Seal Hunt 2009 - Political Actions for and Against the Slaughter
Million-dollar bid to end seal clubbing
By: BRIGITTE WEIDLICH
THE brutal clubbing to death of thousands of Cape fur seal pups on the Namibian coast might come to an end if a South African animal welfare group can raise N$114 million to buy out the only remaining international company buying the skins.
“We reached an understanding with Australian-based seal skin buyer Hatem Yavuz to purchase Namibia’s sealing industry lock, stock and barrel for US$14,2 million (about N$114 million),” Francois Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa told The Namibian from Cape Town yesterday.
“We received a letter from him on Friday and he said he would not have the culling start on Wednesday, July 1, but wait two weeks until the middle of the month so we can raise the money internationally, while he is busy drawing up the contract,” Hugo added.
“I am already busy with international appeals to let individuals and organisations make pledges around the world to collect the amount required.”
However, the Ministry of Fisheries said the culling season would start as usual on Wednesday.
“The sealing season starts on July 1 I think, there have been no changes”, Dr Moses Maurihungiriri, Director of Resource Management at the Ministry, told The Namibian yesterday.
“We are in the third year of a three-year rolling seal quota of 85 000 seal pups and 6 000 bulls annually, which was issued in 2007,” he added.
The baby seals are usually battered to death with wooden clubs in the early morning hours between 05h00 and 09h00 at the Cape Cross seal colony north of Swakopmund “to prevent tourists from getting upset by the culling”, a source at a Swakopmund tourism company said.
Visitors are allowed into Cape Cross from 10h00.
The seal bulls are shot dead during the same time slot, so that tourists do not have to listen to the shots and watch the killings and the bloody carcasses animals dragged off and loaded onto vehicles.
Seal Alert’s pressure on the Hatem Yavuz Group, Namibia’s only remaining seal skin buyer, with offices in Australia, Turkey, Russia and South Africa, to stop its imports from Namibia appears to have borne fruit.
“Last year only 23 000 seals were killed, less than a third of the annual quota,” Hugo said.
“The two concessionaires, one at Lüderitz and one at Henties Bay, who do the sealing each year could not fill the quota and operations ended after just a few weeks.”
This was apparently because there were not enough seals to fill the quota.
The Australian-based fur dealer Yavuz could not sell most of this 2008 stock of furs and skins and 130 tons of seal oil, according to Hugo.
He said Yavuz did not place orders for skins of the 2009 season despite allegedly being pressured by the Namibian Government to do so.
Sealskin products, and furs in general, are currently in low demand due to the global economic meltdown.
“Yavuz told me he wanted to invest the money from the sale of the seal business outside Namibia, including his stakes in the two Namibian concessionaires, into fruit processing and we must help him to move the 95 Namibian employees over to the new enterprise so they do not lose their jobs,” Hugo told The Namibian.
The European Union last month banned the import of seal products into EU member states, and also the transport through them.
The European Parliament voted to endorse an EU-wide ban on seal products in protest at commercial hunting methods, sparking a threat from Canada to take action at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The move, backed by much of the European public and animal rights groups, was approved by 550 votes against 49 at the Strasbourg parliament. The ban will come into force for the next commercial seal hunt season in 2010.
Canada had an annual quota of over 300 000 seal pups last year, but only managed to kill around 60 000 according to Seal Alert SA, because the value of sealskin and fur prices dropped from around N$800 to N$100.
Hugo said after ending the seal cull in Namibia, he would like to turn the sealing plants in Namibia into seal museums for tourists. Any revenue would go towards scientific research on Cape fur seals and to assist the Namibian Government with the protection of its roughly 850 000 seals.
Seal cull on hold pending deal
June 28 2009 at 10:28AM
By Eleanor Momberg
The annual Namibian seal cull has been put on hold for two weeks, pending the possible sale of the seal industry to a South African seal rescue organisation.
Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA was this week approached by the only remaining purchaser of Namibia's seal skins and pelts with a suggestion that he and the remaining sealers be bought out.
Hugo is now trying to raise the cash to make a purchase that would save thousands of Cape fur seals from the killing fields and could see their possible return to their natural island habitats.
The offer to sell their total stake in the sealing industry to Seal Alert-SA comes only weeks after Russia banned seal killing and the European Union banned the import of all seal products, including that of the Cape fur seal.
The Canadian government is considering proposed legislation that would also see an end to seal culling there.
If seal killing is banned in Canada, Namibia would be the only country in the world continuing with the clubbing to death of 85 000 seal pups and shooting of 6 000 bulls for their genitals.
