Preview: Sable Island’s other inhabitants celebrated in Seals of Sable

Sable Island is a truly unique place. Situated off the coast of Nova Scotia, the small spit of land is home to feral horses that have grabbed headlines around the world. Not gathering as much attention? The grey seals that frequent the island too. That all changes on Friday night.

Airing at 9 p.m. under The Nature of Things banner, “Seals of Sable,” follows filmmakers Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason of Sea to Sea Productions Inc., as they track the largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world. Every winter, tens of thousands of female seals arrive to give birth, and the duo is there with scientists and experts for it. Led by biologist Nell den Heyer, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the group seeks answers to the many questions they have about grey seals. The only time the cigar-shaped animals come to shore is to rest, moult and give birth, so the three weeks they spend on Sable will be invaluable.

Cameras capture the moment of birth—labour can be a days-long affair—through the bonding and feeding of pups (each pup’s hungry call is unique). Along the way, scientists continue to mark and track individual seals, tracing populations and survival rates. Does a female seal’s personality give her pup and better-than-average chance at survival? It would seem so. The grey seal has seen a boom in its numbers in the last few decades despite commercial fishing; what are they eating? A little of that will hopefully be answered by attaching video cameras to seals named Emma, Kate and Fiona.

Through amazing camera work and the down-to-earth, accessible language The Nature of Things is known for, “Seals of Sable” is a fascinating peek into the lives of that island’s other residents.

“Seals of Sable” airs as part of The Nature of Things, Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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