A new report has claimed that seals are responsible for low cod stocks along the west coast of Scotland.
The report was based on the research conducted by scientists from the University of Strathclyde. According to the researchers, grey seals are believed to consume nearly 7,000 tonnes of cod each year off the west coast of Scotland.
Dr. Steven Holmes, of the European Commission Joint Research Centre, who co-authored the report, warned that this makes the remaining cod stock very vulnerable to predation.
The report claims that populations of grey seal increased significantly after the passing of conservation laws in the 1970s. The amount of cod being eaten by seals was preventing stocks of the fish from recovering.
An EU plan was placed to issue strict restrictions on the amount of time fishermen can spend at sea. It was done to aid recovery of cod stocks. However, the researchers are now urging a change in the plan.
The reduction of Atlantic cod stocks has been blamed on fishermen. Various studies have been undertaken to determine whether or not this is true. The Canadian Senate approved a controversial plan to kill 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St Lawrence under in 2012. It was done to revive the cod stocks that the seals were eating.
However, it was objected by a group of marine scientists. They stated that there was no credible scientific evidence that the cull had its intended effect.
Study’s lead author Dr Robin said, "It appears that fishing played a major part in the decline of the cod but increasing predation by seals is preventing the stock from recovering, even though the amount of fishing has reduced”.
The research has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.