Sealer ready to strike seal (c) IFAW
A Potent Strategy to End the Annual Seal Hunt in Canada is the Canadian seafood boycott
The boycott of Namibian seafood is also a potent weapon in the fight to end the slaughter of Cape fur seals in Namibia
Since late 2004, Harpseals.org has been promoting the boycott of Canadian seafood in order to pressure the Canadian fishing industry to stop supporting the massacre of seals.
In 2013, Harpseals.org added a boycott of Namibian seafood to end the Cape fur seal slaughter.
North Atlantic Canadian salmon
Why are We Boycotting Canadian Seafood?
The Canadian sealers are fishermen. Sealing is an off-season activity for them, a way to earn a few dollars before the start of the fishing season.
Their income from selling seal pelts is a small fraction of their total income, typically no more than 5%. If they did not kill seals, they would continue to receive their unemployment compensation, money that the Canadian government provides fishermen during their off-seasons.
In the United States (as well as Russia, Taiwan, Mexico and the countries of the Eurpean Union), seal fur and other seal products cannot be imported. They are illegal in the U.S. thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Seal pelts are sold mostly in Asia and non-EU countries in Europe, such as Norway and Turkey.
North American lobster
Canadian sealers/fishermen and the Canadian fishing industry sell large amounts of fish to the U.S. In fact, Americans purchase about 70% of the seafood exports from Canada. That adds up to about CAN$3 billion. This is far more than the value of the seal hunt (which ranges from about CAN$1 million to CAN$16 million from seal pelts). So as more and more Americans stop consuming Canadian seafood, the pressure on the Canadian seafood industry to stop supporting the seal hunt increases.
Moreover, many seafood companies lobby for the seal slaughter. What Canada's fishing industry wants holds sway in Ottawa. One of these companies, the Barry Group, owned the second largest seal skin processing company, NuTan Furs (which was previously known as Atlantic Marine Products and most recently was combined with the Norwegian company, Carino). The Barry Group had a vested interest in continuing sealing. Their NuTan executives still do, as executives in Carino.
Others fishing companies support sealing because they still believe that they'll catch more fish if they kill off the seals. This is not supported by the scientific evidence. To the contrary, the evidence shows that seals are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.
What about those Canadian seafood companies that don't actively lobby for the seal hunt? They either quietly support the massacres or refuse to challenge government policies. This boycott will encourage all Canadian fishing companies to demand an end to the seal hunt.
Officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada have said, in meetings with animal protection organizations, that the annual seal massacre will not end until the Canadian fishing industry wants it to end. Joining the Canadian seafood boycott puts pressure on this industry to end its support for the slaughter.
Another reason to boycott Canadian seafood, especially snow crabs and lobsters, is the threat that Atlantic Canadian fisheries pose to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), published in January 2014,
"North Atlantic right whales seem especially prone to interactions with gear: 83 percent of all right whales have scars consistent with entanglement, with some animals showing evidence of up to six or seven separate incidents. Bottom-set gillnets and offshore lobster and crab pots are the primary culprits. When scientists analyzed North Atlantic right whale survey data and Canadian fishing gear deployment data in an area deemed critical habitat for the whale, they found that lobster and crab pot gear poses the greatest threat during the spring and autumn migration seasons, while groundfish hook-and-line gear poses the greatest risk to right whales during the summer resident period.
Along the east coast of North America, the range of the North Atlantic right whale stretches from Florida to Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but a large percentage of the population resides in the Bay of Fundy and the western Scotian Shelf during the summer season and into autumn. Canada’s official right whale “recovery strategy,” published in 2009, acknowledged that “the number and severity of entanglements or entrapments must be reduced” and proposed to “evaluate, promote, and/or implement where necessary, strategies (e.g., gear modifications, effort restrictions) that will reduce the potential for harmful interactions” between fishing gear and whales.
Nonetheless, the Canadian federal government has failed to enact any regulations such as time or area closures or gear modifications to keep right whales from getting entangled in fishing gear. Fisheries bycatch of the North Atlantic right whale continues unabated in Canadian waters. In the United States, by contrast, the Fisheries Service has taken steps to mitigate impacts of both bottom-set gillnet and pot fisheries, including a requirement that fixed-gear fisheries use sinking lines, which may pose less risk by limiting the amount of rope in the water column where whales are most vulnerable."
What are the Issues with Namibian seafood?
One of the main reasons that Namibia is killing Cape fur seals is for the sake of the fishing industry. As in Canada, and increasingly, around the world, fishing enterprises are advocating for seal culls in an effort to increase their catch. Fishing fleets around the world are seeing declines in fish populations of commercial interest. Namibia's Minister of Fiseries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau, said, “If we don’t harvest the seals, this will result in an imbalance between fish and seals and eventually it will impact on the fish stocks,”
As they find it harder and harder to catch fish, the fishermen look for someone to blame. The usual scapegoat is the local seal population. Seals are the most visible fish eating species to the fishermen and, as a result, the fishermen see seals as their greatest competition.
