This isn't as deranged as it might look at first glance.
Whenever you think of inserting explosives into some type of hunting or fishing scenario, it sounds bad. You immediately think of someone breaking the law or, at the very least, abusing our wildlife.
But according to the commercial fishermen onboard in this video, that's not at all what happened here, despite some of the especially negative backlash coming from social media.
Fisherman Thomas Sewid posted this video to the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society's Facebook page March 5 to illustrate the effects of British Columbia's pinniped population crisis.
The PBPS is a group that's lobbying for the commercial harvest of harbor seals and sea lions, as the overpopulation is having a critical effect on other aquatic species in Canada, namely wild salmon.
Although only one video is going viral right now, Sewid actually posted two, both of which we've included below.
So, if you're looking at this first video without any context, it could be easy to draw the conclusion these are just some bad-intentioned fishermen having fun at the expense of these marine mammals. However, Sewid and Allan Mardsen (the fisherman throwing the seal bomb) explained their experience is anything but fun.
"This is what it looks like when you're trying to get a test set for a multi-million dollar fishery—(or what's) supposed to be," Sewid says in the video above. "And you can't even get a freakin' sample because of this."
The explosive used in the video is what's called a "bear banger," which fisherman will use to scatter pinnipeds in a desperate attempt to get some work done.
"(It's) the same thing you would take in the bush if you were walking upstream in the summertime to protect yourself from the bears—nothing more and nothing less," Marsden told Global News. "There were no guns involved. I don't have a gun on the boat and have no intention of packing one on the boat."'
Additionally, Marsden stressed the importance of his crew's safety and the risk this many seals (an estimated 500) presents.
"I do have every intention in the world of protecting myself and my crew from being attacked by sea lions," he said. "That's all we were doing there. I have already been attacked by sea lions, I have already been bitten by a sea lion and I don't have any plans of letting it happen again."
Many are up in arms about the first video, claiming an explosive not only illegally disturbs seals, sea lions and other aquatic animals, but also poses a physical threat to pinnipeds.
One of those people is the Vancouver Aquarium's head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, who claims he's seen a number of pinnipeds that have suffered injuries as a result of the bear banger method.
"There's definitely potential for damage there," he said. "Everything from trauma to hearing damage. And the closer the animals are to that device, the more damage and potential damage there can be."
He also argued seals don't exhibit aggressive behavior unless you mess with them, and that the seals in the video were just coming to the boat in a "very normal kind of interaction."
Let's weigh in
First, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Haulena's never tried pulling herring out of the water in the dark with 500 seals swarming the boat. Just looking at that second video alone, there's no chance I'd get down near that water.
These guys throwing the bear banger aren't the problem. The problem is pinnipeds in British Columbia are being poorly managed due to anti-hunting efforts.
I get that it's not a great look, because it's not. As is the case in most controversies surrounding hunters and fishermen, we often shoot ourselves in the foot by posting stuff we shouldn't.
There's no real context in the first video, so you're allowing people to think the worst. How did you expect them to react?
However, I sympathize for the guys in this video, as well as all the other fishermen in British Columbia trying to make a living. Like it or not, naysayers, desperate times call for desperate measures. If you aren't allowed to hunt them, and you aren't allowed to scare them away, what are you supposed to do? Take the loss on your entire fishing operation?
While this will unfortunately circulate the internet casting a negative shadow on fishermen, it really should shed light on how integral hunting is to wildlife conservation. This video perfectly illustrates how severe the effects can be when hunting isn't properly implemented into wildlife management.
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