We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat


Planet Gore reader Matt Szekely rightly asks: how long before the Great Whites show up?

If you’ve been on a Cape Cod beach this winter, you may have encountered an extraordinary animal comeback: Seals.

Once, the animals were considered such marine pests that states placed bounties on them for hunters. But that practice ended in the 1960s and populations got an extra boost in 1972, when the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed making it a criminal offense to injure or harass the animals.

Now, people are seeing many more harbor and gray seals off New England (or hauled out on beaches) and it’s becoming common to see harp or hooded seals, which are native to Canada. While federal biologists say it’s clear their numbers are ballooning — one estimate places the Gulf of Maine harbor seal population at more than 100,000 — researchers acknowledge they don’t have a solid estimate on how many animals there really are. But they do know there are a lot.

And if — God forbid — more human lives were to be lost from shark attacks off Cape Cod because of the burgeoning seal population, doubtless the fault would lie with commercial fishing rather than with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.


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