Do Mainers Consider Seals To Be Invasive?
The debate that fishermen and property owners alike are having about seals is whether they should be classified as an invasive species. With seals migrating further North after schools of fish and fishermen not being able to fish the shore is off Maine's coast. Also, with shark sightings and a recent shark attack highlighting the migration of great whites coming further North in search of seals for food. One of the big questions we have is, how can we call a natural mammal species a pest? Is it ethical to say that a wild animal living where it is supposed to live that's also at one point in endangered species a pest? This afternoon The associated press released this story, where they interviewed a fisherman named Nick Muto whose blood pressure rises at the mere sight of a seal.
"Areas that we used to traditionally fish that were as close to guarantees as you could get have been strip-mined of fish, and the fish have been driven out of there by seals," Muto said. "They have eaten fish out of our nets. They have been caught in our nets. They are everywhere."
Others argue there's not enough hard evidence to suggest that seals are the cause of the fish population being on the decline. Ten years ago, the numbers for seals were staggeringly low due to poaching and bounties on the animals. Federal protections had raised numbers considerably; however, when numbers were higher in previous decades, there were still enough fish to go around; our population has gotten more extensive, and there's more demand.
"We get into this question of how many grey seals there are. The next question is how many seals should there be, which is kind of where people are going to go next with that, which is a very challenging thing," said David Johnston, a marine ecologist at Duke University.
He has done grey seal population estimates using Google Earth and tagged seals to demonstrate how their behavior changes due to shark migration in the Northwest Atlantic.
So what are your thoughts as a mainer that has seen seals? Do you think there are too many? Do you believe that the fishermen have a valid point, or do we see anyone who interferes with what we want as human beings as a pest?