Hugo had earlier questioned how the Namibian government could continue to defy all animal protection laws that stated clearly that to beat an animal to death was cruel and criminal and maintain the decriminalisation of these acts through regulations which commercialised the country's seal industry.
The seal conservationist met with Namibian authorities, including Prime Minister Nahas Angula, in 2007 to appeal for an end to the annual seal cull after it emerged that the country's seal population had decreased dramatically because of the cull and a mass die-off.
This year's seal culling season would have started on Wednesday.
But that is now on hold for two weeks while the concessionaires granted licences in 2007 to kill their annual quota of the marine mammal, the only remaining buyer and Seal Alert finalise a deal that would end the killing.
Hugo recently launched an international campaign to expose and pressure the Hatem Yavuz Group, Namibia's only remaining seal skin buyer, with offices in Australia, Turkey, Russia and South Africa, to stop its imports from the south-west African country.
Yavuz was the sole purchaser of seal fur skins from Namibia in 2008 when he received a total of 23 000 pelts. Concessionaires had been unable to fill their quota last year, and had called off the seal hunt only weeks after it started.
The Australian-based fur dealer had been unable to sell most of last year's stock of furs, skins and 130 tons of seal oil.
He was being pressured by the Namibian government to place an order for this year's harvest.
Despite the Namibian government confirming that Yavuz was the purchaser of this year's consignment of furs, Yavuz has said that he had already stopped the purchase of Namibian seal products because of the present economic climate.
The two concessionaires had also indicated that it was no longer viable for them to continue in the industry.
"The world market for seal skins, particularly Namibian Cape fur seal skins, is dead, but Namibia refuses to announce an end to its cruel seal clubbing policies," said Hugo.
This week Yavuz and the concessionaires contacted Hugo and asked him to purchase Namibia's sealing industry "lock, stock and barrel".
This meant buying up all the remaining furs, all contracts, the processing factories in Namibia and Turkey, and creating full-time jobs for those set to lose their part-time annual income.
Hugo said talks were already under way, but that he wanted to bring interested parties such as the Dutch government, which had been instrumental in securing the EU ban, De Beers, which had expressed its displeasure with the culling of seals, and potential financiers on board.
"I want this to be a success story and not just a private business deal," he said.
"But, it takes money. Seal Alert-SA is appealing for any financial partners to come forward to help make this deal a reality."
Hugo said he had been given an undertaking by Yavuz that if this sale went through he would "walk away from the fur industry worldwide".
Seal Alert-SA planned to turn the sealing factories in Namibia into seal museums for tourists after ending the seal cull.
U.S. Senate passes resolution condemning Canada's seal hunt
Whereas the Government of Canada permits an annual commercial hunt for seals in the waters off the east coast of Canada; (Agreed to by Senate)
SRES 84 ATS
S. RES. 84
Urging the Government of Canada to end the commercial seal hunt.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
March 24, 2009
Mr. LEVIN (for himself, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. FEINGOLD, Mr. MENENDEZ, and Mr. KERRY) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
May 7, 2009
Reported by Mr. KERRY, without amendment
May 7, 2009
Considered and agreed to
Urging the Government of Canada to end the commercial seal hunt.
Whereas the Government of Canada permits an annual commercial hunt for seals in the waters off the east coast of Canada;
Whereas an international outcry regarding the plight of the seals hunted in Canada resulted in the 1983 ban by the European Union of whitecoat and blueback seal skins and the subsequent collapse of the commercial seal hunt in Canada;
Whereas the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) bars the import into the United States of any seal products;
Whereas, in recent years, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada has authorized historically high quotas for harp seals;
Whereas more than 1,000,000 seals have been killed during the past 4 years;
Whereas harp seal pups can legally be hunted in Canada as soon as they have begun to molt their white coats, at approximately 12 days of age;
Whereas 97 percent of the seals killed are pups between just 12 days and 12 weeks of age;
Whereas, in 2007, an international panel of experts in veterinary medicine and zoology was invited by the Humane Society of the United States to observe the commercial seal slaughter in Canada;
Whereas the report by the panel noted that sealers failed to comply with sealing regulations in Canada and that officials of the Government of Canada failed to enforce such regulations;
Whereas the report also concluded that the killing methods permitted during the commercial seal hunt in Canada are inherently inhumane and should be prohibited;
Whereas many seals are shot in the course of the hunt and escape beneath the ice where they die slowly and are never recovered;
Whereas such seals are not properly counted in official kill statistics, increasing the likelihood that the actual kill level is far higher than the level that is reported;
Whereas the few thousand fishermen who participate in the commercial seal hunt in Canada earn, on average, only a tiny fraction of their annual income from killing seals;
Whereas members of the fishing and sealing industries in Canada continue to justify the seal hunt on the grounds that the seals in the Northwest Atlantic are preventing the recovery of cod stocks, despite the lack of any credible scientific evidence to support this claim;
Whereas the consensus in the international scientific community is that culling seals will not assist in the recovery of fish stocks and that seals are a vital part of the fragile marine ecosystem of the Northwest Atlantic;
Whereas polling consistently shows that the overwhelming majority of people in Canada oppose the commercial seal hunt;
Whereas the vast majority of seal products are exported from Canada, and the sealing industry relies on international markets for its products;
Whereas 10 countries have prohibited trade in seal products in recent years, and the European Union is now considering a prohibition on trade in seal products; and
Whereas the persistence of this cruel and needless commercial hunt is inconsistent with the well-earned international reputation of Canada: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) urges the Government of Canada to prohibit the commercial hunting of seals; and
(2) strongly supports an unconditional prohibition by the European Union on trade in seal products.
