Canadian Seal Hunt 2011 - Opinions Articles and Political Actions for and Against the Slaughter. Additional articles on the Namibian Cape fur seal slaughter.
Russia bans harp seal trade. Next stop, Canada!
Another victory for humankind, another victory for humanity, another victory for the animal rights workers who have fought tirelessly to help end the horrific and barbaric onslaught against the harp seal. As Russia received ninety per cent of Canada's seal skins, this is also a huge blow to those murderers who make a living clubbing seals to death.
The news was broken today by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) whose President Fred O'Regan welcomes the news stating that there is a wonderful holiday gift for the harp seals: Russia has banned the import and export of harp seal skins and adding: "This is a huge victory as the Canadian Government estimates that Russia receives 90% of Canada's exports of seal skins".
The aim is to see an end to Canada's barbaric seal hunt, in which baby seals are clubbed to death for their pelts, skinned alive and thrown to the snow in what must be one of the most cold-blooded expressions of cruelty and callousness this planet has witnessed. And it goes ahead year after year after year.
Now with the Russian ban, there will be far less scope for the export and commercialisation of these skins, applying more pressure upon Canada to find some other way to entertain its menfolk and to do business.
Sheryl Fink, IFAW's Seal Programme Director (*), writes in her report that the banning of harp seal products by the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation is "the biggest victory in the campaign to end commercial sealing since the European Union (EU) banned non-Inuit seal products".
In 2009, Vladimir Putin criticised this "bloodthirsty industry" and Russia ended its annual seal hunt in the White Sea, the culmination of tireless work by animal rights activists who sent a petition with 400,000 signatures to the Kremlin and demonstrations by Russian animal rights activists. The Russian government listened, and took action. Vladimir Putin said this practice "should have been stopped years ago" and the Minister of Natural Resources, Yuri Trutnev, declared that "The bloody seal slaughter, the killing of the defenceless animals, which can't be even called a 'hunt,' is now prohibited in Russia as it is in most developed countries. It is a serious step towards the conservation of biodiversity in Russia."
Russia did it. Now all eyes are on Canada, whose macho men get off on slaughtering defenceless animals in the most shocking acts of barbaric cruelty.
Sheryl Fink's timeline, outlining the success of IFAW's seal campaign:
Timeline of shrinking markets
1972 US Congress passes Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bans the importation of seal products.
1983 IFAW helps win crucial ban in Europe on importation of "whitecoat" harp seal and blueback hooded seal products.
1987 Canadian Government bans commercial hunting of whitecoats and bluebacks in Canadian waters.
1990 With IFAW's involvement, South Africa ends the hunt for Cape fur seals.
2006 Mexico bans the import and export of marine mammals, including seals.
2007 IFAW campaigns result in Belgium and the Netherlands adopting national bans on the import of seal products.
2009 Russia bans the killing of harp seal pups under 12 months of age.
2009 European Union bans the import of all seal products, with an exemption for Inuit-derived skins.
2010 IFAW continues its fight to protect the EU ban, and continues to expose the cruelty of commercial hunts to governments around the world.
2011 Deal between Canada and China to allow export of seal meat products postponed
2011 Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation ban the import and export fur skins of harp seals and their whitecoat pups
*IFAW's Seal Programme Director, Sheryl has observed the commercial seal hunt in Canada for 10 years, documenting the commercial seal hunt and providing ongoing ev
Russia bans import of seal products: animal welfare group
Michael MacDonald , The Canadian Press
Date: Monday Dec. 19, 2011 4:26 PM ET
HALIFAX — Animal welfare activists say Canada's embattled commercial sealing industry is threatened with imminent extinction because it is losing access to its largest market: the Russian Federation.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said Monday it has obtained a document from the World Trade Organization showing the federation has banned importing of all harp seal pelts.
"We were pretty excited to find the document," said Sheryl Fink, director of IFAW's seal program.
"We've got confirmation from our Russian office that this is in fact a trade ban. We're curious to see how the government of Canada is going to respond to this. ... It should have a huge impact on the Canadian sealing industry."
Fink said the ban represents a major victory in the group's 40-year campaign to persuade people that Canada's seal hunt is inhumane and unnecessary.
Officials at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa did not return messages seeking comment. Canadian officials said they were aware of the document but could not confirm its authenticity.
In response to a request for comment, the Department of International Trade said in an email that the federal government is committed to defending the sealing industry. The email did not address what impact the ban could have on the industry nor what specific action Ottawa is taking, if any, in response. The department declined an interview request.
