One scientist who isn’t afraid
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1997:
fisheries scientists may be intimidated when
officials blame seals for fish scarcity, but not
University of British Columbia marine mammal
research director Andrew Trites.
Best known for his metabolic
experiments with sea lions at the Vancouver
Aquarium, which involve having them swim
in tanks that work somewhat like a joggers’
treadmill, Trites was outraged on October 2
when federal Department of Fisheries and
Oceans staff shot 17 seals near the mouth of
the Puntledge River, ostensibly to protect an
endangered chinook salmon run, as well as
cutthroat trout and steelhead. Another 23
seals were to be shot later.
“They are taking directions from
the rod and gun club,” Trites told Vancouver
Sun reporter Janet Steffenhagen. “No scientist
I know supports this, and it gives a bad
name to science.”
Trites knew the site well, having
personally studied it. The endangered
Puntledge chinook run, he pointed out, is a
spring run. The fall chinook run is not endangered––and
by next spring, other seals are
likely to have moved into whatever vacant
habitat niches the shooting creates.
Trites further charged the DFO with
deciding to kill 40 seals simply because he
photographed 40 different seals during his
In addition, Trites explained, the
normal seal diet in the Puntledge area is 45%
hake, 32% herring, 19% other small species,
and only 4% salmon.
The actual causes of the spring-run
chinook decline––long identified by other
investigators––are two dams, dredging and
agricultural runoff containing pesticides.