EU approves ban on seal imports
May 05, 2009 07:49 AM
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
STRASBOURG, France–The European Parliament approved plans to slap a European Union import ban on seal products Tuesday, a move meant to force an end to Canada's annual seal hunt, which is the world's largest.
The EU assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a bill which said commercial seal hunting, notably in Canada, is "inherently inhumane."
The bill still needs the backing of EU governments, which officials said is only a formality since national envoys had already endorsed the bill prior to Tuesday's vote.
The bill is expected to become law in a matter of weeks ensuring it is in place before next year's seal hunt.
Animal welfare activists rejoiced, saying the vote was a significant step toward ending the Canadian seal hunt.
"We're absolutely thrilled," said Rebecca Aldworth, a spokeswoman for the Canadian branch of the Humane Society International who attended the vote in Strasbourg.
"This is a historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial seal hunts around the world, particularly in Canada. This is a really tremendous victory for everyone all over the world who's been calling for this for decades".
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also welcomed the vote and said it addressed "EU citizen's concerns with regard to the cruel hunting methods of seals."
Tuesday's vote however, is sure to pose problems in EU-Canada ties and comes on the eve of a key summit between the two countries in Prague where they are supposed to launch negotiations on a wide-ranging free-trade pact.
Canada and Norway, had already warned the EU they would take the 27-country bloc to the World Trade Organization if it moved to ban seal product imports.
The ban will apply to all products and processed goods derived from seals including their skins which are used to make fur coats, meat, oil blubber, organs and even omega 3 pills which are made from seal oil.
The new EU rule, however, will offer narrow exemptions to Inuit communities from Canada and Greenland and elsewhere to continue their traditional hunts but bars them from a large-scale trading of their pelts, and other seal goods in Europe. Another exemption will allow for non-commercial and "small-scale" hunts to manage seal populations, however seal products derived from those hunts will not be allowed to enter the EU.
Inuit groups say such restrictions will spell disaster for their communities which rely heavily on seal hunts for their livelihoods.
Joshua Kango, who heads the Nunavut-based Amarok hunters and trappers association said the ban "is definitely going to impact the lives of the Inuit in the very near future." "We don't have any other way to survive economically," he told The Associated Press.
Arlene McCarthy, who chairs the European Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee said Canada and others could not ignore the fact that a majority of Europeans are against the hunt and wanted it banned.
She added that concern took precedence over the concerns of sealers, fishermen and Inuit groups that carry out commercial hunts.
"While we of course have sympathy for those particular groups of people, the reality is that we sit here in the European Parliament and that millions of our citizens would like us to do the right thing and ban the cruel trade. They do not want to buy these products," she said.
The legislators faced heavy lobbying in recent months from both animal rights groups and authorities from Canada and Greenland. Curbing the hunt of seals in Canada has been the focus of the bill because of the size of its annual cull and the way seals are killed.
Canada's East Coast seal hunt is the largest of its kind in the world, with an average annual kill of about 300,000 harp seals. It exported around $5.5 million worth of seal products such as pelts, meat, and oils to the EU in 2006.
Animal rights groups believe the hunt is cruel, poorly monitored and provides little economic benefit once costs associated with policing and supporting the hunt are factored in. However, sealers and Canadian authorities say it is sustainable, humane and provides income for isolated fishing communities.