The federal Fisheries Department says up to 90 per cent of Canada's exports of harp seal pelts have been shipped to Russia in the past, most of which were first exported to Norway. But the industry's global market shrank considerably in 2009 when the 27-member European Union introduced its own trade ban.
The United States banned importing seal products in 1972.
Though Canada's sealing industry represents a tiny fraction of the East Coast's fishing industry, the annual hunt looms large on the region's political landscape -- particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of the country's 11,000 registered seal hunters live.
Fink said the ban's economic impact may be overshadowed by the political fallout.
"It's sending a political message to Canada that countries around the world do not want seal products and they're concerned about the cruelty involved in commercial seal hunting," Fink said in an interview.
The federal government has long argued that the hunt is humane, tightly regulated and economically important to coastal communities.
But the centuries-old industry is in deep trouble.
When the spring hunt concluded last year, federal officials said the season was one of the worst on record with only 38,000 seals slaughtered -- less than 10 per cent of the allowable catch.
The Canadian government announced in January that it had signed a deal with China to open the world's single-largest market to Canadian seal products, but that deal remains on [hold] almost a year later.
Rebecca Aldworth, Canadian director of Humane Society International, said the China deal has proven to be a dud.
"What has happened, in my opinion, is deliberate misleading of the Canadian public and the sealing community about the potential for a seal meat market in China," she said in an interview.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government is moving ahead with its bid to challenge the European trade ban through the WTO.
A senior federal official said Monday that Ottawa now has the option of fighting any Russian ban through the same organization because Russia was granted WTO membership last Friday.
Aldworth said there is a growing push to end the commercial seal hunt.
"It just shows the momentum that is happening at the government level around the world," Aldworth said. "If Russia has prohibited trade in fur from harp seals, it would have a devastating impact on the Canadian sealing industry."
Anti-seal hunt group seeks new ally — sealers
By Jordan Press, Postmedia News
December 19, 2011
After years of being the nemesis of sealers in the annual seal hunt, an international animal rights group is now reaching out to their historical foes, saying an alliance is crucial to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Humane Society International says it is time for the federal government to buy out the remaining sealing licenses and compensate sealers for loss of income because the
A seal hunter swings a hakapik at a grey seal during the hunt on Hay Island, Nova Scotia,
Photograph by: Paul Darrow, REUTERS
death knell for the industry is sounding.
A chart on the World Trade Organization website shows that Canada's largest market for seal products, Russia, banned the import and export of seal products in August.
The executive director of Humane Society International/Canada said that news means it's time for sealers and activists to get proper compensation for sealers and their communities.
Rebecca Aldworth said sealers would still be able to earn a living and transition to new work, while activists would be able to see the end of the seal hunt.
"We're not trying to take money out of their pockets. We're trying to find a way forward," said Aldworth, herself a Newfoundlander.
"To me, the idea of a buyout seems the right way forward."
Aldworth estimated a buyout would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, but argued the one-time cost could be less than ongoing annual spending on the seal hunt, including enforcing regulations.
The Canadian Sealers Association could not be reached Monday night for comment.
The annual seal hunt has attracted significant international attention, with animal rights activists lobbying for years to end the hunt.
Sealers argue that much of the information that those groups put out is misleading and that seals are killed humanely. The hunt is crucial to rural sealers who can earn up to half of their annual income in one sealing season, according to the Canadian Sealers Association.
A number of trading partners, including the United States and the European Union, have banned the import of seal products. The federal government is fighting the ban at the WTO and has also signed a trade agreement with China that opens that market to Canadian seal products.
Russia along with Belarus and Kazakhstan banned the import of seal products in August, but the information only recently came to light. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, up to 90 per cent of seal pelt exports end up in Russia, usually via Norway.
The news that Russia has closed its doors to seal products will be a backdrop to meetings Aldworth said are planned for January between her group and sealers. The goal is to come out with a united front, which won't be easy, she said.
"There's a lot of history that's hard to get beyond," she said.
Humane Society International says the majority of sealers are in support of a buyout.
An Ipsos Reid telephone poll of 267 Newfoundlanders, 181 of whom held sealing licenses, found that half supported the idea of a federal buyout.
The poll, commissioned by Humane Society International, was conducted between Dec. 7, 2009 and Jan. 24, 2010 and has a margin of error of 7.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
When Ipsos Reid conducted a telephone interview with 1,000 Newfoundlanders and asked them whether if a majority of sealers supported a buyout, would they too support it, the majority — 54 per cent — said they somewhat or strongly supported the idea.
