A controversial video of a man tossing an explosive at a herd of sea lions on B.C.’s coast has surfaced on Facebook, renewing debates on legalizing a seal cull.
Thomas Sewid, a member of the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society shared the video Tuesday. The society, based out of Richmond, is a group of B.C. First Nations and commercial fisherman currently advocating to revive the seal and sea lion hunt on the west coast.
In the video, a man throws what appears to be a bear banger off the side of the fishing boat into a sea of herring and more than a dozen sea lions.
Once startled the flippered mammals start to dive into the water, before returning moments later.
“This massive amount of sea lions diving on huge schools of thousands of tons of herring scares them to stay deep. This makes it so captains cannot catch herring, for they’re too deep for nets,” Sewid said in the post.
“Tenaciously these crews are doing all they can to get a set so they can get a representative herring samples to test. This is supposed to be a multi-million dollar fishery, yet stupid obsolete laws impede proper sampling of the herring stocks all due to too dang many sea lions!”
Sewid added that if the fishing vessel has a net full of herring, a startle from a herd of seals could cause the school of fish to dive down below, potentially capsizing the boat.
“This happens and large seine boats are pulled over,” Sewid said. “Yes, we have lost many fellow fishers when seiners capsize.”
The video has received support and outrage on social media.
In a tweet posted Wednesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada condemned disturbing seals or sea lions, and reminded the public that using explosives is illegal.
Reminder: it is illegal to disturb #seals, #sealions or other marine mammals. This includes the use of acoustic deterrents such as seal bombs or other explosives. If you see a disturbance to marine mammals in BC, please report it to us at 1-800-465-4336. https://t.co/kT9YQiR9rH pic.twitter.com/mKZSEmpueO
— DFO Pacific (@DFO_Pacific) March 7, 2019
The society wants the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to first expand Indigenous harvesting rights to include the commercial sale of the flippered mammals, Sewid said.
But biologists have been quick to argue against the need for a cull, saying that there is no data to suggest that a hunt would help salmon species.
The seal population has stabilized at around 105,000 across the B.C. coast since 1999.
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