Seals are also hunted in Norway, Namibia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
With files from the Canadian Press
Canada vows to take seal ban fight to WTO
Canadian fishermen killing and dragging seal pups. Photo (c) 2008 HO/AFP/Getty, released by IFAW.
Janice Tibbetts, Peter O’Neil and Linda Nguyen
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, May 05, 2009
OTTAWA -- The federal government has a strong case to launch a World Trade Organization challenge to a European ban on seal products because the decision was based on "people's feelings" rather than hard facts, Trade Minister Stockwell Day says.
"We're moving ahead with an appeal," Mr. Day told Canwest News Service on Tuesday, warning that the trade action will proceed unless the European UnionParliament exempts Canada and other countries that he said practise humane and sustainable seal hunting.
"We'll go to the WTO because it's clear in WTO regulations that if one country wants to ban the products of another, it has to have clear scientific, medically acceptable reasons for doing so, and this EU ban is not based on hard science."
The EU Parliament voted 550-49 Tuesday to eliminate seal product imports -- such as such as pelts, oil, and meat -- a prohibition that would mean a $2.4-million loss for the Canadian industry.
The proposal still must be approved by individual European governments before becoming law and if passed, it could take effect as early as 2010 in the 27 EU nations.
The law would include some exemptions to Inuit communities so they can continue their traditional hunts.
Mr. Day said that the vote was based on emotion rather than facts because opponents portray the seal hunt as it was 40 years ago.
But he said that it has changed and Canada deserves an exemption because it follows internationally accepted guidelines. Among other things, Canada no longer allows the clubbing of baby seals while they still have their white coats.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea defended the government's planned trade action, a challenge that could turn out to be relatively expensive, given that the entire Canadian industry, based on the East Coast, is worth an estimated $7-million.
"When you live in small coastal communities, sometimes there's not many opportunities to make some additional money," she said on Parliament Hill. "We have a number of families who make up to 35% of their annual income from the seal hunt. So yes, I do think it's very important."
Ms. Shea described the European Parliament's decision as a "politically motivated" one that was driven by special interest groups who have "spent a lot of money misleading the public in Europe" for decades.
Ms. Shea singled out French actress Brigitte Bardot, one of the first of many celebrities to attack the seal hunt. Her high-profile campaign included a 1977 trip to the ice floes off the East Coast, where a famous photograph was taken of her holding a baby seal.
The European Parliament's move pitted sealers against animal-rights groups, who have decried the annual spring seal hunt as barbaric.
"This is a historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial seal hunts around the world," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of the Humane Society International Canada, adding that European parliamentarians who supported the law held up photographs and stuffed seal toys before the vote.
Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union could not contain his anger toward the EU Parliament.
"They are trying to tell us how to live, to pass judgment on how we live with no regards whatsoever for the impact a growing seal population would have on our fish stocks," he said.
Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen's Association in Nova Scotia, said the government will have to cull the fish-preying seal herd if the ban goes ahead and sealers are no longer motivated to hunt.
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams called on the Conservative government to retaliate by walking away from a pending trade deal with the European Union being negotiated at a Canada-EU summit in Prague.
"While this vote is certainly a blow to the Canadian sealing industry, it comes at a time when the Government of Canada is very well positioned to deliver a strong message to the European Union," Mr. Williams said in a statement.
He also called on Harper to urge EU countries to reject the seal ban.
In the House of Commons, MPs from all parties voted to hold a debate Tuesday night to take note "that the seal hunt is a humane and legitimate economic pursuit, and that the European Parliament's recent decision to ban the importation of seal products is misinformed, inflammatory, counterproductive, and should be rejected."
The Department of Fisheries estimates the seal population in Canada at about 5.6-million. It sets an annual quota for the hunt, which this spring was 280,000. The bulk of the country's 7,000 sealers are based in Newfoundland.
Norway threatens WTO action over seal ban
April 22. 2009
Norway has authorized the killing of 47,000 adult seals in 2009. (c) AFP
OSLO (AFP) — Norway threatened Wednesday to submit a complaint to the World Trade Organisation if the European Union bans the import of seal-related products.
"If the EU decides to introduce a broad ban on the trade of products derived from seals, that will affect our liberty to decide how we manage our own marine resources," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Fisheries Minister Helga Pedersen said in a statement.
"In order to defend Norwegian interests, we have therefore informed the EU that Norway will begin consultations with the WTO if it adopts this ban."
The European Parliament is expected to vote on the ban during its plenary session which began Wednesday in Strasbourg.