The poll was conducted between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16, 2011. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Senate committee studying seal hunt
Published on November 13, 2011
Cape Breton Post
The Senate’s standing committee on fisheries and oceans has launched a study into the current state of the grey seal population and annual hunt, how cod stocks are affected, a proposal for a large-scale cull and markets and new products.
Sen. Fabian Manning of Newfoundland, chairman of the senate committee, said different groups that support and oppose the sealing industry and a cull have already made requests to appear at hearings.
The committee also hopes to hold public hearings in Atlantic Canada to listen to fishermen, community groups and organizations, and although the itinerary hasn’t been set, Cape Breton would likely be one of the stops, he said.
Sealers and anti-hunt activists confront each other over the grey seal hunt in Atlantic Canada each year, including on Hay Island off the coast of Cape Breton.
In September, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council released a controversial proposal that would result in killing 70 per cent of the grey seals that feed in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence — about 143,000 animals over five years.
The East Coast grey seal population has been estimated at between 330,000 and 410,000 animals.
Manning said he has an open mind about the grey seals.
“If we have a herd that is increasing to the rate that we have been told so far, is it just the effect it is having on the cod fishery (or) are there other environmental concerns? Are there environmental concerns with a cull?
“There is to and fro on both sides, so we have the opportunity through the hearings to hear from both sides and base our recommendations on the facts and not guess work.”
Manning said the study, which could be finished by June, will be provided as advice to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and the federal department.
“We are hoping the department listens to our recommendations.”
Manning said a former fisheries minister heeded the advice of the Senate committee to stop removing staff from lighthouses.
The committee held hearings two weeks ago in Ottawa during which it heard from the federal fisheries minister, his department and members of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. Hearings will also be held next week.
It encouraged the public to share their views by contacting the committee clerk Danielle Labonte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The committee’s website is senate-senat.ca/pofo-e-.asp.
Where's the beef? Promise of seal meat market in China yet to materialize
By: Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 11/5/2011 4:31 AM
HALIFAX - Almost a year after Canada's fisheries minister announced she had landed a trade agreement to sell Canadian seal meat in China, the Chinese government has called for a review of the stalled deal.
A seal hunter drags a harp seal back to his snowmobile during the annual seal hunt on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in this April 2, 2005 file photo. Almost a year after Canada's fisheries minister announced she had landed a trade agreement to sell Canadian seal meat in China, the Chinese government has called for a review of the stalled deal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
In January 2011, then-fisheries minister Gail Shea announced from Beijing that the deal meant Canada now had access to the world's most populous country, a development that would breathe new life into the ailing industry.
However, bureaucrats with the Fisheries Department and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have confirmed the Chinese have yet to sign off on the agreement.
"China has indicated a need to review the agreement concluded in January 2011," the inspection agency said in an email to The Canadian Press. It did not release further details.
A call to the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa was not returned.
Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, said the Fisheries Department may have promised too much, too soon.
"In retrospect, the announcement by Gail Shea may have been a little premature," he said in an interview from St. John's. "The details had not been worked out by the time the announcement had been made."
He said that when he spoke about the issue with International Trade Minister Ed Fast six weeks ago, he was promised action.
"We told him the announcement was made last January, and we need that announcement concluded so that we can get our sealers working in the spring of 2012," Pinhorn said. "He said that he was ... going to talk to his counterparts to find it where the hang-up was."
Canada's current fisheries minister, Keith Ashfield, travelled to China last week. No one from Ashfield's department was available for an interview.
However, a senior Fisheries bureaucrat also acknowledged that Canada has hit a diplomatic snag.
"When (the Chinese) complete their review, it will hopefully permit the import into China of seal meat and oils for use there," David Balfour, an assistant deputy minister, recently told a Senate committee.
Still, Pinhorn said he's confident a final deal is in the works, and he confirmed that meat processing companies in Newfoundland have already packaged product for shipment to China.
"My computer has lit up with emails from different Chinese groups looking for the meat," he said. "All of the Newfoundland companies that process meat have agreements in principle with Chinese companies."
China is the third-largest export market of Canadian seafood products, with an average of over $300 million in exports annually.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, an advocacy group opposed to Canada's annual seal hunt, said it has tried to obtain a copy of the January deal, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency denied the request under the Access to Information Act.
The agency, in a letter to the group, said the document was exempt from release because the content is subject to "international negotiations."
