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Growing seal population threatens small-scale fishing
Date:5/10/2011

Seals and the fishing industry compete for fish of all types no matter whether it is salmon, whitefish, herring or cod. Seal-safe fishing gear is the most sustainable solution, and we need knowledge about the behaviour of fish and seals in order to develop such gear. This is the conclusion reached by scientists at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Coastal and small-scale fishing in Sweden has fallen in recent decades as a result of several factors; mainly an increase in the seal population, threats to fish species, and logistical problems. As the number of seals increases, the damage they cause to fish and to fishing gear becomes more serious. The use of seal-safe fishing gear has, therefore, major economic significance.

"Some alternative seal-safe fishing gear is commercially available, developed in collaboration between scientists and the fishing industry. But if we are to develop this further, we need to learn more about how seals behave and how they treat the equipment. We have filmed seal-safe traps and seen how certain seals become specialists in attacking them", says Sara Knigson, of the Department of Marine Ecology at the University of Gothenburg. She has studied seals and the fishing industry at the Institute of Coastal Research of the Swedish Board of Fisheries.

Seal hooligans hunt at seal-safe fishing gear

Some seals have learned to hunt at the push-up trap that has been developed for the small-scale fishing of salmon and whitefish in the Baltic. The trap has a seal-safe chamber in which the caught fish are collected, supposedly safe from the seals. Despite this, damage caused by seals has not been fully eliminated. Some seals, quite simply, have managed to figure out the equipment, and overcome it. By filming seals who hunt close to the trap, the scientists could identify ten individuals who had become specialists in hunting in the trap. These seals returned to the site over a long period.

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Contact: Sara Knigson
sara.konigson@fiskeriverket.se
46-070-221-5915
University of Gothenburg
Source:Eurekalert  

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