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In the news

Government of Canada establishes Atlantic Seal Task Team

14 July 2020
Seal harvest

News release fromFisheries and Oceans Canada

MP Hutchings, Minister Wilkinson and Glenn Blackwood the vice-president of Memorial University for the Fisheries and Marine Institute

August 14, 2019

Ottawa, Ontario  — The sustainable management of Canadian fisheries is important to fish harvesters whose livelihoods are supported by the ocean. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) ensures that the best available science is considered when making management decisions for seals. However, DFO has continuously heard concerns by fish harvesters about the relationship between seals and fish populations. Listening to these concerns, DFO is taking action to address a concern that encompasses not only Newfoundland and Labrador, but all Atlantic Canada and Quebec coasts.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the establishment of a Task Team on Atlantic seal science. This complements activities recently announced in British Columbia to assess scientific evidence relating to population dynamics of seals and sea lions and their impact on fish populations.

The Task Team will be co-chaired by a DFO official from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Glenn Blackwood, the vice-president of Memorial University for the Fisheries and Marine Institute. The Task Team will:

  • Provide input on the priorities of DFO’s Atlantic seal science program
  • Examine the application of technology advancements to seal research
  • Increase the involvement of the fishing industry in seal science projects
  • Provide advice on how DFO could better communicate its scientific findings to the fishing industry

The task team will be composed of six to ten members from the fishing industry and stakeholder groups, will have a broad expertise and experience in Atlantic fisheries, and will be asked to sit for up to one year. The Department expects to finalize the participants over the next several weeks at which time information on how the public can be involved will be made available.

This new initiative will help ensure that the best available science is considered when making management decisions for seals and sea lions, with the goal of sustaining a healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems.


“Listening to different perspectives is important to making sure our work is well-informed. I have heard the concerns of industry and stakeholders on seal predation on commercial fish stocks in Eastern Canada. That’s why I have established a task team. I look forward to hearing their views on how we can collaborate and communicate the science better.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Today’s announcement marks the start of an extremely important initiative for the fish harvesters and stakeholders in Newfoundland and Labrador. This new task team will help to better understand the complexity of various seal species and their relationship with our fish stocks. I am elated that fish harvesters here in the Long Range Mountains will have an opportunity to provide input and science directly to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Having a diversity of voices represented in this conversation will help strengthen decision making and ultimately help find solutions to rebuild and restore fish stocks.”

Gudie Hutchings, Member of Parliament for Long Range Mountains

Quick facts

  • There is a large population of harp seals living along Canada’s Atlantic coast. The scientific consensus is that the population of harp seals has risen dramatically in recent decades.
  • In the early 1970s, the accepted estimate was two million. For the last 10 years, the population has been stable at around seven and a half million seals.
  • This fall, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is expecting the findings from the latest survey which was conducted in 2017. The results of this work will provide us with a more up-to-date estimate of the current size of the population.
  • Harp seals feed on a variety of fish such as capelin, cod, herring, sculpin, Greenland halibut, redfish and plaice. They also consume crustaceans such as amphipods, krill, shrimp and prawns.
  • Grey seals, which are found off the coasts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, have also been identified by the fishing industry as impacting fish stocks. DFO scientific studies have concluded that predation by grey seals is the greatest contributor to increased mortality in large Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence cod.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada