Home > About Us > Press & News > Press Releases > 2015: Seals and Fisheries: Commentary by Johnny Woodlock

I am reminded of an episode of “The Simpsons” where a fisherman is accused of over fishing and immediately replies by accusing the fish of under-spawning. Of course seals eat fish and because of this have always been viewed as potential competitors for fish resources by the fishing industry. But seals and fish stocks have co-existed in a balanced way for millennia. No predator will survive if it exceeds the sustainable yield of its prey. Fish stocks have been declining steadily ever since the start of the twentieth Century. With the introduction of  “Modern” fishing methods. Since then the introduction of ever more effective ways to find and catch fish has caused the depletion of stocks, not seals. Historically reducing seal numbers has never resulted in an increase in fish stocks.

Questions to the industry:

1. Bearing in mind many studies have shown that herring form an insignificant part of either seal species diet, can you explain the reasons for the collapse of the Irish Sea Herring fishery?
Recent research has shown that herring stocks are recovering in the Irish Sea.
2. Please explain how the Celtic Sea has over recent years shown an increase in several important commercial fish Stocks, despite having one of Ireland’s largest seal colonies (the Saltee Islands) located in its midst. I suggest this is due to management strategies agreed between the E.U. and the fishing industry.

In 1988 at the height of the decline of fish stocks in the North Sea, seal populations were hit with the phocine distemper virus (PDV) which killed an estimated 17,000 seals.This did nothing to halt the decline in stocks. How many seals were the Irish industry hoping to cull?