In 2015 there have been multiple signs of action on the gray seal front increasing the visibility of the issues posed by an unconstrained gray seal population explosion.
Early in the year NOAA published a request for seal deterrent ideas, implicitly recognizing that the burgeoning gray seal population needs to be managed. The SAC responded by submitting its ideas and was joined by the Chatham Board of Selectmen and the Monomoy Yacht Club in calling for action.
Meanwhile, NOAA has recently released its gray seal Stock Assessment Report that openly admits that “present data are insufficient to calculate the minimum population estimate for U.S. waters”. This amounts to a public confession that NOAA is not fulfilling its responsibilities under the MMPA and validates the SAC priority quest for current census data.
The SAC also has pursued data on the impact of gray seal predation on the fishery. It commissioned a study by Nils Stolpe, a recognized expert on the Northwest Atlantic fishery. His conclusion is that gray seal predation of fish, squid, crustaceans et. al. is “approximately one and a third million tons per year” or over a third more than commercial fish and shellfish landings from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. Additional data has been supplied by a Canadian study that found that “approximately 7 million seals in the broadly defined Gulf of Maine ate an average of 11 pounds of fish a day or 77 million pounds in all. Some 65 percent of those were herring or the like-and about 17 percent were juvenile cod, for a total of 12 to 13 million pounds of young cod consumed daily.” Adding to this alarming data was a recent National Geographic article citing the gray seal as a “top predator” in the North Sea.
The SAC has been in touch with counterparts in Canada where the Canadian Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has called for a seal harvest. The SAC will be advocating a common Northwest Atlantic strategy for addressing the gray seal invasion.
The SAC helped to underwrite the recent publication of a memoir on Muskeget Island by Crocker Snow whose family owns most of the island. Muskeget is now the epicenter of the gray seal population explosion and its ecological impact in Nantucket Sound. Crocker devotes a chapter to the gray seal siege of Muskeget. His dramatic story was told to the members of the Nantucket Anglers’ Club at a presentation arranged by the SAC.
Capitalizing on recent momentum, the SAC is seeking to mount a simultaneous appeal from the towns Nantucket and Chatham on the Cape that state and federal action be taken on the gray seal front. A recent SAC letter to the editor of the Nantucket newspaper and a letter to the Chairman of the Nantucket Board of Selectmen have set this campaign in motion.