The Baby Seal’s Voice: Seal hunt doubtful this year

Seal hunt doubtful this year

SYDNEY — A grey seal hunt on Hay Island off Cape Breton is looking doubtful this year because of a lack of markets, says a spokesman for the sealers.

Topics : 
Northeast Coast Sealers Co , Canadian Food Inspection Agency , Canadian PressChina ,Cape Breton , Hay Island

Robert Courtney said Monday the Cape Breton sealers were hoping to see markets for grey seal meat in China but a proposed trade agreement opening the door for the export of Canadian seal products hasn’t happened.

“It don’t look good without the meat market,” said Courtney, president of the North of Smokey/Inverness South Fishermen’s Association.

“The people in China want it but the border isn’t open and we can’t get it there.”

Last January, then-Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced from Beijing that she had landed a trade agreement to sell Canadian seal meat in China, but bureaucrats with Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have confirmed the Chinese have yet to sign off on the agreement, the Canadian Press reported in November. Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, said at the time Fisheries and Oceans may have promised too much, too soon but he’s confident a final deal is in the works.

Courtney said he had discussed possible markets for the grey seals with last year’s buyer, the Northeast Coast Sealers Co-operative in Newfoundland.

He said there isn’t much time for any upswing in his potential markets since the Hay Island hunt usually begins and ends over a short period of time in February.

“I doubt there will be anything,” he said.

Last February, the sealers hunted about 80 animals out of an allowable allocation of 1,900 on Hay Island. A group of Cape Breton sealers also hunted 115 grey seals on Henry Island and Saddle Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Courtney expected to know more after an Atlantic sealers advisory meeting Feb. 13-14 in Halifax.

Shannon Lewis, executive director of the Northeast Coast Sealers Co-operative, said it’s a bit early to say for sure, but by the time it figures out its purchase plans for this year, it will probably be too late to participate in the grey seal harvest, which is usually ahead of other seal hunts in Atlantic Canada.

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International/Canada, which has travelled to Hay Island to document and oppose the hunt, said it is clear people in China are against becoming a dumping ground for seal products the rest of the world doesn’t want to buy.

Aldworth said there are also concerns the way seal carcasses are processed doesn’t meet standards in China for food processing.

She hoped to see Ottawa buy up the licences of sealers.

“I think, frankly, the grey seal hunt has been over for many years,” she said.

Aldworth said she has heard that there is a rumour there may still be a buyer for the grey seal products.

“I wouldn’t necessarily bank on it not going ahead,” she said. “We are prepared for it to go ahead, and we will be there if it does.”

Hay Island is a rocky landscape that is part of the Scatarie Island Wilderness Area off Cape Breton.

Fisheries and Oceans has set a total allowable catch for 2012 of 60,000 grey seals throughout the Atlantic region and a quota for Hay island of 1,900, saying both numbers are a rollover from last year.

The 2012 season start dates for sealing fleets will be determined through consultation with Fisheries and Oceans scientists, according to the website. The commercial juvenile grey seal hunt usually runs from early February until early March, mainly along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia and in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Courtney wondered what happened to a proposed large-scale cull of grey seals.

“That isn’t happening either because none of the people in Ottawa has stepped up to the plate to make it happen.”

He suggested weather conditions this winter look favourable to the survival of grey seal pups on Hay Island and without a hunt, the population is sure to increase.

The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council has recommended a grey seal cull in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence in which about 73,000 animals would be killed in the first year and another 70,000 over the next four years.

Source: The Cape Breton Post



True threats to cod all caused by people

Codfish drying in the sun at Hopkins & Devine Ltd., Woods Harbour. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)

Codfish drying in the sun at Hopkins & Devine Ltd., Woods Harbour. (BRIAN MEDEL / Yarmouth Bureau)

In his Jan. 14 column, Jim Meek attempts to absolve commercial fishermen and blame grey seals for failure of cod stocks to thrive.

The true threats to cod are all caused by people and include directed fishing, bycatch in other fisheries, fishing-induced changes to the marine ecosystem, and the impacts of offshore oil exploration. Attempts to scapegoat seals for fisheries woes are a disservice to the industry, coastal communities and the public.

Former fisheries minister Brian Tobin said of the failure of cod stocks to rebuild, “when you fish a species to commercial extinction, it may never recover.”

Simply put, major structural changes in the ecosystem have unanticipated and long-term consequences. For example, recent research explains that the eradication of cod (a top fish predator) allowed populations of smaller fish predators to expand. These smaller fish competed with cod while consuming juvenile cod, and their proliferation prevented cod stocks from increasing. Those smaller fish populations have started to level off in the Scotian Shelf area, allowing a small recovery of cod stocks. Interestingly, the Scotian Shelf is the site of the largest concentration of grey seals.

Discussion of a grey seal cull is not backed by any credible science and is opposed by the most respected marine scientists on Canada’s East Coast. The largest predators of fish in the ocean are other fish, not marine mammals, and grey seals consume many predators of and competitors to cod. Notably, the research paper Mr. Meek refers to in his column states that a cull of grey seals could wipe out the remaining cod stocks.

The public, the fishing industry, and the Canadian government should work together now to protect grey seals and help ensure the recovery of our ocean ecosystem.

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada.

Source: Herald Opinions














~ by FSVSF Admin on 31 January, 2012.

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