09/15/2011 12:17 EDT | Updated 11/15/2011 05:12 EST

Cull 70,000 Gulf seals, fisheries group says

A fishing industry council is recommending that up to 70,000 grey seals should be killed to test the hypothesis that the mammals are preventing the recovery of cod stocks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The recommendation is part of a Fisheries Resource Conservation Council report released Thursday.

It’s estimated more than 100,000 grey seals forage the southern Gulf from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. The FRCC is recommending that more than two-thirds of them should be culled.

"It has been estimated that the number of grey seals foraging the southern Gulf would have to be reduced by 70 per cent, to approximately 31,000 animals, in order to reduce the natural mortality of cod to a level sufficiently low to allow for a measurable increase in the southern Gulf cod stock," says the council’s report.

The report says an estimated 350,000 grey seals live in the Sable Island area, southeast of Nova Scotia.

Harp and hooded seals also live in the Gulf area. Harp seals, which are the primary target of the annual seal hunt in Atlantic Canada, are estimated to have a population of approximately 9.1 million in Eastern Canada.

The FRCC gives advice to the federal fisheries minister.

The council wrote its report called Towards Recovered and Sustainable Groundfish Fisheries in Eastern Canada after holding 27 open consultations in communities across Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Nunavut.

It also reviewed 26 written briefs submitted to the council and held discussions with biologists and managers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.