A UBC Marine Mammal Researcher says culling seals is a bad idea

BC First Nations and commercial fishers want to lessen regulations on seal hunting, but a marine mammal researcher says this will do more harm than good.

The proposal to the Federal Government is calling for a culling of half of all seal and sea lions in BC.  They say this would not only open up the market to be able to sell seal meat, but also save the chinook salmon.

Andrew Trites, Director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, says this will end up hurting transient killer whales.

"It's being sold as 'This would be great because it's going to mean potentially more chinook salmon for southern resident killer whales to eat.'  But it's also going to mean that over half the food for transient killer whales is going to disappear.  So the next thing you know, we're now going to have a problem with trying to save the other population of killer whales, the ones who only eat marine mammals.  We're going to find them starving, thin, dropping in numbers."

He says it's time for British Columbians to have a conversation on whether we want to see an ecosystem with marine mammals, or go back to the 1960's where culling whaling killed nearly all marine mammals.

Trites adds that, although seals are one of their biggest predators, they're not the only ones.

"Mortality of the young fish starts when they leave the river system, or when they go into the river to come out.  So does it mean that ultimately we have to remove all the trout?  All the sculpins?  Remove the mergansers and the blue herons? And the mink, and the river otter?  And I just don't know where it ends.  Because at the end of the day, there's no proof that removing these predators will help save the salmon."

He adds that predators are beneficial to the fish population, as they don't hunt the fastest or strongest, but the sick and the weak.

He says although it may seem like a simple solution, hunting half of the seal and sea lion populations would end up hurting the marine ecosystem.

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