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Senate Fisheries and Oceans Committee
calls for targeted removal program of grey seals
in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to preserve groundfish stocks

Ottawa (October 23, 2012) – After several months of public hearings, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans tabled its report in the Senate today entitled: The sustainable management of grey seal populations: A path toward the recovery of cod and other groundfish stocks. The report calls for the creation of a targeted removal program for grey seals in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to preserve groundfish stocks. The committee calls for a seal harvest to be performed by qualified and trained seal harvesters under monitoring of at-sea observers in a manner respectful of established humane harvesting protocols.

Concurrent to the creation of a targeted removal program, the commitee calls for the Government of Canada to promote grey seal derived products and develop domestic and international markets for them. Additionally, the committee recommends the promotion of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid-rich seal oil and the further exploration of including seal oil in a future iteration of the Canada Food Guide.

“After hearing from more than 40 witnesses representing diverse viewpoints on seal management, the committee is persuaded that seal predation is preventing the recovery of groundfish stocks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, “ said Senator Fabian Manning, Chair of the Committee. “The committee understands that recommending a targeted removal carries ecological, political and economic risks, but we believe that this is the best course of action under the circumstances to enable a healthy cod fishery and the continuation of vibrant and prosperous coastal communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.”

“Of the depleted fish stocks on the East Coast of Canada, Atlantic cod is the most significantly impacted. The stocks are so low that they have been assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada,” said Senator Elizabeth Hubley, Deputy Chair of the Committee. “Our committee believes a targeted removal program of grey seals is necessary at this time to preserve remaining fish stocks. We are calling for a reduction in the level of the herd by 70,000 animals.”

The total population of grey seals in eastern Canada increased from about 13,000 animals in 1960 to between 330,000 and 410,000 animals in 2010. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the grey seal population reached a record 104,000 animals during the same period.

A full list of recommendations can be found below.

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans launched its study into the management of grey seals off Canada’s East Coast in October 2011.

To learn more about the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and read transcripts form previous meetings, please visit the committee website: http://senate-senat.ca/pofo-e.asp.

Follow the Senate of Canada on Twitter @SenateCA and use the committee hashtag #POFO for updates on committee activities.