At an ambassdors meeting of the EU's 27 member states at the end of March, a majority said they were in favour of a total ban on seal products to protest against hunting methods which they consider cruel.
Canada, which is the biggest seal-hunting country with a quota of 338,000 this year, has already said it plans to file a complaint with the WTO.
Norway has authorised the killing of 47,000 adult seals in 2009 out of a population estimated at eight million in the North Atlantic, judging that the cull is necessary to help protect fish stocks.
The Scandinavian country has insisted that its hunting methods are the most regulated in the world and has proposed that the EU work together with seal-hunting countries to ensure that proper methods are used.
Norwegian seal hunters are only authorised to use rifles and a "hakapik," a kind of pickaxe, in order to "inflict the least amount of suffering as possible on the animals," according to the government.
Oslo expects the European Parliament to vote on the issue in early May.
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
Canada to challenge the EU over trade in seal products
By Jennifer Rankin
07.04.2009 / 13:05 CET
Trade minister says there is no justification for any ban on trade in seal products and will challenge a ban in the WTO.
Canada has said it will challenge the EU in the World Trade Organization (WTO) if it goes ahead with ban on trade in seal-skin products.
“There is no justification for any ban on trade in seal products,” said Stockwell Day, Canada's minister of international trade, in a statement issued on Friday (3 April). Day said that if the EU did not include an exemption for “humanely harvested seal products”, Canada would challenge the bloc at the WTO. “We are confident that the WTO will find that such a measure violates the obligations of the EU under the WTO,” he said.
Last month an EU ban on seal-skin products came a step closer when a majority of governments gave it their support. Although not all member states back the idea, a weighted majority is ready to impose a near-total ban, which would stop the import, export and transport of seal products in the EU. Limited exceptions for native Arctic (Inuit) hunters and small-scale hunters would be allowed. The Parliament's internal market committee has also voted for a ban.
But the European Commission has doubts about a near-total ban. At an internal meeting of senior Commission officials on Monday (6 April), concerns were voiced about the ban's compatibility with world trade rules and the recent commitments of the G20 to shun protectionism. The Commission had proposed an exemption from the ban for seal hunters who met animal-welfare standards.
But many EU member states and members of the European Parliament say that nothing less than a ban will suffice, arguing that the hunting of seals is inhumane.
The Canadian government rejects this charge. Day said that the Canadian hunts were humane, well-regulated and sustainable. He said that the EU was “[pushing] forward with a proposal that will damage the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families”.
Canada’s seal hunt left Obama outraged in ’06
Apr 10, 2009 04:30 AM
Hunters gather pelts as the annual East Coast seal hunt starts in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine on Monday, March 23, 2009. Andrew Vaughan, CP.
TORONTO STAR - WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON–Campaigners leading a global effort against the Canadian seal hunt believe they have stumbled across a secret weapon that could bring Ottawa to heel – a letter of outrage from Barack Obama that condemns the annual cull as "inhumane."
The newly disclosed letter, written in April 2006, when Obama was a rookie senator from Illinois, leaves no doubt where he stands on the issue. In pointed language, he promises an unnamed constituent he will work with colleagues "to ensure that we take all the necessary steps to express our outrage" to the Canadian government.
"I share your concerns about the Canadian seal hunt," wrote Obama, who has not spoken publicly on the issue since he became president in January.
"As you know, Canada annually opens its eastern waters to commercial seal hunting. The United States and European Union have been unified in their opposition to the slaughter of seals by passing legislation decades ago to restrict the sale of seal-based products within their borders," Obama wrote.
"I certainly believe in the spirit of these acts; the U.S. should not condone this recent Canadian action."
The letter was made public yesterday by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) after it was "recently rediscovered in the files of a member who keeps very good records of our correspondence with the U.S. government," a spokesperson for the animal rights group told the Star.
Circulation of the Obama letter caught both governments off guard. In Washington, a White House aide told the Star that while the seal hunt was hardly uppermost among the administration's constellation of concerns, "we will have to digest this before saying anything."
In Ottawa, a spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada refused comment, saying: "I'm going to have to put that one up to Foreign Affairs."
A Foreign Affairs spokesperson also declined comment, saying he needed to consult with colleagues.
PETA, however, seized upon the letter as the latest and strongest sign of momentum in its campaign against commercial seal hunting. Last month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin surprised environmentalists by banning sealing in Russian waters, calling the practice "a bloody industry" that "should have been banned a long time ago."
