muto has fished up and down the New England coast and there may be nothing that will get his blood boiling greater than the sight of a seal.
Muto, whose two boats fish for groundfish corresponding to skate and monkfish in addition to lobster, is amongst a rising group of anglers, seashore goers and native officers who’re fast guilty every thing from illness to depleted fisheries to elevated shark sightings on the exploding seal inhabitants.
“Areas that we used to historically fish that have been as near ensures as you would get have been strip mined of fish, and the fish have been pushed out of there by seals,” Muto stated.
“They’ve eaten fish out of our nets. They’ve been caught in our nets. They’re in every single place”, he stated.
The controversy over seals was reignited after the dying in July of a swimmer killed by an important white off Harpswell, Maine.
Seals are sometimes shark prey, and consultants consider Julie Dimperio Holowach might have been mistaken for a seal.
Nobody questions that seal and shark numbers are on the rise, principally as a consequence of federal protections.
It is estimated there are as many as 50,000 gray seals in New England waters plus a lesser variety of harbor seals. The animals have been nearly eradicated by means of looking and bounties many years in the past.
However consultants keep there may be not sufficient science to find out whether or not the present inhabitants is simply too huge and little foundation for culling the marine mammals.
Even suggesting seals are destroying fisheries or are solely guilty for shark assaults just isn’t supported by exhausting proof.
Specialists say warming waters and different components additionally may very well be taking part in a task. The Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has been heating up sooner than 99 per cent of the world’s oceans.
“We get into this query of what number of gray seals there are. The following query is what number of seals ought to there be, which is type of the place individuals are going to go subsequent with that, which is a really difficult factor,” stated David Johnston, a marine ecologist at Duke College who has carried out gray seal inhabitants estimates utilizing Google Earth and tagged seals to reveal how their feeding conduct modifications as a consequence of sharks within the Northwest Atlantic.
Seal inhabitants rise has prompted the nationwide oceanic and atmospheric administration to suggest pointers for deterring marine mammals, together with bodily boundaries to maintain seals away from fishing gear.
“Frustration by fishermen and property house owners stemming from conflicts with marine mammals has elevated,” notes NOAA’s proposal. The company is taking feedback till October 30.
However Johnston and Stephanie Wooden, a University of Massachusetts Boston seal biologist presently surveying seals within the Boston Harbor, stated the general public ought to view seals as a conservation success story, reasonably than an issue to be managed.
Hunted nearly into extinction by the 1900s, seals got federal safety in 1972 by the Marine Mammal Safety Act.
Seals started returning to New England waters within the 1980s and 1990s from Nova Scotia and have thrived ever since — usually elevating pups on federally protected islands as soon as dwelling to looking and fishing camps.
Additionally they disperse extensively and have benefited from a wide-ranging eating regimen, together with fish, crustaceans and squid.
“Habitat opened up for seals, which is type of the other story that we hear about plenty of different populations struggling to get well,” stated Wooden, noting that different marine mammals corresponding to whales and monk seals “have not recovered in the identical means.”
Making an attempt to scale back the numbers of seals is extra difficult than opening up a hunt for an plentiful species corresponding to deer, stated Kristina Cammen, a marine mammal scientist with College of Maine.
Bounties on seals within the 20th century decreased their populations by as many as 135,000, and marine mammal protections are designed to stop that type of inhabitants loss once more, Cammen stated.
Studying to coexist with the rising seal inhabitants makes much more sense, even when it contributes to extra shark sightings in coastal waters, she stated.
“A wholesome ecosystem has sharks, seals and people and so they all have a spot in that ecosystem.”
Some species of sharks have rebounded as a result of there are protections for them, not simply because there are extra seals to eat, stated Andrea Bogomolni, chair of Northwest Atlantic Seal Analysis Consortium, based mostly in Woods Gap, Massachusetts.
“Speaking that message of conservation success entails greater than only a single species,” Bogomolni stated.

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