They may be cute, but the seal populations have now grown to such numbers that a majority of politicians want to regulate their population.
Fishermen have complained that the booming number of grey and harbour seals threaten their livelihoods by competing for the already limited fish stocks and destroying their nets for an easy meal.
Politiken newspaper now reports that Venstre, Socialdemokraterne and Radikale support culling the adorable aquatic mammals to reduce the pressure on the fishing industry.
“We need to bring the population down to a sustainable level so there is space for both seals and fishermen,” Venstre’s fisheries spokesperson, Thomas Denielsen, told Politiken.
Lone Lonklindt, a Radikale spokesperson and the chairman of parliament’s environmental committee, argued that the seal population could be culled without having an enormous impact on biodiversity.
“We might want to ignore the problem because seals are so cute, but they are just like ladybugs – they’re cute right up until there are too many and they start to bite. We need to be more realistic about what is best for everyone, both people and nature. Nature won’t be harmed by us reaping some of its fruit,” Loklindt told Politiken.
There are thought to be around 16,000 harbour seals and 500 grey seals in waters around Denmark, a significant comeback after the grey seal was nearly hunted to extinction, and the harbour seal reduced to around 2,000 individuals in the early 20th century.
The Danish Society for Nature Conservation (DN) argues that culling the seals is not the solution, however, and would prefer developing strategies that reduce the conflict between fishermen and seals.
They point out that static nets are a particular problem as seals rip through them to eat the fish trapped on the inside.
Culling not a solution
“It is only really a problem in coastal waters,” said Bo Håkansson, a biologist working for DN. “But if you want to solve the problem of seals targeting easy food, then shooting them is not a solution. The remaining seals will quickly learn that there is easy food to be found in the nets so it’s a never-ending problem.”
DN has joined its Swedish and Finnish sister organisations to pen a letter to their respective environment ministers demanding that they work together to develop a permanent solution.
Speaking to DY Nyheder, Danish environment minister Ida Auken (SF) said that she could sympathise with fishermen who suffered damage from seals.
“But both the grey and harbour seal are internationally protected and I can’t just give permission to hunt them,” Auken said.