For Australian fur seals, salmon is “like a cross between a Big Mac and heroin.”
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/dawnn
Australian fur seals may sound like stuffed animals with a pulse, but in reality they’re greedy blobs of fat who will eat all of Tasmania’s salmon if the current situation is left unchecked. For these fatties, salmon is “like a cross between a Big Mac and heroin” according to a paper written earlier this year by Jon Bryan of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. To get their fix, these flippered seafood junkies have been breaking into salmon farms for years, sometimes snatching up to 2,000 fish a week from a single farm.
Seeing as a seal-clubbing spree can put a strain on the ol’ shoulder muscles (and tends to upset animal rights types), Tasmania has taken to using nonlethal weapons as a solution. Superstrong pepper spray, beanbag guns and darts have all been approved for use on these gluttonous furry bastards by the government. But there are many other ways to dissuade seals from being such greedy fat fucks. Salmon farmers the world over have toyed, Wile E. Coyote-style, with every nonlethal method available – short of tear gas and microwave-powered heat rays – to protect their precious fish meat from the appetites of fur seals. Here are a few of our favourites.
Salmon farmers in British Columbia, Canada, used amplified sounds underwater – the volume was equivalent to a jet engine taking off – to frighten seals away. At least they did until 2001, when scientists claimed that the sonic blasts caused killer whales to flee the area which actually attracted more seals. Whoopsie.
Seal crackers – small explosive shells that give off a frightening bang and flash – have been employed in Tasmania since 1986. Studies have found that, after time, seals become accustomed to the harmless bombs and start to avoid the crackers or ignore them entirely.
Making Seals Puke
Some salmon farmers in Australia and California have fed local seal populations dead fish that have been injected with lithium chloride in hopes of ruining the blubber balls’ appetites and making them vomit before taking a hike. In a way, it worked: The seals would eventually start puking, but not before grabbing a few more mouthfuls of salmon on their way out.
Throwing a Seal Party
The most brilliant repellant methods come from the US Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in 2008 compiled a list of ways to chase off harbour seals and sea lions in California. Seal-scaring tactics included banging on pots, decorating at-risk locations with brightly coloured balloons, and using strobe lights, sprinklers, fireworks, music and paintball guns to frighten seals away. Regardless of the effectiveness, it sure sounds like a great way to spend a weekend.
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