With new research suggesting a big increase in the population of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, fishermen in western P.E.I. are looking for a bigger hunt this year.
Grey seals are only a small percentage of the overall Canadian seal hunt, with most of the attention paid to the harp seal harvest. But grey seals are an issue for fishermen because they live, and eat, in the gulf year round.
"We're competing with the seal," said Shelton Barlow, head of the Prince County Fishermen's Association.
"We're going to try to win out, if we can."
Officials from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans are doing helicopter surveys of the seals this week to determine both how many seals there are, and when the hunt might start.
"Overall, there's about 300,000 animals in eastern Canada," the department's Mike Hammill said.
"The population has increased a fair amount since the '70s. Population back then was around 25,000 animals."
Barlow said representatives from his association will be in Moncton Friday at a meeting that will help decide the number of grey seals to be hunted this year. They will be pushing for an increase from last year's 12,000-animal quota.