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Sealers - Click to enlarge...
Making a "living"- killing seals... Photo: GAN

Is the Seal Hunt Economically Viable?

Studies by independent researchers have concluded that the hunt is not economically viable.

Areport called "The Economics of the Canadian Sealing Industry" was published in 2001, by the Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment (CIBE).

The report analyses the subsidies, expenditures and incomes associated with Atlantic Canada's sealing industry.

Even though the report provides "minimum estimates", the total includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in "soft" loans to processing plants, which defaulted when their businesses failed. The chief finding of the report was that the high subsidies have failed to create a viable industry capable of standing on its own.

 




Over the years, the Canadian government has subsidized the seal hunt in many ways, to the tune of millions of Canadian dollars. Subsidies have taken the form of market research support, seal product (e.g., seal oil) research and development, trade missions, efforts to end trade bans, efforts to fight the Canadian seafood boycott, and direct sealing assistance, such as the use of Coast Guard icebreaker ships to break paths in the ice for sealing boats (which is no longer allowed as of 2009, according to a Coast Guard directive) and rescues of sealing boats stuck in the ice.

What is the level of demand for seal pelts? In 2006, pelt prices were inflated, with Carino paying $100 for many pelts. Then they were caught burning pelts - apparently they hoped to trick people into thinking the seal hunt was an economic boon for Newfoundland and Magdalen Islands fishermen/sealers. In 2007, the price declined back to a more normal level.

In 2008, the prices offered for pelts were low enough and the price of petroleum (needed for getting boats to the seals) high enough, that many sealers stayed home. Others said they would be happy just to break even. Pelt prices have remained mostly in the CAN$35 range since then.

In 2015, the Canadian federal government budgeted CAN$5.7 million for sealing subsidies:

"Supporting the Canadian Sealing Industry

Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to provide $5.7 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, to help secure new market access for Canadian seal products.

Sealing is a way of life and a valuable source of food in many Aboriginal and coastal communities. Seal products also generate income in some communities that have limited job opportunities. The Government will establish a system to certify seal products resulting from hunts traditionally conducted by Aboriginal communities in order to meet the requirement set by the European Union so that seal products can enter that market. Actions will also be taken to help Aboriginal sealers develop effective sealing businesses by providing business advice and training. The Government will continue to support efforts by the broader sealing industry to increase export market opportunities."

 


 

An industry that generates a million to a few million dollars for sealers and requires over a million dollars a year in subsidies is not a viable industry.


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