The Russian move further isolated Canada, which maintains the largest annual hunt for harp seals, with a quota of 280,000 this year. Greenland and Norway also allow the hunting of harp seals, limiting the harvest to an annual catch of 50,000.
"What is so refreshing about the Obama letter is the wording. There is just no questioning where he stands on this issue. What we want now is to bring that spirit of outrage into the Oval Office," said PETA senior vice-president Dan Mathews.
"When you have the leaders of Russia and the United States speaking out on this issue, it ratchets up the pressure more intensely than ever. Canada, which is so progressive in so many ways, is getting a black eye around the world and everyone is perplexed by it."
The Canadian government remains robustly committed to commercial sealing, arguing that the industry is "a significant source of income in many small isolated coastal communities throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the North.
Russia bans "bloody" hunting of baby seals
Wed Mar 18, 2009 3:03pm EDT
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it had banned the hunting of baby seals, weeks after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a "bloody industry."
"The bloody sight of the hunting of seals, the slaughter of these defenseless animals which you cannot even call a real hunt, is banned in our country, just as well as in most developed countries, and is a serious step to protect the biodiversity of the Russian Federation," the minister for natural resources, Yuri Trutnev, said in a statement.
Seals inhabit Russia's White Sea region in the Arctic. Hunters target the fluffy baby seals -- also known as "whitecoats" for their highly valued snow-white fur -- in early spring.
Canadian legislation bans the hunting of baby seals with white coats, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a government department.
Protests urging a halt to hunting of baby seals took place in 20 cities and towns across Russia this week. On February 27, state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta quoted Putin as saying: "This is a bloody business and it's clear that it needs to be stopped." He said hunters should be compensated for lost earnings.
(Writing by James Kilner, editing by Dominic Evans)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
Putin curbs 'bloody' seal hunt
Whitecoat pups and parents to be protected, Russian PM says, as EU edges toward ban
Globe and Mail
March 11, 2009
Russia is moving to end its seal hunt, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calling it a "bloody industry."
The decision comes as the European Union edges toward banning the trans-shipment of seal products, a move that could stop the Atlantic seal hunt for good.
In recent weeks, Russia has stopped the killing of whitecoats, the youngest seals, and has now pledged to protect older seals as well, though it did not give a timeline.
"It is clear that [our hunt] should have been banned a long time ago," Mr. Putin said, according to a statement distributed yesterday by the embassy in Ottawa.
Russia's Natural Resources Minister, Yury Trutnyev, called seal hunting "one of the most inhumane types of hunting in the world, which is banned in the vast majority of developed states."
The statement did not spell out whether Russia, which is a market for Canadian seal pelts, would continue to allow pelts to be imported.
Anti-sealing advocates dispute the size of the Russian market but a Newfoundland processor said in 2007 that the country was the No. 1 customer for his products, with China not far behind.
A request for comment from the Russian embassy was not returned by the end of day.
"What this does show is the global momentum toward ending seal hunting," said Rebecca Aldworth, with Humane Society International-Canada.
"Citizens all over Russia have been calling for an end to the seal hunt for many, many years. I wish the Government of Canada would be as responsive to its citizens. The overwhelming majority have been calling for an end."
The Russians say their hunt in the White Sea had an annual quota of about 35,000 seals.
That represented approximately one-third of the current population, which is down more than 95 per cent since it was first counted in 1928.
By contrast, the Canadian seal population is increasing. In recent years, the number of seals off Atlantic Canada has been estimated at more than five million, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, with about five per cent of the population allowed to be killed annually.
Canada's hunt has long been the focus of animal-rights activists and, earlier this month, an EU committee approved a proposal that would prohibit member countries from importing seal products.
This must still be approved by the European Parliament, where a vote is expected next month, and then by individual EU nations.
"It's very frustrating and we've been let down ridiculous by our government," Jack Troake, who has been sealing since 1951, said from his home in northern Newfoundland.
"If you take a vote in the little outport communities, 95 per cent would say we're not Canadian."
Where the seals are
Russia, a major importer of Canadian seal pelts, has ended the seal hunt in its own territory, calling it a 'bloody industry.'
NORTHWEST ATLANTIC (About 5 million)
Greenland Sea (About 300,000)
White Sea (About 200,000)
TONIA COWAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL // SOURCE: DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY
Quebec senator tells Europeans to mind their own business about seal hunt
By The Canadian Press
Sat. Mar 7 - 4:46 AM
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A Liberal senator from Quebec believes European parliamentarians should be more concerned with the current economic crisis and the state of the world banking system than with seals in Canada.
