Gray seals are back in Massachusetts, and with their rebound come questions of how to best manage the needs of a federally protected species with those of the thousands of annual visitors to Trustees properties.
Gray seals in New England waters were nearly hunted to extinction in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, thanks to the protections afforded by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), gray seals have made a dramatic comeback, returning to their historic home grounds, including the waters off of Nantucket.
Balancing the needs of people and wildlife has always been a key priority for The Trustees – our properties serve as valuable natural laboratories for ecological study while also acting as wonderful outdoor classrooms where visitors can discover and learn about the plants and animals that call them home.
We recognize that, as the seal population grows, conflicts with humans could occur, especially on properties with high visitation or prime sport fishing. As a rule, The Trustees allow natural ecological processes – such as the recovery of a particular species – to occur except where this may pose a risk to our visitors’ health and safety or threaten rare species or communities. Gray seals remain protected by the MMPA and, to ensure visitor safety on properties where seals are present, we are proactively advising visitors on responsible seal viewing, following guidelines established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
We will continue to work actively with our partners, volunteers, and visitors and monitor the situation.