Solution to deal with B.C.'s sea lion surplus? Harvest them, group suggests
A newly formed non-profit group says it has a solution to sea lions gobbling up commercial catches off B.C.'s coast: harvest them.
Sea lion populations have been on the rise for years and wreaking havoc on commercial fishermen's catches and equipment, according to the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society. Adult male California sea lions can grow to as big as 800 pounds and consume massive quantities of fish as they grow.
"Out in the waters and in our rivers, the pinniped populations have just exploded and we know they're targeting mainly salmon, steelhead, trout and other fin fish species," said Thomas Sewid.
He believes seals and sea lions are over-abundant in B.C. waters and is spearheading a solution to deal with them.
"I look at them as being an invasive species," he said. "Just like broom and hogweed, what do we do with an invasive species in British Columbia? We remove it, and that's what we need to do with the California sea lions."
Sewid said First Nations communities should be allowed to do more harvesting of the marine mammals, adding that their meat can be consumed by humans and pets.
He said sea lion blubber can also be turned into nutritional supplements like omega-3 fatty acids.
"Not just the natives want to start harvesting pinnipeds," said Sewid. "This is an industry that can explode throughout coastal British Columbia."
The angler says he and the society know that the idea won't be popular with everyone, given public interest in watching sea lions gather at places like the commercial fishing docks in Cowichan Bay.
Nick Templeman, a member of B.C.'s whale-watching community and owner of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions, says he disagrees with much of the society's position.
"They think they're going to be the balance, I guess, that's going to help the orcas and the fish and everything come back. We don't see it that way," he said. "There's no proof behind seals eating all the Chinook salmon and things like that, so there needs to be more study work done I think."
Templeman says he believes nature, not human intervention, will balance things out in the pinniped population, adding that seals and sea lions are popular prey for Biggs or transient killer whales.
"The transient killer whales will balance out what's happening with the pinnipeds on the coast," he said. "It will happen."
People on both sides of the debate are urging the public to become more informed on the matter and are pressuring government agencies like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to see their side of the story.
CTV News reached out to the DFO for comment but the agency could not provide one by deadline.
VIDEO: New non-profit society wants to expand First Nations harvesting of seals and sea lions in BC waters. Taking a look at opposing views on the issue tonight on @CTVNewsVI pic.twitter.com/GoFT8y7W0v— Gord Kurbis (@CTVNewsGord) November 27, 2018