NANTUCKET, Mass. — Fishermen and others on Nantucket say a large increase in seals is fouling ponds and crowding out fishing.
The Cape Cod Times reports that Crocker Snow Jr., whose family has owned a portion of a small island since 1948, says the number of adult seals on the island has increased to more than 3,500 last year, from 19 in 1994.
“It’s a complete explosion,” said Snow, the director of the Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
By the 1960s, the gray seal population had almost disappeared in the region. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which forbids harassing or harming all marine mammals, is credited with helping gray seals return in relatively large numbers.
The seals are the most numerous of the species in the area.
Some now question whether the seals still need that protection.
“We’ll become a stop on some eco-tour. There’ll be no fishermen here,” said Peter Krogh, spokesman for the Seal Abatement Coalition, a Nantucket group that has collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition asking federal officials for an amendment to the law that would allow for the dispersion of gray seals.
Snow says at least two small freshwater ponds on the island have been polluted with the seals’ feces and fishing has become very difficult.
About the only good news is that he believes the island’s sandbars have kept the great whites from coming close to shore.
Chatham fisherman John Our compares the numerous seals to “15,000 unregulated fishermen, do-what-you-want fishermen.”
Our, who has been a commercial fisherman for 32 years, said the seal problem wasn’t bad until three years ago. And became very aggressive this year, eating enormous amounts of fish and also destroying costly nets and other gear.