Grey seals and cod

Learn about the effect of grey seals on cod, including research into grey seal eating habits, cod stock recovery and seal culls.

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Grey seal eating habits

We’re studying the relationships between grey seals and other parts of the Atlantic ecosystem, including Atlantic cod. With independent scientific experts and the fishing industry, we’ve conducted several studies on grey seal diet using different methods, including analyses of:

The amount of cod in a seal's diet varies widely between locations, seasons, age, sex and individuals. Based on data from several studies using traditional methods, a single adult grey seal can eat up to 2 tonnes of prey per year. Cod can represent up to 50% of this diet.

The lack of cod recovery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence appears to be due to high mortality of larger cod. Predation by grey seals may account for up to 50% of natural cod mortality, making them a major factor limiting this specific stock’s recovery.

We’ll continue to study the interactions between grey seals and cod in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. This information will be used to inform management of seal harvest and cod fishery.

Cod stock recovery

We’ve made changes to the management measures in place for cod and other fisheries that incidentally catch cod, including:

We’ll use a balanced approach that considers the health of Atlantic cod stocks and the grey seal population. This will benefit important marine ecosystems and the fishing communities that depend on them.

Seal culls

There are currently no plans to conduct a program for the removal of grey seals. If we consider such a program, we’ll consult with scientific experts and affected stakeholders to ensure that any measures: