The Canadian federal government is weighing a radical proposal to curb exploding seal populations off the Atlantic coast - the castration of male seals.
Canadian Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault (E-mail: Thibault.R@parl.gc.ca ) confirmed today that the sterilization of seals - either by castration or with chemicals - is among the options being considered by his department and other experts.
"That would be one option," said Thibault. "I don't know what all the science would be for it, but there is a possibility of sterilizing some of the animals. There's some question of castration, of physical intervention, there's the question of chemical sterilization. We would have to look at what all the options are."
Newfoundland Liberal MP John Efford, (Efford.J@parl.gc.ca) thought the idea amusing and noted, "You can imagine going after the big ones with a hatchet and the little ones with tweezers."
This is the same John Efford who called for the seals to be exterminated.
David Loan, campaigns manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, argued seal populations are actually in decline, after several years of growth, and the government is blaming seals for its failure to protect cod populations stocks.
"They're looking for a scapeseal," said Loan, who also argued sterilization would be a "traumatic experience" for the animals.
Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society added, "There is not a single peer-reviewed study that has demonstrated a link between harp seals and declining cod populations. The cod were wiped out by the drag trawlers. Harp seals feed on fish that prey primarily on cod thus a decline in harp seal populations equals an increase in predatory fish species causing an even further decline in the cod populations. I want to know how it is when there were 35 million seals on the East coast of Canada prior to the year 1500, there was no shortage of cod? The cod have been reduced to 1% of their original numbers in the last five hundred years due to human exploitation."