The gray seal population has bounced back in New England after being hunted to near-extinction. Environmentalists have been delighted to see these seals flourishing, but a few annoyed residents feel that there are too many.
At one time, the seal population in New England was bountiful, but the thriving species was nearly hunted to endangerment due to overhunting by the 1960s. However, with care from environmentalists, the gray seal population has returned to some of its original numbers, thriving once again in Maine waters.
This rise in the seal population is celebrated by environmentalists, who say that the animals are good for biodiversity in the area, according to reports. But some local residents are annoyed by the proliferation of seals. Fishers say that they interfere with fishing boats and take fish from the water. Some residents are annoyed at the seals' presence on the beach, where the massive 600-pound seals take up large amounts of the seashore, make the air smell bad, and attract sharks, their predators.
Some residents have put in a request for a controlled hunt of gray seals to keep the population down. Some New England states already do this for other animals; for example, Maine currently uses controlled hunting for moose and deer populations.
Peter Krogh, a fisher from Nantucket, has currently collected over 2,000 signatures for a Seal Abatement Coalition, asking the federal government to take action and create laws regarding the abundance of seals. He wants the government to make an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow for controlled culling of seals. Krogh asserts that the seals are threatening to tourism and fishing in Nantucket. He said, "This is a real threat to the traditional way of life on this island."
Environmentalists are opposed to amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act, saying that this would undo the good that the act already did in restoring the seal population.
Additionally, a new business has sprung up around the seals: seal watching tour boats.
"The cuteness of them is what draws everybody," Keith Lincoln, an owner of one of the businesses, said.
Besides that, fishers may have overstated the negatives of the seal population. A representative of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said that gray seals feed mostly on fish species of little commercial value, like sand lance. Based on the information sheet from the NOAA, gray seals generally eat sand lance, silver hake, Atlantic herring and redfish.