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Dead seals, fish

January 21, 2011
Boat Harbour's Wallace Woodward inspects some of the estimated 20 dead harp seals that have washed ashore in the community over the past couple of weeks. Juris Graney/Transcontinental MediaBoat Harbour’s Wallace Woodward inspects some of the estimated 20 dead harp seals that have washed ashore in the community over the past couple of weeks. 

Boat Harbour — As many as 20 dead harp seals have washed ashore in Boat Harbour over the past couple of weeks, leaving perplexed locals scratching their heads as to the reasons why.

Wallace Woodward, who has lived in the small community northwest of St. Anthony for most of his 52 years, says no one can remember such a thing happening before.

Last week, the carcasses of several seals lolled about in the breakwater; some had been pushed ashore by strong waves and others were buried under three feet of seaweed.

And it’s not just harp seals that have been swept into the harbour — hundreds of dead catfish have washed onto land, becoming entangled with the seaweed strewn along the shore.

A myriad of other marine life, like sea slugs, sea urchins and starfish have also perished in the past three weeks.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, b’y, in all my years,”  Woodward said Thursday, “It’s just unbelievable.”

The former fisherman said the catfish appeared to be malnourished and skinny, suggesting they may have been struggling to find food.

“The seals, though, the seals look like they were healthy before they died,” he said.

The largest seal was more than five feet long. Due to exposure to the elements and opportunistic scavengers, some of the carcasses were partially eaten.

“Every now and again you’ll see a flipper poking up from the seaweed, or you’ll see them wash in,” he said.

“I don’t know, b’y. I don’t know what happened.”

The first dead seals started to appear not long after a storm surge swept across the Northern Peninsula  Christmas Eve.

Once the waters had calmed down, locals in Griquet noticed a few dead harp seals lolling just offshore.

A Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) spokeswoman said the department has received several reports of dead seals washing ashore.

“At this time we do not know the cause and DFO science is investigating,” she said.

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