"Much fanfare was made of that deal, and the government went on record to say that seal meat could be shipped to China as soon as this past season," Michelle Cliffe, a spokeswoman for the group, said in an email.
"Shortly after the deal was publicized, our China office met with officials in China who expressed displeasure with Canada's publicity on the agreement, and they indicated to us that the deal had not been signed as yet."
The Canadian sealing industry represents a tiny fraction of the East Coast's fishing industry, but the annual hunt looms large on the region's political landscape — particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of the country's 11,000 registered seal hunters live.
In June, the Fisheries Department confirmed that last season's annual seal hunt was one of the worst since the early 1990s, when the industry struggled to recover from a European ban on white pelts from young harp seals.
The total number of harp seals killed in the 2011 commercial slaughter was about 38,000 — less than 10 per cent of the allowable catch, set at 400,000.
The industry's latest slump was the result of poor ice conditions, as well as the European Union's decision to ban importing most seal products.
The Canadian government is challenging the ban through the World Trade Organization and the European General Court.
As minister mulls seal cull, review shows little evidence to show they work
By: Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Posted: 10/8/2011 3:31 AM
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
HALIFAX - As Canada's fisheries minister contemplates whether to approve a five-year cull of 140,000 grey seals on the East Coast, his own department has released a study that concludes there's little evidence to show such slaughters actually work.
As Canada's fisheries minister contemplates whether to approve a five-year cull of 140,000 grey seals on the East Coast, his own department has released a study that concludes there's little evidence to show such slaughters actually work. A female grey seal moves over thin ice near the shore in Canso, N.S. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Keith Ashfield is under pressure from the fishing industry to do something about the stalled recovery of overfished cod stocks, particularly in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where there's indirect scientific evidence suggesting hungry grey seals are to blame.
The cod in the area are on the verge of disappearing even though large-scale commercial cod fishing has been banned there since the early 1990s.
Last month, a federal advisory panel consisting of industry representatives and scientists recommended a cull that would eliminate 70 per cent of the grey seals that feed in the area.
Since then, biologists and animal welfare and marine conservation groups have come forward to condemn the proposal, saying it is being driven by politics, not science.
Proponents counter that the cull is supported by peer-reviewed research — compiled by scientists at a workshop last fall — and would be subject to strict controls and monitoring.
However, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, a branch of the Fisheries Department, released a review of scientific literature earlier this year that concludes there has been very little study of marine and land-based culls around the world.
"Many consider it obvious that removing predators should increase prey populations, but predator-prey interactions are far too complex to assume this," says the review, written by Fisheries Department researcher Don Bowen and Damian Lidgard of Dalhousie University in Halifax.
"Despite the widespread use of culling to manage carnivore populations with respect to food production, there is rather limited scientific evidence that such management is generally effective."
Still, the practice has been used across Canada for almost a century.
In British Columbia, an average of 2,900 harbour seals were killed each year for bounty between 1914 and 1963. Bounties for harbour seals were also offered in Nova Scotia between 1927 and 1976, and grey seals were included between 1967 and 1983, the study says.
As well, a cull of grey seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was sanctioned from 1978 until 1990.
"In each case, there appears to have been no analysis of the benefit of these long-standing culls," the study says.
The world's largest seal cull occurs in Namibia, where about 80,000 Cape fur seal pups are killed annually, ostensibly to protect fish stocks. Again, there appears to be no published scientific analysis of the cull, the authors say.
"Science evidence needed to justify a cull is usually highly uncertain and indirect," the study says.
"This is mostly because of the difficulty in obtaining direct evidence for the negative effects of marine mammal predation on prey populations because predation can rarely be observed and is inferred from estimates of diet."
The study also said that culls sometimes lead to unintended consequences for other species.
Repeated requests for an interview with Ashfield were declined.
Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said he was part of the workshop that concluded grey seals may be hindering the recovery of groundfish in the southern Gulf.
"There was some pretty careful analysis," he said in an interview. "It is a scientifically defensible position to say that ... the elevated levels of natural mortality may well be caused by predation by grey seals."
However, he said more research needs to be done to justify a cull.
The problem, he said, is that a crucial piece of evidence — an analysis of grey seal stomach contents taken off the north coast of Cape Breton — has yet to be repeated.
"It's one year of data," Hutchings said. "Any scientist would tell you that you would want to repeat that sampling to see whether it holds up in other years."
But Hutchings said it would still be next to impossible to draw conclusions from a cull in a complex, multi-species ecosystem like the southern Gulf.