The sad reality is that fishermen are having more and more difficulty catching fish not because of seals, but because of themselves. Their years of over-fishing, destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling (which damages ocean-floor structures in which young fish develop), and fishing methods that result in high levels of by-catch, such as long lining and purse seining, have led to massive losses of fish stocks worldwide. These practices are in addition to the global effects of climate change and ocean pollution (plastic, fertilizer, pesticide, industrial chemical and petrochemical, and radioactive) and the effects of introduced, invasive speces. The bottom line is that the oceans are in crisis.
Boycotting Namibian seafood will encourage the government of Namibia to stop poniting fingers at seals and instead institute serious fisheries reform. It will also serve as a warning to other nations that are considering seal culls.
Snow crab, a major Canadian seafood export
What Canadian Seafood is Being Boycotted?
All Canadian seafood is being boycotted, but seafood from Atlantic Canada, where the seal hunt takes place, is a special focus. Below, we list common species caught by Canadian fishermen.
Please also consider avoiding all seafood as the best way to help the ocean ecosystems recover from decades of industrial-scale fishing and destruction of fish 'nurseries' (for example, with bottom trawling). These practices are jeopardizing the future of seals and all other marine mammals that depend on fish for their survival.
Common seafood from Atlantic Canada (the most important seafood to boycott is in bold):
||Cold-water shrimp (i.e., cocktail shrimp)
||Hake (Silver, White)
||Tuna (Yellowfin, Bigeye, Bluefin)
||Turbot (Greenland halibut)
Common seafood from Pacific Canada:
|Pacific ocean perch
||Pacific red snapper
||Pink cold-water shrimp
||Salmon (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, Sockeye)
What Namibian Seafood is being boycotted and under what labels?
The main species caught by Namibian fishermen that is being exported is Cape hake (Merluccius paradoxus and Merluccius capensis).
This species is also known as Stockfish or Cape Whiting.
Spain is Namibia's greatest consumer of hake, followed by several EU nations.
However, Namibia is beginning to export hake to the United States, too.
The two companies that are exporting hake to the U.S. are Hangana and Seawork Fish Processors.
Other fish, that are caught as by-catch and are being exported (mostly to other countries in Africa) include horse mackerel, kingklip, and monkfish.
How can one determine where the seafood comes from?
Flounder fillets from Canada, sold at Publix Supermarkets
Seafood sold in grocery stores should have Country of Origin Labels (according to COOL legislation in the U.S.), but there are exceptions to the law. Seafood that is pre-cooked and sold at the fresh fish counter (e.g., snow crabs and shrimp) does not have to be labeled. Neither does seafood that is part of a meal (e.g., linguini with shrimp or clam sauce).
Seafood sold in restaurants does not have to be labeled, but sometimes the menu indicates the country of origin (e.g., Prince Edward Island Mussels, from Prince Edward Island, Canada).
Prince Edward Island mussels
If any seafood you intend to purchase is not labeled with the country of origin, please ask the clerk, waiter, or manager or write to or call the manufacturer. Please also use our Action Cards to let the establishment know that their own patrons want them to join the Canadian seafood boycott.
Which Canadian Seafood Companies Export to the U.S.?
Brunswick canned fish are from Canada
Below is a list of many Canadian seafood exporters. This is not, however, a comprehensive list. Please avoid the seafood that these companies sell and let them know why you are boycotting them.
One of the largest fish Canadian processors is Independent Fish Harvesters, Inc., owned by a group of fishermen. This company, located in Brigus, Newfoundland, sells frozen cooked snow crabs mostly to the Carolinas, Florida, and the West Coast of the U.S. They sell to such distributors as Beaver Street (Jacksonville, FL), which markets snow crabs under the label "Sea Best," and World Catch (Seattle, WA), which sells snow crabs in 2 lb. boxes. They also sell to grocers such as Publix, which sell them under their own store brands. Sometimes they sell to Singleton, a subsidiary of ConAgra based in Florida.
Fishery Products International is a very large exporter of Canadian seafood.
Another large seafood processor is Fishery Products International, now owned by High Liner Foods. They sell cooked, frozen cold-water shrimp, sometimes breaded. They are sold frozen in 1, 2, or 5 lb. bags and labeled FPI. In addition to exporting to the U.S., they sell these shrimp in the U.K. at such stores as Marks and Spence.
Another company called Notre Dame Seafoods, Inc., located in Twillingate (tel. 709-884-1260) sells cold-water shrimp to a distributor with offices in Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington. Check for Notre Dame Seafoods or NDS on shrimp packages.
