February 24, 2022
Theft by Seal
- as seen by -Stephen Sautner
Anglers flock to Block Island’s North Rip off the coast of Rhode Island each fall to surf cast for striped bass and bluefish.
Over the past several years, newcomers have joined the party. A boisterous colony of gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) now call home to Block’s rugged coastline and can often be seen hauled out along its beaches or foraging beyond the breakers.
Thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, gray seal numbers have roared back throughout New England. Cape Cod alone supports as many as 50,000. For anglers, this sometimes means sharing a favorite spot with a fellow fisher that can weigh more than 800 pounds and swim 20 miles per hour. Gray’s will sometimes grab hooked fish or even chase them out of the water and onto the beach – much to the chagrin of the surf caster on the other end of the line.
How the recreational fishing community and growing seal population learn to co-exist will be an ongoing and evolving challenge.