Hunters warn of seal invasion: “Will go to hell”

Despite the fact that both hunters and researchers believe that the seal population has become far too large, this year’s quotas for how many seals may be shot were lowered.
Now there are also new proposals that could mean that next year’s hunting quotas will be lowered again.

– Disaster. All marine life will go to hell. It gets to the bottom of everything, and then it’s over, says hunter Martin Hahne.

Nine seals – that’s how many seals Kungshamn resident Martin Hahne managed to shoot during this year’s seal hunt. And when TV4 Nyheterna gets to accompany him out along the Smögen archipelago, he shoots his tenth. A good hunt, but not enough according to Martin. The seals need to be fewer.

– Now they are on their way to such levels that it becomes counterproductive, when you are supposed to help the seal, you torture the seal to death instead. It gets starved and it gets worms. It has a generally miserable existence, says Martin Hahne.

This year, the quotas for how many seals may be shot were lowered. For gray seals, there was a reduction from 2,000 to 1,500, and as for the harbor seals, the quotas were reduced from 720 to 630. But even if the number was reduced, it is difficult to reach the correct quotas.

One of the reasons, according to the hunters, is the total ban that has been in place since 2015 against trade in seal products. A Swedish hunter may not sell anything from the seal.

– You want to take care of what you shoot, otherwise there is no point in it. The seal has meat, a fine skin, and you can also make good oil from the blubber. Today, locally produced food is needed, so if we are to reduce the seal population, the sales ban is something that must change, says Martin.

Divided opinions about the stock

According to both seal researchers and hunters, there are far too many seals today. The animals destroy fishing gear worth several million every year and eat large amounts of fish.

– If one eats as much as four kilos per day, you can imagine that around a hundred tons of fish are consumed in a day here along the west coast. Then there won’t be much left, he says.

While the researchers and hunters think that there are too many seals, the responsible authority, the Norwegian Sea and Water Authority, believes that there are too few. In a proposal to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, they write that they want to see reduced quotas for the seal hunt. For the gray seal that lives in the Baltic Sea, for example, they believe that only around 1,300 seals should be allowed to die by humans. Both in terms of hunting and other human-caused events, such as when seals get stuck and die in fishing gear.

– We have received new information from the research that shows what level we can have on the license hunt, which is a hunt that we have to maintain a certain level of the stocks. And it shows that we need to have a slightly lower level in order to ultimately meet our international commitments such as the species and habitat directive, says Johan Kling who is head of department for water resource allocation at the Norwegian Sea and Water Authority and who signed the proposal.

But other researchers believe that more people need to be fired?

– We must base our management decisions on the best available knowledge of different types of species and organisms, including seals. And it is not only the hunt that affects the seal, but also bycatch in nets, other damages such as boat traffic and more. It’s the sum of the human impact we have to look at here and then we have to relate hunting into that. It’s not that research has an answer, but there are many different ways of looking at this, says Johan Kling.

But Martin Hahne is worried about what would happen if the seal population is allowed to continue to grow. He believes that regardless of whether the quotas are lowered for the seal hunt in the Baltic Sea or on the west coast, it can have major consequences.

– Disaster. All marine life will go to hell. It gets to the bottom of everything and then it’s done, says hunter Martin Hahne.

Watch an interview with hunter Martin Hahne in the player above.