Celine Hervieux-Payette and provincial Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson were in New Harbour, N.L., on Friday for a sealers’ information session.
"Why are European parliamentarians going in that direction?" asked Hervieux-Payette.
"They don’t have anything to lose. They don’t have a sealer in their own country. I asked them, ‘Why don’t you mind your own business and we’ll mind our own business?’ "But they get a lot of pressure."
On Monday, the commercial seal hunt suffered another blow when a European Parliament committee voted 25-7 to endorse a bill that would impose a tight ban on the import of all seal products to the European Union.
Hervieux-Payette was in the province to learn more about the sealing industry.
Quebec’s Iles de la Madeleine has a small seal quota and the senator said she is looking forward to working with Hedderson and officials from Newfoundland to defend the hunt.
"I was receiving e-mails from Americans who were threatening to boycott seafood in Canada, tourism in Canada, and of course accusing our people of being barbarians," she said.
"You understand, I could not tolerate that kind of accusation.
"I know that we are a country of high standards. I defended the seal hunters because I feel it’s not an industry that has the means to defend itself to the millions of dollars in the animal rights movement. And, I must say, the word ‘rights’ in this case is a little bit bugging me. I don’t know what rights they have over our people."
Last week, Ontario Senator Mac Harb pledged in a letter to his colleagues to seek amendments to the Fisheries Act to effectively end the commercial seal hunt.
His anti-sealing bill was tabled in the Senate on Tuesday but didn’t have a seconder so it wasn’t debated. "He came up with a rationale that doesn’t make sense, not any more than the Europeans with their rationale," Hervieux-Payette said.
If the EU bill passes, this province will suffer, Hedderson said.
"It’s going to slow us down, I would say," he said, adding there are still good markets for seal products in China and Russia.
Hedderson said the province is pushing the federal government to take immediate action and challenge such a ban to the World Trade Organization "so at least we can push back and, hopefully, soften up the resistance with the EU countries with regards to this particular issue."
"As well, we’re exploring other ways in which we can make the markets more effective," Hedderson said.
Figures from the provincial government put the landed value of the annual seal hunt at $13 million.
Canadian senator makes futile bid to ban seal hunt
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 23:41
AFP News Briefs List
Faced with the prospect of a European ban on the trade of seal products, a Canadian senator on Tuesday hopelessly proposed an end to this country's controversial commercial seal hunt.
Senator Mac Harb introduced a private members bill that would end the commercial seal slaughter in Canada, but allow the traditional Inuit hunt to continue.
"In the face of disappearing markets for seal products and overwhelming international opposition, it is time for Canada to recognize that we can't resuscitate this dying industry any longer," Harb said in a statement.
He was backed at a press conference by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which described this first time a Canadian politician has introduced legislation to put an end to the largest marine mammal slaughter in the world as "a truly historic moment."
It heralds "the beginning of the inevitable end to Canada's commercial seal hunt," echoed activist lawyer Clayton Ruby.
The bill failed to gain any support from the start, however, even from Harb's fellow Liberals, and was immediately dropped from the senate's agenda.
"This bill was stillborn," a Liberal spokesman told AFP.
On Monday, the European Union's legislative branch voted to ban products derived from seals from being imported into the EU, exported from it, or even transported through EU territory.
The Canadian government responded with an ardent defense of the "humaneness" of seal-hunting and rejected efforts to outlaw the practice.
The full European Parliament is to vote on the ban at a April 1 plenary session in Brussels. The measure also has to be approved by EU governments before it can be implemented.
The European Commission had already proposed a ban in July 2008 for seals killed in ways deemed inhumane by critics of seal hunting, such as the clubbing of young seal pups, but it failed to pass.
Seals are hunted mainly for their pelts, but also for meat and fat, which is used in beauty products.
According to the European Commission, Canada, Greenland, and Namibia account for about 60 percent of the 900,000 seals hunted each year, with Canada being the biggest source.
Seals are also hunted in Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States as well as in EU member states Britain, Finland and Sweden.
Each year, anti-sealing activists clash with sealers and Canadian fisheries officials on Canada's Atlantic coast, denouncing the hunt as cruel.
This year's hunt is set to start in one month.
Seal hunt ban gets icy reception in Senate
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 8:26 PM ET
An effort by a Liberal senator to effectively ban the East Coast seal hunt was dealt a fatal blow Tuesday when not a single colleague could be found to second his motion.
