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Sealing the Deal

The Grey Seal Problem in the U.S. Northeast


Matthew S. Kaufman
Department of Biology
Washington University in St. Louis


This case study uses a PowerPoint-driven approach combined with role-playing to explore issues surrounding the grey seal population off the coast of New England, specifically Chatham, Massachusetts. After gathering information, the students take the part of Chatham City council members and are asked to make a recommendation to Senator Jack Kenny (a fictional individual) on how to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Originally developed for a course in biodiversity conservation, the case could also be used in introductory ecology, environmental management, and environmental ethics courses.


  • Understanding the individuals and institutions affected by the growth of the grey seal population in the Northeastern United States.
  • Develop an environmental management plan involving a protected species (the grey seal) that is negatively affecting a second protected species (Atlantic salmon).
  • Appreciate the fine balance between human economics and environmental degradation.
  • Analyze data presented in graphs.
  • Learn about the Canadian sealing practice and how it relates to the potential for a U.S. sealing practice.
  • Understand the relationship between the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

  • Keywords

    Grey seal; seals; Marine Mammal Protection Act; Atlantic salmon, Endangered Species Act; biodiversity; Chatham; Massachusetts

    Topical Areas

    Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues

    Educational Level

    High school, Undergraduate lower division


    PDF, PowerPoint

    Type / Methods

    Dilemma/Decision, Role-Play



    Subject Headings

    Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Wildlife Management  |  

    Date Posted


    Teaching Notes

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    Nicole Nishimura
    Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis
    St. Louis, MO
    Unfortunately, it looks like the article for the In-class Reading titled "Fishermen say law protects rampant seal population, but not them" is no longer available. I can find a blurb of the article, but when I click to view the full text it generates an error message. Is it possible to get the original article added to the case? Thank you for your time and effort in creating an otherwise wonderful case study! (I was able to find the rest of the articles without difficulty.) Editor's Reply: This case study was originally published in 2008 and we are unable to find that original article. The article was useful for engaging students, but not essential to the success of the case.