By Bill Shields, WBZ-TVBy Bill Shields

CHATHAM (CBS) – To the tourists in Chatham, the seals are fascinating. But to the fishermen, they’re more than a nuisance.

“Every year, there are more and more of them,” says Mark Liska, “and they’ll eat several thousand pounds of fish out of my nets every year.”

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But today, scientists tried something new: they attached GPS devices on three grey seals, to learn more about what they’re doing. “We don’t know exactly where they go, what resources they’re eating…where they haul out,” says NOAA scientist Gordon Waring.

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A team of federal and local scientists, along with volunteers, headed out of Chatham this morning to catch, and tag several grey seals.

The seal population in Chatham is estimated at between 12 and 15 thousand. In the 60’s, they were nearly hunted to extinction. But in 1972, the federal government designated them for protection. And since then, their numbers have rebounded, to the point where fishermen claim the animals are hurting already decimated fish stocks.

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With the GPS devices, scientists should gain some valuable insight into just where the seals go, what they eat, and if they migrate back and forth to Canada.

Bill Shields