New documentary shows never before seen footage of foraging seals in the Atlantic Ocean at night, airing Friday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on
CBC’s THE NATURE OF THINGS
From Sea to Sea Productions Ltd. comes Seals of Sable, an intimate look at one of the ocean’s most curious and magical creatures; the largest breeding colony of grey seals. Together, husband and wife filmmaking team －Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason－ follow the seal researchers to the beach in a race against the clock. They only have a short time to find and record data from roughly a thousand marked seals, many the researchers have been following for more than 30 years. Seals of Sable will have its broadcast premiere on CBC’s THE NATURE OF THINGS, Friday, November 15 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT).
“We have had the privilege to film in a number of exotic and challenging places in the world but working amongst the grey seals on Sable Island for the last three years certainly tops the list!” said MacInnes. Added Nason, “Sable Island Park Reserve and Department of Fisheries and Oceans gave us such incredible access to film, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Sable Island, Nova Scotia is a remote, almost mythical landscape famous for its wild horses, that has captured the imagination of many across Canada. It’s also home to the largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world. Every winter, thousands of female seals arrive there to give birth and about 80,000 pups are born. Once hunted to near extinction, today the grey seal population is thriving, mainly because they have few predators and they do not depend on a single prey. Sable Island has become a sanctuary and safe haven for nature, seals, and horses, away from the destruction of humans, production and industry.
The diverse team of scientists is led by biologist, Nell den Heyer, Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Marine biologist, Damian Lidgard, has been photographing and working on Sable Island for more than 20 years. He deploys satellite and acoustic tracking devices and wants to use underwater cameras to record the seals deep in the ocean, foraging for food. The cameras need to be as tough as the seals, enduring six weeks at sea and constant changes in pressure.
“Grey seals spend most of their lives at sea, only coming to land to rest, moult and give birth,” says Lidgard. “There are so many unanswered questions about them and their world.”
For the very first time, Lidgard and the researchers watch grey seals foraging in the dark depths of the Atlantic, but what is revealed in the footage is unexpected. Instead of the seals chasing after schools of fish, the cameras capture them digging their noses along the ocean floor, eating small eel-like fish called sand lance.
Ultimately, the seals of Sable Island have become an important extension of understanding Canada’s East Coast ecology.