A recent survey shows that predation from seals has little effect on the Irish fishing industry.
Seals have long been the primary suspects for the pressure placed on Irish fish stocks, but a new study reveals that this may not be the case at all. According to a press release from Queen’s University at Belfast, a recent study has exonerated the off the Irish coast, who have a negligible effect on nearly all species except for the wild Atlantic salmon.
The study’s findings show that predation from seals has little effect on the overall stocks of fish in Ireland. Fishermen have called for culling of seal populations in the island nation’s waters, but the new study suggests that this is not necessary whatsoever.
According to Dr. Keith Farnsworth from Queens University’s Institute for Global Food Security, the study doesn’t completely let seals off the hook. They still very much eat the fish present in the waters surrounding Ireland, and often come into contact with fishermen. They can become entangled in fishing nets, and may take out a significant chunk of the wild salmon population. The majority of the salmon consumed on the island are farmed, however.
“What we are saying is that for most commercially fished species off the south and west coasts of Ireland – herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species – seals are having no significant negative effect on numbers,” says Farnsworth.
“This is because the seals are eating much smaller fish than the larger, mature specimens that fishermen are required by law to catch. So seals are often eating the same species of fish as we buy in the supermarkets, but younger versions of them. And there are hundreds more younger fish than mature fish in any given species.
“In fact, we found evidence that seals may actually be doing the fishermen a favor, by eating some species that prey on the valuable stocks the fishermen are after.”