Human, Seal Conflict in New England

Written by on December 31, 2012 in Marine Life
Grey and Harbor seals hanging out on the beach.

Grey and Harbor seals hanging out on the beach. Photo credit: Meghann Murray/NOAA Fisheries.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium, a group of scientists, fishers, and resource managers that focuses on concerns of human and seal interaction in New England.

“We know seals play a role in the system, but it is not well defined,” said Andrea Bogomolni, a research associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “What do they eat, where do they go, how much does fishing take away from what they eat. We don’t know a lot.”

The seal population in New England has grown over the last five years to the point where some fishers complain that they are forced to compete with seals for declining fish populations.

Seals have also been blamed for beach closures due to poor water quality along Cape Cod, but there was little evidence to support this. A recent report found that beaches with more seals are often cleaner.

There are additional concerns about seals and sharks. Great white sharks dine on seals, so increasing seal populations are attracting more and more sharks to New England beaches.

People have been so angry that in 2011, five adult grey seals were found shot to death on Cape Cod. Harassing, or killing marine mammals is a federal crime, but no one was charged in this case.

The Consortium will continue to study the interaction between humans and seals, but funding is limited as more money typically goes to studies focusing on declining populations.

To learn more:

Harbor seals and a few gray seals at Chatham Harbor on Cape Cod, MA.

Harbor seals and a few gray seals at Chatham Harbor on Cape Cod, MA. Photo credit: Meghann Murray, NOAA Fisheries.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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