Plankton + Fish
+ Seals
= Healthy Ocean

  a healthy ocean, a holistic, precautionary approach to the grey seal question...


Seal ecology summary:
(click image below to enlarge)

Grey Seals 2010
(we are making a video to raise public awareness of scientific and ecological issues related to a proposed greys seal cull in Nova Scotia, Canada)

"OLD HABITS die hard, as do misconceptions about the seal hunt off Canada's East Coast...The challenge for those involved in the hunt is to calmly and rationally separate fact from fiction..." - Halifax Herald Editorial

Photo courtesy: biker,

Sea Creatures Make a Healthy Ocean Planet, Air Included
...Debbie MacKenzie on the predator paradox

Grey Seal History

"Throughout the latter part of the eighteenth century, the demand for train oil kept growing and the consequent destruction of walrus and whales increased the burden on the seals of providing oil...

It seems...apparent that the continuing survival of... horseheads (grey seals) in Canadian waters will depend...on independent conservation organizations such as may take up the battle on behalf of the grey seal."

GSCS Director, Farley Mowat, in "Sea of Slaughter," 1984

CBC's Starving Oceans...Debbie MacKenzie looks at ecosystem changes and discusses ocean fertility enhancement by fish and seals, nature geniuses..

NEW: Videos by StarvingOcean explain the fish powered carbon pump. Click on playlists: "Where have the fish gone?" and "Bedford Institute of Oceanography 2004."





Are Grey Seals kick-starting a Cod Recovery? - see DFO data - November 30, 2010

Seal hunt ecologically irresponsible (2006)

by Debbie MacKenzie

Nobody said that the seal hunt was cruel, and nobody complained that Canada kills whitecoat pups, at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ latest public consultation on seal hunting.

At the seal forum last November, only one criticism was raised against the seal hunt. It was argued that the seal hunt plan is unacceptable because it is not "ecosystem-based," and DFO was reminded of its legal obligation under the Oceans Act to use ecosystem-based conservation plans.

A stable, healthy ocean ecosystem needs large natural predators, and all other big predators in Atlantic Canada, besides seals, have recently been eliminated. Scientists accept these facts: This is in reference to the huge numbers of large predatory fish that long competed with seals to eat small fish.

Today, essentially all big fish are gone, and rising seal numbers have not nearly made up for the loss. To maintain a healthy natural predator presence in the ocean, therefore, none of the relatively few surviving fish predators should now be killed, and that includes seals.

Natural predators play key roles; and entire ecosystems, including the prey species, do better when predators survive too. Eliminating large predators degrades ecosystems, and this occurs everywhere from forests to grasslands to oceans.

A mass harvest of seals today carries a greater ecological risk to the ocean than it did when great hordes of large predatory fish shared the waters (cod, shark, halibut, etc.) and shared the seals’ ecological role.

The truth is that today’s ocean scenario, both the potentialities and the risks, is not remotely like it was in earlier times.
Now the web of sea life appears strangely unstable, teetering. If we take the seals, we remove the last natural predators from a once robust web. What collapses then?

The platitude that seal hunting is a time-honoured "tradition" becomes irrelevant.

Although seals and ice floes may look exactly as they did in past centuries, what lies beneath the surface has changed dramatically for the worse.

The food supply for fish is failing, and the oxygen content of seawater is falling, as the ecosystem becomes increasingly poor and degraded. Under this scenario, insisting on targeting the last surviving natural fish predator courts ecological disaster.

The worst of it is that there are DFO scientists who are aware of this problem, but who are not permitted to speak openly about it.

These scientists were not invited to "advise" the "seal managers." The managers wanted "science advice" only on the size of the seal herds, refusing to consider information about the state of the ecosystem, including the now serious shortage of fish predators.

When it was explained at the seal forum that DFO scientists have published much relevant ecosystem science, including a rationale for protecting fish predators, and that this information should logically translate into advice that managers not approve another seal hunt – the reply was silence.

But outside the forum, a DFO official remarked that nobody reads those ecosystem papers anyhow.

DFO managers were formally asked to consider science advice from their own scientists, regarding how modern ecosystem objectives should be used in planning the seal hunt. But they refused, claiming this was unnecessary.

Amid hyperbole about "science on the cutting edge" and "international leadership," DFO boasts of using a new "ecosystem approach" to ocean conservation.

But they are not, because the new seal hunt plan is, like all previous ones, based only on an outmoded "single-species approach."

This method was long used by fishery managers: Numbers of fish or seals were estimated and then some fraction was declared as the quota for a "sustainable fishery." However, this simple strategy has failed spectacularly – think: cod crash.

Science today knows a better way, but DFO refuses to admit it.

DFO was likely pleased to see animal rights groups again denouncing this spring’s harp seal hunt as brutal. That was their cue to launch the standard rebuttal: "The seal hunt is humane! We have scientific proof of that! And we don’t kill whitecoat pups!"

OK, sure DFO, we’ve heard all that before. Now please explain why you refuse to meet your obligation to safeguard the future of Canada’s marine life by using modern scientific methods, by meeting your legal obligation to Canadians to use an ecosystem-based approach to conservation.

Why do you refuse to listen even to your own scientists?

Why, after the disastrous losses of marine life over the last two decades, does Canada still have government science muzzled by the fishing industry?

by Debbie MacKenzie

(published by the Halifax Herald, March 29, 2006)


GSCS and partners to make video documentary to raise public awareness of links between seal-fish ecology and ocean health, as a seal cull is proposed.
Nov 2010

Grey Seal Pup Mass Mortality
April 2009

Grey Seal Hunt update
February 2009

"Illegal Grey Seal Hunt" Hay Island February 2008

"Killing the Seals of Nova Scotia." The Animals Voice Magazine. Mar 01/07

Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans - Formal evidence to Federal Government of Canada. Nov 09/06

Brief to Parliament on seal hunt. Nov 09/06

Seal diseases update...Oct 23/06

Formal evidence given to the Provincial Government of Nova Scotia and the committee on Natural Resources. Oct 03/06

Stricter food safety rules needed for seals. May 26/06

Seal oil leaves a fishy aftertaste. April 20/06

Seal hunt ecologically irresponsible. March 29/06

DFO Seal Forum 2005 and comments on Ecosystem Science omitted from the seal hunt plan. November 21/05

Predator-prey relationship not a simple question March 30/05

(GSCS) denounces harp seal hunt March 14/05


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