Examining Stakeholder Perspectives of Human-Seal-Shark Overlap on Cape Cod

Nathan Alexander, Master's Candidate, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Animals and Public Policy 2019

Nathan Alexander NASRC extern 2019

Nathan completed a 10-week internship with NASRC as part of his master’s degree in Animals and Public Policy. He was interested in examining the complexity of the issues surrounding the overlap of humans, seals and sharks in Cape Cod waters. Knowing that opinions on this controversial topic are deeply embedded, Nathan seeks to provide context and understanding to why people feel the way they do and to better inform all those invested in these issues as to what may be the best course of action to take moving forward. He met with and interviewed stakeholders to learn their perspectives and sentiments, as well as engaged with the public to educate about the reality of these topics. His goal is to gauge where opinions are formed and how, and to use this information to synthesize a report that will be used as a tool for steering the conversations in a productive direction for the benefit of all parties.


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Keith M. Hernandez, Louisiana State University; PhD Candidate: June 2016 - Present

Using alternative diet analysis methods for studying gray seal foraging ecology on Cape Cod

Keith M. Hernandez, Louisiana State University, 2016-Present

Doctoral dissertation on the foraging ecology of gray seals 

Keith is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University. He is being supervised by NASRC collaborator Dr. Michael Polito for his research examining the foraging ecology of gray seals using stable isotope and DNA barcoding analyses. The increasing seal population along Cape Cod has reignited concerns about the potential impact seals have on fisheries species, however, previous diet research on gray seals is extremely limited in US waters. Additionally, these studies relied on the identification of prey hard parts from scat samples, which is known to have several limitations. The methods Keith is using are able to circumvent the limitations of hard parts analysis and expand the kinds of questions we can ask about gray seal foraging ecology.

NASRC has been a critical collaborator on Keith’s research since the project began, including providing samples and data, suggesting funding opportunities and facilitating collaborations with other researchers around Cape Cod. Members of the NASRC community are also coauthors on several of the publications he is working on as part of his dissertation.

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Gray and Harbor Seal Bycatch and Depredation in New England Sink-Gillnet Fisheries

Laura Sirak, Master's Thesis UNE, Maine USA

Characterizing Seal Depredation and Bycatch in Gulf of Maine Sink Gillnet Fisheries

As seal populations increase, interactions with fisheries are also increasing. Working with fishermen, seal rehabilitators, researchers and managers, Laura's work focused on some of the most pressing fishery/seal issues identified in the region including bycatch and depredation. Through her research, she created a step-by-step protocol to clearly determine seal vs. spiny dogfish depredation. She also characterized age class, seasonal trends and distribution of seal bycatch and quantified trends in depredation in the skate fishery. NASRC worked to connect Laura with commercial fishermen in Chatham, MA and helped with her long commute from Maine to Cape Cod. 

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Lauren presenting her work at the International Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference

A Parasite-Pinniped Fisheries Interaction in the Gulf of Maine

Lauren Bamford, University of New England, Maine USA

Master's Thesis on codworm distribution and the relationship between codworm and seals in the Gulf of Maine

Lauren completed her Master's research at the University of New England on the marine parasite known as codworm or sealworm (Pseudoterranova species complex). The parasite uses many commercial fish species as intermediate hosts, making it an important issue in both the fishing industry and the public health sector. Codworm is also a recurring topic of interest when discussing seal/fishery issues. 

Despite the issues infection of commercial fish associated with these larvae, no studies of the ecology of codworm had previously specifically targeted the Gulf of Maine (GOM).Lauren worked with several NASRC collaborators in her indepth interdisciplinary research project to determine the range of codword in the GOM by assessing prevalence and abundance in Atlantic cod. She then determine baseline codworm distribution data and seal bycatch data to analyze the relationship between codworm distribution and seal distribution in the Gulf of Maine and  assessed how important this definitive host may be in determining codworm distribution in the region. Finally, she investigated the population genetic structure of codworm. Her research now represents the baseline on codworm prevalence and abundance in cod for the GOM.

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Amber Creamer.

Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Internship Experience

Amber Creamer
Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada

Summer of 2013

Amber completed an exciting six week internship with the Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium. She primarily worked on a project led by her internship host, Owen Nichols, to examine conflict with grey seals in the Cape Cod weir fishery. The internship involved collecting data on seal depredation in collaboration with local fishermen, preforming an extensive literature review, and analyzing data to contribute to a scientific publication. Amber also had the opportunity to work with other researchers at the Provincetown Centre for Coastal Studies on seal population surveys, and at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on grey seal tagging and updating of the Marine Animal Identification Network website. Amber’s internship provided insight for her graduate project in the Master of Marine Management program at Dalhousie University, which focused on developing a management plan for seal and fishery interactions in Atlantic Canada.

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Anja Haeussler, University of Applied Science Bremen, Germany Worked closely with NASRC to compete her Masters thesis. 

Masters Thesis on the Seal Debate on Cape Cod and the Islands

Anja Haeussler, University of Applied Science Bremen, Germany

September 2013- March 2014

Masters Thesis on the Seal Debate on Cape Cod and the Islands      

Anja recently graduated from her master program "European and World Politics - Sustainable Development in Multi-Level Governance" in Germany. As part of her studies she was doing research about the seal debate on Cape Cod. The ongoing discussion about the increasing seal population was the main focus of her thesis and her work consisted of a stakeholder analysis which identified stakeholders and interests involved on Cape Cod and the Islands. She worked together with members of NASRC and interviewed 16 members from various interest groups in the area.

" it is important to keep the dialogue open and move forward with strengthening the collaboration between environmental groups, researchers, local NGOs, residents, the government, state agencies, fishermen and the tourist industry.", says Anja. "In terms of the seals there are many perceptions and interests out there and the Cape and the Islands need to find a good way of working together on getting to know more about the seals and their actual impacts in order to turn the discussion into an action plan, which takes into consideration the many needs in the area. This, of course, includes the interest of the animals."

Last updated: January 12, 2020