Ottawa is establishing a research team to study the impact of seals on fish populations in Atlantic Canada.
Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the creation of the Atlantic seal science task team on Wednesday in St. John’s.
A statement from the department said the work is meant to ensure management decisions for seals and sea lions are made with the best available science, in order to sustain “healthy and productive” ecosystems.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the announcement came in response to concerns from harvesters about seal predation of commercial fish stocks.
The new team will provide input on the federal Atlantic seal science program, look at ways to apply technology to research, involve the fishing industry more in seal research and advise how communications between the federal department and the fishing industry can be improved.
The team will be chaired by a Fisheries and Oceans official and Glenn Blackwood, vice-president of Memorial University’s Fisheries and Marine Institute.
Blackwood says seals can be a controversial issue, and he wants to help synthesize the differing thoughts held by industry and scientists on seal populations.
“This focus will be on the science and it will be trying to reconcile some of the different views that are out there, even within the industry,” he said.
“We’ll try and get to the bottom of all those different views by looking at where the science is now and trying to find some common ground.”
Blackwood said it’s a good opportunity to review the science as population distribution and patterns shift.
“There’s an interest in doing this,” he said.
“I look forward to the discussion and trying to understand seals as part of our ecosystem, seals as a resource, but also seals and the interaction and the role they play in our overall ecosystem.”
Six to 10 people from the fishing industry and other groups with expertise in Atlantic fisheries will participate for up to one year, with the names of participants to be finalized in the coming weeks.
With files from Canadian Press
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