Gray seals’ New England comeback makes fishermen crabby

July 21, 2014

Gray seals congregate on the shore in Chatham, Massachusetts. (International Fund for Animal Welfare/Associated Press)

Decades after gray seals were all but wiped out in New England waters, the population has rebounded. But not everyone is happy.

The once-thriving gray seal population had shrunk drastically by the mid-20th century because of hunting. But scientists say conservation efforts, an abundance of food and migration from Canada have revived the population.

Environmentalists cheer the resurgence. But many fishermen say the seals interfere with fishing charters and steal their catch. Beachgoers don’t like seals taking over large stretches of shore and attracting sharks, which feed on seals.

Some residents of Nantucket have suggested a controlled hunt.

Other New Englanders believe the fishing claims are overstated. Brian Sharp of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said gray seals feed mostly on species that aren’t of interest to fishermen.

One local industry is benefitting. Keith Lincoln, who operates a seal-watch ferry, said seals frequently come close to the boats, a thrill for tourists. “The cuteness of them is what draws everybody.”

— Associated Press

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