Senator Mac Harb, a former MP from Ottawa named to the upper chamber in 2003, tried to put forward a bill to cancel the traditional hunt for everyone except aboriginal hunters with treaty rights.
But his effort was met with silence.
Some of Harb's colleagues who have spent over two decades in the Senate said they couldn't recall the last time a bill failed to find a seconder.
Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland, said the lack of support for cancelling the seal hunt should send a clear message to the European Union, which appears likely to support a ban on importing most seal products.
Byrne said even if parliamentarians disagree with a bill, they'll often rise to second it out of respect for a colleague. But he said opposition to banning the hunt is so complete that nobody even wanted to discuss Harb's bill.
The Conservatives have been using Harb's proposed bill to try to score political points against the Liberals. During Tuesday's question period, they referred to it several times, casting it as a Liberal attack on rural Canada.
They also issued a release condemning the proposal.
EU edges toward banning seal hunt products
Preliminary vote sets harder line
By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau
Tue. Mar 3 - 5:34 AM
The Chronicle Herald
Hunters haul seals aboard during the first hunt on Hay Island, a protected wilderness area off Main-a-Dieu, in 2007. (Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau)
A European parliamentary committee took the first step toward banning imported seal products Monday in a vote closely watched by anti-sealing activists and the 150 Nova Scotians with licences to hunt the animals.
The committee met in Brussels and voted against an initial bill that would have created a stringent labelling system on imported seal products.
The revised bill now calls for a ban on all imported seal products, with the exception of those produced by Canada’s and Greenland’s Inuit communities, The Canadian Press reported.
The bill was approved by a vote of 25 to 7.
The federal fisheries minister had met with European officials in the weeks leading up to the committee’s vote, which she described Monday as "extremely disappointing."
"It just exemplifies that despite our best efforts, the Europeans are still uninformed and they’re being led by what amounts to politics and emotions on this issue — and not the facts," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea told The Chronicle Herald in a telephone interview from Ottawa.
The decision will not become law unless it is approved by the European assembly and parliaments, Ms. Shea said Monday. That vote is scheduled to take place in the spring.
Ms. Shea said the government brought in independent veterinarians to reassure the European Union that Canadian sealers were using humane standards in their harvest.
"The Europeans defined a problem, we addressed the problem, but they’re still voting for the ban. What it tells me is that their voting was to stop the Canadian seal hunt. Period. That’s why I think the Europeans are in an area that is outside their jurisdiction, here."
Should the EU end up passing the legislation, Canada would likely look to the World Trade Organization to see whether the move would violate international trade rules.
About 150 sealers in Nova Scotia could be directly affected by the ban because Europe is one of the primary markets for seal pelts.
But the decision could also have devastating effects for the province’s entire fishing industry, the president of the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association said.
"What effect is this going to have not only on the sealing industry, but . . . on the fishing industry in general?" Robert Courtney said.
"Without a harvest there’s going to have to be some other kind of control . . . to keep the herd in check. If not, well then the whole fishing industry in Atlantic Canada is in jeopardy."
Fishermen and the activists have repeatedly disagreed about the need for the seal harvest, with the sealers arguing that a regulated cull is vital to preserving the region’s groundfish stocks.
Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International Canada watched live footage of the decision Monday.
"We’re just immensely satisfied with the results. This is a clear indication that there is a strong will within the European Parliament to prohibit seal product trade (with) strong bans on seal trade."
Both sides will have to wait until the spring to learn the EU’s final decision. Ottawa will be launching an advertising campaign in European media in the interim, Ms. Shea said.
Ban Pledged On Killing Of Seal Pups
The Moscow Times
02 March 2009
The Natural Resources Ministry pledged Friday to ban the killing of all baby harp seals after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the hunt as a "bloody business."
Rules allowing a six-week window for hunters to target pups after their coats start turning from snow white to gray will be amended to protect all harp seals less than a year old, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said Friday. The new rules for the White Sea were published Feb. 25.
The government was to approve the amendments by March 1, Trutnev said in a statement.
"It should not be confused with an actual ban," said Masha Vorontsova, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Russia. "Remember, 35,000 baby seals will still be killed in the White Sea next month unless Russian ministers act swiftly to complete their pledge."
Russia's harp seal population has dropped by a third in the past decade to about 200,000, the Natural Resources Ministry said.
"This is a bloody business that should have been banned long ago," Putin told ministers at a meeting Thursday, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Friday.
In the White Sea breeding grounds, pups are born at the end of February and beginning of March and spend about three weeks on the ice before they take to the water. Hunters club pups to death before they are two weeks old.