SUFB 1180: Seals are not the driving factor in the slow recovery of Northern Cod


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Two experience Canadian Fisheries and Oceans scientists have revealed that data points to multiple factors that are causing the recovery of Northern Cod to move at a snail's pace and seals are not the driving force.

Many fishers along the North Atlantic coast in Canada and the US think that the large population of harp seals (7.6 million) is to blame for the slow recovery. However, the blame lies on other major factors such as climate change and competition for the cod's prey by whales, seabirds, and people.

Warming waters due to climate change are influencing the change in dominant fish in places like the Gulf of Maine. Hake is becoming more dominant as the cold water-loving fish move north to cooler waters.

Capelin is a favourite prey food for cod, but it is also prey for whales, seabirds, and people. The low number of cod may not be able to dominate the food chain with their smaller numbers.

A number of studies have shown that seals are not affecting the recovery of Northern Cod. The study of seal scat (poo) showed that cod is not a major portion of their diet. Other studies showed an increase in the numbers of seals in a population along with an increase in the number of cod in the same area. If seals were eating cod, then the cod stocks would not be growing in the presence of a growing population of seals.

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