Wednesday, October 24, 2012

‘Scientific uncertainty should not be stopping DFO from taking action’ — and how well has that worked for us?


 Trying on a pair of seal-skin boots at Natural Boutique, Water Street, St. John's, NL.

“From a science perspective, science is really reaching the limits of what it can confidently and credibly predict would result from a cull of grey seals. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to do it … would not be a science one but will have to be based on something else.”
— Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings, Dalhousie University, as quoted in a Senate report released this week that recommends a cull of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

“The Committee believes that scientific uncertainty should not be stopping DFO from taking action.”
—  A direct quote from the Senate report, The Sustainable Management of Grey Seal Populations: A Path Toward the Recovery of Cod and other Groundfish Stocks
•••
The Fabian Manning Senate report on grey seals recommends that Canada should pay hunters to kill 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a means to help with the recovery of cod stocks. 

That’s even though there’s little scientific evidence to support a cull. 

"While acknowledging the ecological risks raised by some witnesses, the committee supports the logic of the proposed experimental reduction of grey seals in this area," the committee said in its report.
Fabian admitted the call for a cull was not based on scientific research.
Hutchings told the media the committee's decision to characterize the proposed cull as an experiment was wrong.
"This won't be an experiment," Hutchings said in an interview.
"We can't do that in the ocean. All we can do, in this case, is affect the abundance of grey seals and we're not going to be able to control anything else. From an experimental perspective, this violates all of the things characteristic of an appropriately designed experiment."
In other words, he said, there would be no way of accurately determining the impact of such a cull.
•••
Keep in mind that the 1986 Royal Commission on Sealing in Canada recommended a grey seal cull — and we’re still studying it.

But then the 1986 Royal Commission on sealing also called for more science to study the relationship between seals and the ocean ecosystem.

We know seals eat fish — but how many? Where are the details?

Twenty-six years later and DFO hasn’t provided any.

Same old story. 

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