Grey seal population booming in New England

Seals rescued and rehabilitated by Mystic Aquarium are released into the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 11, 2014. (Photo: Mystic Aquarium)

MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Grey seals are making a comeback, not only in Connecticut, but throughout New England.

Hunted for more than a century the population was dangerously low.  The Marine Mammal Protection Act went into effect in 1972, and thus began a reversal in the numbers.

“That provided them federal government protections from harassment, killing them as well,” said Janelle Schuh, Stranding Coordinator at Mystic Aquarium.

Now scientists are saying the population is booming. They estimate there are anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 grey seals in New England.

“In 2015 NOAA did a recent stock assessment where basically they g out to the pupping areas where grey seals are giving birth and kind of look at what the population is doing and what the status is and they are definitely seeing increases,” said Schuh.

Exactly why the number has grown so much remains to be seen but Shuh says they’re staying because the location is ideal.

“Seals are quote unquote smart individuals. They’re gonna go where the fish are. They’re opportunistic feeders so they’re gonna swim around in the ocean if they find a large supply of fish they’re gonna hang out and they’re gonna have fish that they have in that area,” said Schuh.

In April fishermen told News 8 they’re concerned if the number of seals continues to rise their industry could take a hit. Schuh says it could take years for that to happen. For now she recommends people enjoy the seals from a distance and marvel at the way a once dwindling species is now thriving.

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