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Environment and Outdoors

Conservation Success Or Pests? Seals Spark Passionate Debate

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Robert F. Bukaty
/
Associated Press
A grey seal moves across rocks on a small island in Casco Bay, Thursday, July 30, 2020, off Portland, Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — The increasing number of seals off New England waters has set off a debate over whether there are just too many of these resilient mammals.

A growing number of fishermen, beachgoers and local government officials are blaming the seals for spreading disease, eating too many fish and drawing sharks to the local waters.

Scientists who study seal populations acknowledged their numbers have reached as many as 50,000 after being nearly wiped out by hunting. But they said there is little scientific evidence to support calls to reduce their numbers, noting that could actually do more harm than good to the marine ecosystem.