The Seal’s Voice: Seals recommend sterilization of Tory Senators as precondition for economic recovery in Canada.

Tory senators grill seal-cull opponent

Scientist’s findings greeted with derision, disbelief
Sen. Donald Oliver (INGRID BULMER / Staff)

Sen. Donald Oliver (INGRID BULMER / Staff)

OTTAWA — Conservative senators gave a rough ride Tuesday night to a scientist who opposes a proposed seal cull. The tone at the committee meeting wavered from respectful to confront-ational to downright bizarre.

David Lavigne of the International Fund for Animal Welfare presented evidence that culling thousands of seals in Atlantic Canada may not boost cod stocks as hoped, and could in fact hurt them.

“Just going out and culling, based on current knowledge, with all of the uncertainty, is risky and ill-advised, in my opinion,” Lavigne said.

But most senators were having none of it. They grilled Lavigne on his organization’s staffing levels, asked whether he is a vegetarian (he is not) and accused him of being in the pocket of the anti-seal hunt lobby.

Lavigne gave a technical and heavily notated opening statement but later struggled to maintain his composure as senators brushed off his arguments.

At one point, even his comment that overfishing was the cause of the cod collapse elicited interruptions of “No, it’s not!” from Sen. Donald Oliver, a Conservative from Nova Scotia. The committee chairman had to call for order.

Sen. Michael MacDonald, another Nova Scotia Conservative, accused Lavigne of cherry-picking data.

“Sir, you make a lot of generalities, but you don’t give us any empirical evidence,” MacDonald said.

“Excuse me,” Lavigne replied. “That’s what all those footnotes are about. You have to read the footnotes.”

After being hunted to near extinction decades ago, the grey seal population has rebounded to about 400,000. Some believe this population growth is depressing the stocks of groundfish like cod. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is considering a cull of up to 220,000 seals.

Lavigne argued that with so many species in play, removing one predator doesn’t mean the numbers of one prey will rebound. He argued there is considerable evidence that a seal cull could hurt cod populations, and he presented a diagram depicting the complexity of the ecosystem.

“That is the real world we’re dealing with,” Lavigne said.

MacDonald responded: “That’s a piece of paper, sir. That’s not the real world. The real world are people down there and communities are falling apart and no one can make a living anymore and fish stocks won’t repair themselves.”

At one point, Sen. Ethel Cochrane, a Conservative from Newfoundland and Labrador, told an anecdote about being in Europe and seeing people shooting muskrats that were clogging up bridge culverts. She implied that Lavigne’s group, IFAW, was in some way responsible.

A confused Lavigne asked why his organization would ever endorse shooting muskrats.

“But they were doing it,” Cochrane answered.

“That’s not IFAW. That’s Europeans,” Lavigne said. “That’s like saying Canadians are IFAW.”

“Yeah, but you’re international,” replied Cochrane, eliciting more confusion.

The senator then asked whether Lavigne was lobbying to stop the muskrat cull. He said he was unaware of the issue.

“Muskrats don’t raise enough money,” MacDonald heckled.

“That’s pretty cynical,” Lavigne said.

“Well, it’s true,” MacDonald shot back.

MacDonald later told The Chronicle Herald that he found Lavigne’s whole presentation disingenuous.

“It’s all misdirection,” he said. “It’s all a shell game with these people. It’s all about avoiding the issue.”

Lavigne said after the meeting that it was actually the most polite response he’s had in three appearances before parliamentary committees.

“You’re going to get misinformation, you’re going to get misrepresentation of the science, in some cases you’re going to get fabrication of the science,” he said. “We saw a bit of that in there.

“If I was 30 years younger, I mean, I can remember when I was shocked by all this.”

Source: Herald News

Seal control

Sterile debate
The grey-seal population is exponentially larger than it was in the 1960s, so there is no question they are consuming ever larger volumes of cod and other species. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff)

The grey-seal population is exponentially larger than it was in the 1960s, so there is no question they are consuming ever larger volumes of cod and other species. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff)

THE debate over controlling the seal population is polarized. As for the government, it seems paralyzed, either by political considerations or by gaps in knowledge.

While many laymen take it for granted that a grey-seal cull would help bring back the northern cod, many scientists do not. (One skeptical scientist representing the International Fund for Animal Welfare got a public clubbing from senators during a presentation last week.)

Nonetheless, it’s true very little research has been done on the effectiveness of predator culls anywhere in the world. It’s also true that ecosystems are extremely complex, which makes it difficult to gauge the repercussions of such drastic actions.

Is there no way out of this sterile debate? In fact, we believe there is merit in pursuing and perfecting the sterilization option. The idea of immunizing 16,000 seals per year for five years was raised in a recent DFO report, as an alternative to the massacre of 220,000 animals over the same period. Both courses of action are not without logistical challenges, but the former would certainly spare us a PR nightmare.

Might this kind of seal population-control experiment not mitigate the risk? Might it even be justifiable in light of a recent study which has made waves because it shows anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence beginning to swim in tandem after decades apart?

Fishermen who have long maintained that cod is a staple of the seal diet are feeling vindicated by a paper authored by a pair of retired emeritus scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. They argue seals are hampering the recovery of the cod stock because of their voracious appetites and ballooning numbers, although they stop short of calling for a cull.

Their conclusions are based on various entrail readings. When you weigh the different methods in the balance, according to these scientists, the cod content could be as high as 30 per cent and as low as five per cent.

We won’t presume to guess which figure most accurately represents seals’ fondness for cod. But whatever that magic number is, it must be multiplied by the number of hungry seal stomachs there are to feed. The grey-seal population is exponentially larger than it was in the 1960s, so there is no question they are consuming ever larger volumes of cod and other species. Surely, the real question is not whether to intervene, but how best to do so.

Source: The Chonicle Herald



~ by FSVSF Admin on 20 February, 2012.

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