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Seal basks on dock 50-plus kilometres deep in western Newfoundland river system

This seal was spotted Monday (July 18th) on the western end of Riverbank Road in Deer Lake, western Newfoundland, about 50k from the salt water in Corner Brook. The animal swam up the lower Humber, and then through Deer Lake. Locals speculate the seal would eventually reach Cache Rapids, where wild Atlantic salmon pool.

This isn't the first time a seal has reached Deer Lake, but it is a reminder of the impact that eight million-plus seals off Eastern Canada are having on commercial fish stocks like Atlantic salmon, which has been under a commercial fishing moratorium since 1992. Grant Dicks photo.

The commercial fishery for Atlantic salmon has been closed in most of Atlantic Canada since 1992 — 30 years ago this year — and it is believed that an unchecked seal population, along with other factors, are having an impact on the stock's ability to rebound.

DFO scientific studies have concluded that predation by an estimated 400,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is the greatest contributor to increased mortality in large cod in the southern Gulf.

Earlier this month DFO introduced a one-year moratorium on cod in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said at the time that grey seals are likely having an impact on the stock.

Indeed, all three cod stocks adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador are classified by DFO science as in the critical zone, meaning commercial fishing is to be kept to a minimum.

DFO efforts to measure the impact of the massive seal population in Atlantic Canada are "woefully inadequate," according to a task force report released this past May.

"The high population abundance of grey seals and harp seals, which are at or approaching historic levels, are having a serious impact on the ocean ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. The extent of the impacts cannot be determined with the limited information held by DFO Science," read the report.

The above picture of a seal hunting caplin was taken in June/July 2019 in King's Point, Green Bay by Brandon Batstone.

All told, there are six species of seal found off eastern Canada — harp, hooded, grey, ringed, bearded and harbour.

Estimated at 7.6 million animals, the harp seal population off Newfoundland and Labrador is the largest.

DFO is planning a seal summit for this coming fall in St. John's to discuss approaches for science, market development, and management.

At the same time, a primate members' bill before Parliament earlier in June that would have forced DFO to implement seal management plans was voted down, with no support from this province's six Liberal MPs.

When it comes to seals, talk is beyond cheap — it's practically worthless.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

To read more about SEA-NL, or to join the non-profit organization please visit

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