Boat Harbour residents baffled by dead seals

Juris Graney
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'I've never seen anything like it'

As many as 20 dead harp seals have washed ashore in Boat Harbour over the past couple of weeks leaving perplexed locals scratching their heads as to the reasons why.


Wallace Woodward, who has lived in Boat Harbour most of his 52 years, says none of the residents can remember a scene that now faces them.

Last week when the Pen stopped by, carcasses of several dead seals lolled about in the breakwater, some had been pushed ashore by strong waves and others were buried under three feet of seaweed.

And it’s not just harp seals that have been swept into the harbour — hundreds of dead catfish have washed onto land becoming entangled with the seaweed that is strewn along the shore.

A myriad of other marine life like sea slugs, sea urchins and star fish have also perished in the past three weeks.

“I’ve never seen anything like it b’y in all my years,” Mr. Woodward told the Pen last Thursday, “it’s just unbelievable.”

The former fishermen said the catfish appeared to be malnourished and skinny suggesting they may have been struggling to find food.

“The seals though, the seals look like they were healthy before they died,” he said.

The largest of the seals measured more than five foot long and because of their exposure to the elements and opportunistic scavengers, some of the carcasses had been partially eaten.

“Every now and again you’ll see a flipper poking up from the seaweed, or you’ll see them wash in,” he said.

“I don’t know b’y. I don’t know what happened.”

It is not an isolated incident however with the first lot of dead seals starting to appear not long after a storm surge swept across the Northern Peninsula on Christmas Eve.

Once the waters had calmed down, locals in Griquet noticed a few dead harp seals lolling about just off shore.

A DFO spokesperson said they have received several reports of dead seals washing ashore.

“At this time we do not know the cause and DFO Science is investigating,” she said.

In other seal related news, see page B4 for Canada’s deal with China.


Organizations: DFO

Geographic location: Boat Harbour, Canada, China

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