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Peering out at the ocean with growing unease

Law protecting seals needs to change as population grows

John Dowd is correct that we have a “booming seal population,” but he’s wrong on two other counts (“Still swimming with sharks,” Metro, Sept. 13). First, he says that Nantucket has no seal or shark problem. On the contrary, one of the Northeast’s most celebrated fishing destinations, Nantucket’s Great Point, is now effectively a seal refuge, and the small island of Muskeget, just to the west of Nantucket, has been called one of the largest gray seal breeding sites in the country.

More important, the first step to managing an ever-expanding seal population, and the white sharks it attracts, is not, as Dowd does, to call for a seal cull, which is a political nonstarter, but rather to pass an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to provide for delisting recovered species, as is provided for in the Endangered Species Act.


It makes no sense to spend taxpayer dollars continuing to protect gray seals, a dominant and prolific predator, in perpetuity and regardless of their ever-growing numbers, which is what the Marine Mammal Protection Act requires. By protecting gray seals in perpetuity, the Marine Mammal Protection Act jeopardizes the health of the ecosystem and the other marine species that coexist and compete with gray seals for their survival and on which our commercial and recreational fisheries depend. Enlightened ecosystem-based management should focus on the health and balance of the system at large, not the open-ended protection of a species that has demonstrably recovered.

Peter Howell


The writer is a cofounding director of the Seal Action Committee.

Appreciate ocean’s ecosystem instead of railing against it

John M. Dowd’s response to the great white sharks in the Chatham area, where he has a home, is reckless, and his recommendation of regularly harvesting seals is illegal. It is unfortunate that someone so blessed to own a piece of heaven doesn’t appreciate the ocean’s ecosystem at his doorstep.


White sharks play a critical role in our ocean’s ecosystem. Instead of trying to figure out how to rid sharks from Chatham, Dowd should take a short walk to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in North Chatham to learn about their critical importance in ocean ecology. Then hopefully he would become an advocate and lend his voice to the need for marine conservancy.

Joanne Smith