Operational Conflict between Seals and Fisheries: Recommendations for Approaching the Problem in Atlantic Canada.
Creamer, C. A.
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Conflicts between marine mammals and fisheries occur worldwide. Conflict can be separated into two categories: (i) operational conflict, involving direct physical interaction with fisheries, such as depredation and gear damage, and (ii) ecological conflict, involving indirect interaction, such as competition and transmission of parasites. Seals are perceived to be in both operational and ecological conflict with fisheries in Atlantic Canada, however research and management focuses mainly on the ecological aspect. Thus, the purpose of this project was to create a strategy for approaching the problem of operational conflict between seals and coastal fisheries in Atlantic Canada. To accomplish this, a comprehensive review of the nature and management of operational conflict between seals and fisheries worldwide was completed, which highlighted three case studies. This review showed that damage to fisheries varies both regionally and locally. Damage was not caused by entire populations, but rather a few specialized seals. Many mitigation attempts, such as gear modifications, have proven unsuccessful or have not been appropriately assessed. Overall, involvement of stakeholders, especially local fishermen, was shown to be crucial for development and successful implementation of management plans. As such, it was recommended that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans create a stakeholder forum to facilitate information sharing, fund research that engages fishermen and uses their local knowledge, and create a mitigation plan that focuses on improving the current nuisance seal policy to promote assessment and adaptability.