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DFO scientists have their own credibility issue — with seals: SEA-NL

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Scientists with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans may have lost confidence in their own science once it leaves their hands, but it must not be forgotten that the scientists themselves have little credibility when it comes to the impact of seals on fish stocks.

This picture was taken in June/July 2019 in King's Point, Green Bay.

SEA-NL has said it before, the NL fishery has been sacrificed for seals.

In a December letter to the deputy minister of DFO in Ottawa, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, representing DFO scientists in the province, outlined various ways that their science is undermined.

One example the union highlighted was the Atlantic Sea Task Team, announced by the Trudeau administration two months before the October 2019 federal election.

The union said the team should be disbanded. "This is not an example of the scientific community collaborating, but rather industry influencing departmental science," read the letter.

I agree.

But while the integrity of DFO fish science must be protected — and the allegations by the department's scientists must be investigated by a third-party — the public perception in this province is that federal scientists have turned a blind eye to the impact of seals.

Members of the task team like Newfoundlander Bob Hardy have worked their butts off to keep the impact of seals front and centre.

DFO scientists say almost 8 million harp seals have little to no impact on stocks like northern cod, but they also appear to minimize the indirect impact of millions of seals consuming millions of tonnes of seafood a year.

In 2017, the entire NL fishery, inshore and offshore, landed just under 200,000 tonnes of all species.

When scientists say seals have no impact fishermen outright laugh at them, a divide that won't' be bridged until the scientists/bureaucrats come down out of the clouds in DFO White Hills, climb the FFAW's castle walls, and associate with the common fisherfolk.

Three seals were taken in Hall’s Bay near Baie Verte in northeastern Newfoundland on Feb. 4th, 2021. Two of the stomachs were full of herring, while the other contained northern cod.

DFO does not factor harp seal predation into its scientific assessments.

That’s despite the fact that 30 years ago, in 1991, the Leslie Harris report on the state of the northern cod stock recommended “every reasonable effort be made to understand the cod-capelin-seal interactions, and to incorporate appropriate data into cod population assessments.”

Why isn't the impact of harp seals factored in — is that a science or management decision?

In June last year, while steaming about 60 miles from Baccalieu Island, in Trinity Bay, fisherman Jason Branton came across what a herd of seals that he estimated was five miles wide.


“Anybody who knows the voracity of a seal can imagine what a million or two of them will do to our fish supply. Levi G. Chage, the world’s greatest sealing authority, estimates that the seals dispose of three million codfish a day, to say nothing of other kinds of fish.”

— George Allan England, from his 1924 book, The Greatest Hunt in the world.

The Atlantic Seal Task Team was supposed to serve for a maximum of one year, and while it's well past that mark, its report is still eagerly awaited.

Ryan Cleary,

Interim Executive Director,


SEA-NL founding convention will be held virtually on Feb. 8th, 2021, and will be open to all owner-operator members in good standing. To join SEA-NL go here.

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