The Seal’s Voice: Cull of the wild

Cull of the wild

It’s almost as if someone has taken a hakapik to the Atlantic Canadian sealing industry itself.

The centuries-old commercial hunt has been left reeling as a result of a series of blows from all sides that arguably began in 1972 when the United States banned the importation of seal products and has continued up until the present with news within the last month or so that the Russian Federation has imposed a ban on importing harp seal pelts.

Those bans bookend other setbacks for the industry: the federal government put a stop to killing whitecoats in 1987; the European Union’s 27 member states began banning most seal products in 2010; China has failed to sign off on a Canadian seal meat and oil trade agreement that former fisheries minister Gail Shea trumpeted from Beijing in January 2011; and consecutive years of poor ice conditions off the north coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have resulted in high seal pup mortality rates.


Cape Breton’s unofficial seal hunt spokesman Robert Courtney told the Cape Breton Post earlier this week that Cape Breton’s limited grey seal hunt on Hay Island probably won’t go ahead this year because of poor market conditions.

A Newfoundland and Labrador MP even wondered aloud last week if it’s time to end the seal hunt.

“Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped,” St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary told the CBC. “Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be.”

Such an admission, however tentative, is political anathema in that province, and Cleary has been trying to make amends ever since, insisting that he supports the commercial seal hunt and only wanted to spark a discussion on the industry. He went so far as to don a borrowed sealskin vest to work last Thursday.

Greg Locke, a Chronicle Herald columnist based in St. John’s, had this to say about the viability of the seal hunt: “The seal hunt will end when there is no one asking for seal products. When that happens, fishermen will stop harvesting seals.”

Some would argue that time is now.

But seal hunters potentially have one arrow in their quiver that’s not market-related (at least not the seal product market): the grey seal cull proposed by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council of 143,000 animals over five years to take the pressure off cod stocks.

The Senate’s standing committee on fisheries and oceans is studying the grey seal population, the annual hunt, markets for seal products, and the cull proposal. Sen. Fabian Manning has said the study could be finished by June, at which time it will be turned over to the federal fisheries minister.

A cull of 143,000 seals over five years would be a public relations nightmare and an ecological crapshoot, but it would certainly keep a lot of people busy.

Source: Cape Breton Post



~ by FSVSF Admin on 8 February, 2012.

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