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* Seal pelt prices dive in '07

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Loyola Hearn served on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which issued a report in November 2005, entitled

Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management.

Here's what this report says about the seals.

Contact the Minister:
House of Commons
Suite 648-S, Centre Block 
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 992-0927
Fax: (613) 995-7858
Email: HearnL @ parl.gc.ca

Tell him not to make the seals into scapegoats. MUCH larger populations of seals have coexisted with populations of cod so great that ships had trouble navigating through the ocean waters that were filled with these fish. In the last three generations, populations of 5 long-lived, deep water species studied by two Memorial University, Newfoundland marine biologists have decreased by 95% due to modern-day industrial pillaging by long-liners, bottom trawlers, etc. What does Loyola Hearn expect the seals to eat as his constituents ravage every species of marine organism living in the waters off Newfoundland? For more information on the collapse of fish populations due to Newfoundland fisheries mis-management, listen to an interview with the two researchers at Memorial University in St. Johns, on National Public Radio.

LOYOLA HEARN


The new Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
who wants to increase the seal kill quota

SIZE OF SEAL POPULATION AND IMPACT ON THE RECOVERY OF NORTHERN COD

The Committee agrees with the majority of its witnesses, including DFO officials, that the current size of the harp seal herd is a significant impediment to the recovery of the northern cod stocks. According to recent estimates, the harp seal population in the Northwest Atlantic is 5.9 million. The latest estimate (1990) of the hooded seal population was 450,000 to 475,000 animals.

It has been argued that the consumption of cod by seals is high enough to impair recovery in all areas. The difficulty with proving this proposition is that seals' diet consists of many types of fish, including juvenile cod, other fish species that prey on juvenile cod as well as species that constitutes the cod diet, for example capelin. These animals are all part of a complex food web. Moreover, the Committee heard that the seal is an opportunistic feeder, and that cod is not normally the main component of its diet. However, given the current size of the harp seal herd and assuming that a single harp seal consumes 1 tonne per year, even if one accepts that cod represents only 1% of the seal's diet, this would still amount to 60,000 tonnes of cod per year, representing a significant proportion of the current cod biomass.

In 2001, the Eminent Panel on Seal Management wrote:

The available estimates of Atlantic cod consumption in 2J3KL by harp and hooded seals are much larger than the current commercial catch and, indeed, much larger than the total estimated biomass of fish >3 y old in these divisions. In inshore areas, harp seals consume an estimated 18.5 Kt of cod, half of it from a 3+ stock estimated as 40-64 Kt. Offshore, hooded seals alone are estimated to consume almost 100 Kt of cod from an estimated biomass of 30 Kt! These figures clearly indicate the uncertainties that must be associated with the individual estimates, but also indicate that harp and hooded seals are important predators on cod in these Divisions. However, the extent of this predation mortality cannot be estimated reliably at present.

DFO currently manages the seal population according to the Atlantic Seal Harvest Management Plan. The plan has allowed the harvest of close to one million harp seals over three years. The department is currently developing a new multi-year seal management strategy for 2006 and onwards. According to DFO, under the current management framework, the seal hunt is managed on socio-economic considerations until such time as the 70% population level is reached. With the new harp seal population estimate, this level would be set at approximately four million. In the event of the population dropping to the 50% level, DFO would implement significant conservation measures.

DFO argues that the commercial quota for the seal hunt is established on sound conservation principles and is not an attempt to assist in the recovery of groundfish stocks. While agreeing with the first part of this claim, the Committee believes that DFO should acknowledge that maintaining the seal herd at a lower level would likely have a positive impact on the recovery of cod.

The Committee recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 14

That the Government of Canada aggressively promote the expansion of markets for harp seal products; and,

That DFO increase the commercial quotas for the seal harvest in accordance with market conditions.

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