A newly formed society, Pacific Balance Pinnipeds, has called for a balance in seal and sea lion populations.
The society is looking to hunt the two animals under the provisions set out under the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, which allows First Nations to hunt, harvest and manage traditional foods for ceremonial purposes, but the hunting has to take place within the nation’s traditional territories.
While the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has since banned culling of seals or sea lions already, some First Nations along the coast have already started the organized hunting of seals and sea lions.
The society also believes that the two marine mammals are responsible for a striking decline of chinook salmon populations.
DFO currently does not allow commercial hunting along the Vancouver Island coastline, but the society wishes to change those regulations.
One of the society’s founders, Thomas Sewid, has claimed that 47,000 invasive California sea lions are eating 1.2 million pounds of salmon, steelhead, and herring fish each day. The founder also believes that balancing the sea lion population – in what may be considered a cull – would restock the declining chinook salmon species.
Other supporters also believe that select hunting spots, primarily near the mouths of rivers, during specific times of the year would keep the sea lions and seals in check.
In a recent report, scientists have found that out of a total of 16 chinook populations, 13 are in fact declining while 8 are endangered.
Fisheries biologist John Neilson found while populations are declining, the study could not pinpoint the exact cause. The explanation extended so far as to say that it was likely due to something happening to the salmon after they migrate to the ocean, but didn’t offer any specific reason, like seals or sea lions.
Other organizations err on the side of different reasons – say, aquaculture practices, sports fishing, or commercial overfishing. Exactly what causes the chinook decline may not always be boil down to one issue – or rather, two animals.
Sports fishing, though, has become such an issue around our parts and many bureaucrats believe that it may be the cause in decline, that the government is looking into limiting sports fishing outside Port Hardy’s harbour.
Whatever the case may be, the only fact we know is that chinook populations are declining, but culling sea lions and seals may not be the only solution. Not to mention culling may actually cause worse problems in the future if it were to happen. Which may be why DFO hasn’t already jumped on deregulating sea lion and seal culls, but this society is forging ahead with its plan anyway – using what could be considered a legal loophole.