Gray Seals Thriving in New England But, But…Climate Change!

by Steve MacDonald

Gray Seal PupNew Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) published a report yesterday titled, Gray Seals, Once Hunted, Are Thriving In New England.

Once a popular target for hunters who could collect bounties from Massachusetts for their kills, the species swelled after hunting the beasts was outlawed.

“Past surveys based on traditional methods of counting, using occupied aircraft to survey seals on beaches, islands and seasonal ice cover, counted about 15,000 seals off the southeastern Massachusetts coast,” David W. Johnson, a professor of marine conservation ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said in a statement.

“Our technology-aided aerial survey, which used Google Earth imagery in conjunction with telemetry data from tagged animals, suggests the number is much larger — between 30,000 and 50,000,” he adds, calling it a “conservation success.”

Does that mean that this 2012 climate change collectible flash card from Defenders of Wildlife is rubbish?

As sea ice retreats and key cold-loving prey species like cod move northward, gray seals are also ranging farther north than traditionally found. This means that for the first time, Gray seals are encountering ringed seals, and being exposed to a parasite that the ringed seals carry. The parasite, Sarcocystis pinnipedi, is relatively benign in ringed seals, replicating within tissues for a while, then forming a cyst and moving to another host. When the parasite infects a gray seal, however, it does not form a cyst; it just continues replicating in the animal’s liver like a cancer, until it destroys the organ and kills the host seal. On one island off the coast of Nova Scotia, the parasite killed more than 400 young seals in 2012, nearly 20 percent of the island’s population.

The reported impact appears to be dependent on the migration of the food supply. In this case, Cod. But according to David W. Johnson, a professor of marine conservation ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, “We know almost nothing about what gray seals eat, how and where they forage, and whether they interact in an ecological way with fisheries,” Johnson told Popular Science.”

Should the Duke University professor of Marine Conservation Ecology who says we know almost nothing about what gray seal eat have called Defenders of Wildlife?

Probably not. They were just repeating what someone else said.

In February 14th, 2014 both National Geographic and Science magazines reported on the deaths of hundreds of Gray Seals. They were the result of the Sarcocystis pinnipedi parasite whose transmission was attributed to Gray Seals following ‘their favorite food northward.’

Because ring seals depend on ice to build caves for their young, they have historically remained isolated from gray seals, which inhabit warmer waters. As roughly a third of the ice covering the Arctic has disappeared over the past 30 years, however, gray seals have begun to follow their favorite prey into the ring seals’ territory, says Sue Moore, a biological oceanographer at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in Seattle, Washington. Because their habitats are starting to overlap, these species are beginning to mix for the first time, exposing them to new diseases and parasites, she says.

The first thing that jumps out to me is that roughly a third of the ice covering the Arctic has disappeared over the last 30 years.

How the heck will we get to that often-promised ice-free Arctic with 2/3rd of it still hanging around in 2014, years after any number of “experts” predicted there’d be none? A sum of ice, by the way, that’s not much different than was there 90 years ago, when it was warmer than it is now. Before the climate experts predicted that the global cooling that followed the warming was determined to be the beginning of the end of mankind – again.

Before it was your fault.

I’m also wondering why, if the Ring Seals need ice to build caves for their young, and the ice is melting (even though it’s not), why aren’t they migrating north to shack up with the two-thirds of impossibly ever-present Arctic ice that’s still there?

The science of climate science is full of questions no one is answering, not the least of which is why there are so damn many of these Gray Seals in New England if the Cod chased the cold north while the Ring Seals did not?  A conundrum complicated by another fact. Cod continues to be overfished in New England, according to NOAA, which seems unlikely if not impossible if the water really is too warm (which it actually isn’t), or maybe they are not being overfished they just moved north after all.

As for those Seals, they don’t seem fixated on the Cod at all and if the parasite is traveling south or they north, the one thing that has improved their population is telling people not to shoot them.

If the Gray Seals in New England are adapting to whatever you want to claim is going on and doing just fine maybe it’s the climate scientists grasping at climate alarmism straws and government grants who are in danger of extinction if they can’t manage to get their stories straight.


Update: Added a link in the text for water temp because the NorthAtlanticc has been getting colder since 2006

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