Canadian Seafood Exporters
|Acadian, Acadie, Ackermans, Adrice Cormier, Annapolis Basin, Apolo, Atlantic Mariculture, Atlantic Pearl, Atlantic Silver, Bacala Rico, Bay Shore, Beach Cliff, Blades, Belle Baie, Blue Royal, Botsford, Breakwater, Brunswick, Buena Ventura, Canadian Gold, Canadian Star, Cape Cod, Canadian Cove, Cape Cod, Captain Albert, Carapec, Century Seafoods, Chef Michaels's Flavours, Chef's Supreme, ChillSea, Classic (from Beothic), Clearwater, Crabterine, Cristobal, Crown Pac, Deep Sea, Deli Magic, Deli-Mare, Downeast, Doyle, E & N LeBlanc, E.J. Greene, Emerald, Fish Basket, Fisher Boy, Fisherman's Finest, Fisherman's Market, Fishery Products International (FPI), Floresta, Fogo Island, GEM, Gina Italian Village, Granadaisa, Green Gables mussels, Harbour View, Highliner Foods, IFP, Indian Bay Wild, Indian Point Mussels, Island Blue, Island Gold, Island Pride, Islandia, Jail Island salmon, J & J Fisheries, Kersen, La Cultivee, Linco & LaHave, Lobsterine, Locke, Luxury (from Beothic), M & M Fisheries, MacGregor, Malagash Oyster, Malagawatch Oysters, Malpeque Oysters, McGraw, Merex, Mersey Point, Morning Star Fisheries, Naturally Canadian, Northern Prawns, Northland, Notre Dame Seafoods, Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon, Nova Scotian, Novie Fresh, Ocean Choice, Ocean Elite, Oceanis, Ocean Leader, Ocean Pier, Ocean Queen, Ocean Select, Oram's Choice, Orion, Perle du Golfe, Pick O'Sea, Polar, Port Clyde, President's Choice, Quinlan, Quin-Sea, Royal Star, Sans Souci, Scotia Garden, Sea Best (from Beaver Street Co.), Seabreeze, Sea Bright, Seafreez, Sea Fresh, Seapro, Sea-licious, Sea Shell Cuisine, Shawmut, Shelly's Cuisine, Sky, Sogel, Solomon Grundy, St. Anthony, St. Mary's River, St. Paul's, St. Thomas, Star of the Sea, Sterling, Tatamagouche Bay Oyster, Terra Vista, Trawler, Trico, UMF, Wolfhead Smokers, World Catch, Vanna, Violet brand
Which Companies Sell Canadian Seafood in the U.S.?
Red Lobster buys a lot of Canadian seafood
Most supermarkets and many restaurants and fish markets sell Canadian seafood. Some also sell Namibian hake.
Red Lobster Restaurants (owned by the Darden Group, which also owns Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze, is one of the largest purchasers of Canadian Seafood in the world (if not the largest), making it a prime target of the seafood boycott. This company has been asked repeatedly to join the boycott but has steadfastly refused.
You can help pressure Red Lobster to join the boycott by
1. Distributing leaflets to patrons entering and exiting the restaurant. (Choose those restaurants that are located in shopping plazas to avoid being asked to leave.)
2. Organizing or participating in a demonstration at a Red Lobster restaurant. (Let us know about your demonstration so we can post it on the web site.)
3.Contacting Red Lobster to ask them to join the boycott.
4. Boycotting Red Lobster restaurants and encouraging your friends and relatives to join you in this boycott.
Most supermarkets sell Canadian seafood, but some have been more willing than others to participate (to some extent) in the Canadian seafood boycott. Some supermarkets have agreed to stop buying snow crab from Canada; others have agreed to avoid seafood from Atlantic Canada.
Publix continues to sell Canadian seafood.
Publix Supermarkets agreed to 'join' the boycott initially without eliminating any Canadian seafood. This chain of over 800 supermarkets in the southeast United States is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the U.S. At this time, Publix says that it does not buy seafood from companies with any involvement in the seal hunt. However, Publix has never provided anything to substantiate this claim.
Gorton's has sourced their Grilled Salmon from Canada. Check the package for current country or origin.
Harpseals.org believes that it is impossible to verify that the Canadian seafood that Publix buys has not been caught by fishermen involved in sealing. In addition, the boycott is designed to put pressure on the Canadian fishing industry as a whole. Boycotting just snow crabs is helpful, though not as helpful as boycotting all Canadian seafood. The way Publix is claiming to participate in the boycott offers no help at all. We urge seal activists to write to Publix, give our Action Cards to the store managers, and distribute these cards and leaflets to Publix patrons.
Other supermarkets that have been very resistant to joining the boycott in any meaningful way are Albertsons and Kroger. Please keep putting pressure on these supermarkets, too, as well as any in your area that continue to sell Canadian seafood. Visit our letters section for automated emails to these and other Canadian seafood vendors.
Snow crab claws from Canada
Restaurants and Stores that Have Pledged to Boycott Canadian Seafood
Thousands of restaurants and stores have signed the pledge to boycott some or all Canadian seafood. To see the current list, click here.
Recruiting Stores and Restaurants to Join the Canadian Seafood Boycott
If you woud like to help recruit seafood vendors to the boycott of Canadian seafood, download our Boycott Recruitment Kit. This kit contains a guide, a pledge form, and several other documents that you can take as you present the case for the seals and the Canadian seafood boycott to restaurants, seafood distributors, and stores.
A simple way to help in this effort is to hand out the Harpseals.org Action Cards to managers, waiters, chefs, and others who make purchasing decisions at supermarkets, fish markets, and restaurants.