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Seal problem resolved, according to Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor

Two seals spotted recently near Eastern Brook in Roddickton-Bide Arm. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it’s monitoring seals in the town and is aware of only two seals in the community.
Two seals spotted recently near Eastern Brook in Roddickton-Bide Arm. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it’s monitoring seals in the town and is aware of only two seals in the community. - Contributed

DFO says two seals reported in town around Eastern Brook; town not concerned about water supply

RODDICKTON, N.L. —

Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald is refuting claims from one of the town’s residents that seals remain a major issue in their town.

Resident Moira Magee continues to speak out about seals in the community weeks after over 50 seals were reported in the Great Northern Peninsula town in January.

But for Fitzgerald, the situation with the seals is resolved and there is no need for further intervention from government and the town.

In January, the situation had grown into a serious concern for the town council, and it requested that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) remove the seals.

DFO responded and relocated 12 seals back into open water in the town of Englee. It also removed six deceased seals from the roadways.

Now Fitzgerald and a DFO spokesperson are saying there aren’t many seals around.

Speaking to The Northern Pen on Wednesday, Feb. 6, Fitzgerald claimed she had only seen one seal herself in the past few days and had heard from other locals there were two or three remaining around town.

As of Thursday, Feb. 7, DFO was aware of two seals in the town, though they admitted it is difficult to determine the exact number. DFO told The Northern Pen fishery officers are in close contact with town officials and are continuing to monitor the remaining seals in Roddickton-Bide Arm.

Fitzgerald and DFO both stressed that seeing a handful of seals in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is not uncommon at this time of year.

“This is very common, it happens every year,” DFO told The Northern Pen.

Concerns

However, Magee still has concerns about the well-being of the animals.

Speaking to The Northern Pen on Feb. 7, she claimed she had watched three seals die in the last four days.

DFO said it had received reports of dead seals but, upon following up on the report, neither the town, RCMP or wildlife officers were able to find evidence of dead seals in Roddickton-Bide Arm within this time span.

The department confirmed that the last dead seal removed from the community was on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Mayor says no seals in the town’s water

Magee was also concerned about seals swimming in Eastern Brook, potentially — in her view — contaminating the town’s water supply.

“These days the seals congregate mostly in between the health center and the K-12 school in a salmon estuary, that leads to our protected water supply,” she said. “How many human, fresh water supply ponds are hosts to mammals, of this size, in these potential numbers?”

But Fitzgerald points out that the town’s water supply runs into Eastern Brook, not the other way around. Eastern Brook, she says, runs into the harbour.

Therefore, residents are not drinking water that seals have swam in.

Fitzgerald doesn’t believe there’s much risk of the seals getting into the town’s watershed as it is frozen over and on higher ground.

According to the mayor, the town has been closely monitoring the area and the water system.

“The system is an older system so we’re there regularly and we’re going there more now because the seals have been around there,” she told The Northern Pen. “We’re checking it constantly to make sure it’s not contaminated. If there was something in there, we’d go in and treat it and take care of it.

“If we thought, for any reason, our drinking water was contaminated, we would have an ethical and legal obligation to make sure the public is advised of that.”

Fitzgerald says town council contacted the Department of Municipal Affairs and decided to add chlorine to the water as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Magee is calling for a designated “seal-sitter” who would handle and remove seals from the town. But, given there are just two or three seals in the community, Fitzgerald believes it is unnecessary to pay for such a position.

Furthermore, DFO’s attempts to capture the seals have proven difficult, as the animals have been able to avoid capture, moving quickly in and out of water.

The conditions around the brook could also be hazardous, so DFO says it has to be mindful of keeping its officers’ safety.

DFO reminds the public to keep a safe distance from seals.

“Seals are wild animals that can be unpredictable and may become aggressive in order to protect themselves,” a statement read. “Additionally, it is illegal to disturb a marine mammal and human interaction can disturb an animal’s normal life processes and can result in injury or death of the animal.”

If people come across a seal in the roadway, in places where they are causing concerns or could be harmed, or see people disturbing the seals, DFO urges them to call the local C&P detachment or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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