Project Weather: Are Seals a Problem in the Cape? | NECN

Project Weather: Are Seals a Problem in the Cape?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Many on Cape Cod love watching seals, but fishermen are concerned by the large animals' diets (Published Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014)

    (NECN: Nelly Carreno) - Every summer, millions of people head to the beautiful beaches of Cape Cod. But not everybody enjoys sharing the shoreline with thousnads of gray, hungry seals.

    During the summer and fall, the Beachcomber seal tour boats head out several times a day toward Pleasant Bay, packed with children and adults eager to catch a glimpse of a lovable seal with big brown eyes, cute whiskers and floppy fins.

    It didn't take long on the tour to find hundreds of seals along sandbars, lounging and trying to gain some body heat from the sun.

    Each one of those harbor or gray seals have a length of seven to eight feet and weigh a lot. Of course, if the seals weigh 700 to 800 pounds, they have to eat a lot of fish, and that's creating a problem for local fishermen.

    "You have, let's just say, 20,000 seals, and let's say they eat 70 pounds per day, just do the math," said John Pappalardo of Cape Cod Commercial Fisherie's Alliance. "That certainly is going to have an impact on our fishing stocks."

    The alliance has seen in the last seven to eight years a rapid growth in the seal population, and they're very concerned.

    Nick Muto has been a Cape Cod commercial fisherman for 12 years. He has witnessed first-hand how the seals have driven the cod out of the Cape and demoralized his comrades by damaging their fish, making them unsellable.

    "Everyone thinks they're cute cause they look like your puppy that swims in the water," said Muto. "They follow us everywhere. It just becomes increasingly more expensive every year."

    That loss of revenue is one of the main factors behind a push by local fishermen to get answers from the government.

    For now, lovers of seals and seal-watching don't have to worry about their favorite animal being hurt in any way. Seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits anyone from hunting, harassing, capturing or killing them.

    What fishermen are asking for is an assessment and a detailed report on seal population growth in the area.