The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 has facilitated the recovery of key depleted marine mammals, including gray seals, and its success should be championed. Now it's time to study the impact of growing gray seal populations on the surrounding ecosystem.
In the spring of 2013, the Fishermen's Alliance collaborated with the Center for Coastal Studies, the Pleasant Bay Alliance and the Friends of Pleasant Bay to host the first Outer Cape Seal Symposium.
This landmark event brought together more than 200 concerned citizens representing all facets of the Cape Cod community to discuss seals and their relationship to the ecosystem. The symposium was a promising first step towards a comprehensive review of the information available—and lacking—on gray seals.
Now, the Fishermen's Alliance is collaborating with scientists at NASRC (the Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium at the Woods' Hole Oceanographic Institution) to identify a viable gray seal population size in the context of a balanced ecosystem. This research will lay the groundwork to develop seal management practices similar to those for familiar species like codfish, scallops and whitetail deer.
Fishermen First Responder Team
In August 2012, more than 50 fishermen packed into our office to become trained as first responders in the event of a whale entanglement in the waters off Cape Cod. First responders identify and report entangled whales and are allowed stay with whales until rescue teams arrive. These fishermen are now certified by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to take on this important role. Together, they make up Cape Cod's first and only Fishermen First Responder Team.
As harbor porpoise populations continue to increase, interactions between this species and fishing gear may become more frequent. To help avoid these, broad fishing area closures and more stringent requirements for acoustic deterrent devices are being considered.
Local gillnet fishermen and Fishermen's Alliance staff are working closely with state and federal regulators and environmental organizations to address these situations in ways that allow porpoise to thrive while maintaining opportunities to fish.