"Even if you have all of these (monitoring) criteria in place, the suggestion that we will know precisely what the consequences of the removal will be is simply not a statement that would receive strong scientific support," he said.
Gerard Chidley, chairman of the advisory panel that recommended the cull, said the proposed slaughter would be different from previous culls because it is supported by scientific evidence and it would be rigorously monitored.
"This is a scientifically monitored removal to test the hypothesis that the grey seals are having an impact in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence," said Chidley, chairman of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.
"When this removal is done in a controlled fashion, scientifically done and monitored, the information from that should give you enough evidence one way or the other. ... We have to prove it or disprove it."
Chidley, a fisherman for 38 years who still operates a boat out of Renews, N.L., said the proposed cull is a small one, considering the size of the grey seal population off the East Coast is at least 330,000.
He said unless something is done to control the population, the seals will eventually have a large impact on the region's lucrative lobster fishery, adding that previous culls and bounties should have been extended.
"We would not have the problem that we're talking about today."
Seal ban challenge rejected by European General Court
The Canadian Press
Sep 16, 2011
A court ruling in Europe has struck another blow to Canada's embattled seal products industry.
The European General Court, in a judgment released Wednesday, rejected a bid by Canada's largest Inuit organization to challenge the European Union's year-old trade ban on seal products.
The Luxembourg-based court dismissed the group's case, saying the challenge from the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, several seal hunters and industry organizations was inadmissible.
Even though the EU ban exempts the trade in seal products from aboriginal groups, the Inuit say their markets will plummet along with the rest of the commercial industry unless the ban is overturned.
Mary Simon, head of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents Canada's 53,000 Inuit, said her organization has yet to decide what exactly what it will do in the wake of the decision.
"Inuit are disappointed that the EU did not see fit to rule on the merits of this case, and have dismissed it on technical grounds as inadmissible without a hearing,” Simon said in a written statement.
Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Canadian wing of Humane Society International, said the ruling "puts another nail in the coffin" of the commercial sealing industry.
"It's a very important ruling," she said in an interview from Strasbourg, France. "The ban remains in place and seals in Canada and around the world are going to be spared a horrible fate for many years to come."
Aldworth said her group would like to see the industry mothballed and all seal hunters offered compensation.
Animal welfare groups have long argued that the annual hunt off the East Coast has left a stain on Canada's international reputation because they believe the slaughter is inhumane.
"It's time that the Canadian government recognize that the writing is on the wall," said Aldworth, a Newfoundlander who has observed the hunt for more than a decade. "The commercial seal hunt is a dying industry."
In June, as the hunt drew to a close for another year, federal officials confirmed this season was one of the worst since the early 1990s, when the industry struggled to recover from a European ban on white pelts from young harp seals.
The total number of harp seals killed in the 2011 commercial slaughter was about 38,000 — less than 10 per cent of the total allowable catch.
The EU ban was blamed for pushing down pelt prices to between $20 and $30, barely enough for seal hunters to cover the cost of fuel and insurance for their boats.
The Canadian government is moving ahead with its own bid to challenge the ban through the World Trade Organization.
The executive director of the Fur Institute of Canada, Rob Cahill, says the fight to save the industry will continue on another front as well. Another ongoing court challenge is aimed at the EU regulations that implement the ban.
Namibian Tourism going online, big time
Posted on Fri, 19 Aug, 2011
Campaign Strategy Advisor, Ben Isenberg, Chief Executive Officer at NTB, Digu //Naobeb, Manager Tourism Marketing at NTB, Sisco Auala and President of Solimar International, Chris Seek
THE Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia will be spending close to US$1 million (N$7 million) on a two-year global online marketing campaign with the aim of promoting Namibia as a travel destination to a global audience.
This was announced by the Manager Tourism Marketing at the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), Sisco Auala.
“The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) initiative will build awareness of Namibia through effective online marketing techniques”, said the President of Solimar International, Chris Seek, explaining that Solimar is the implementing agency of the campaign.
“At the same time, seal culling is becoming a tourism issue in Namibia. The Ombudsman, together with representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), is travelling to Cape Town to reduce the negative impacts surrounding this”, said the Chief Executive Officer of the NTB, Digu //Naobeb.
However, according to //Naobeb, the tourism industry has not been significantly affected due to animal rights critics.
He explained that the annual seal culling occurs so as not to compromise the fishing industry because they eat a large number of fish. He further confirmed that seals are not an endangered species; however better methods for the culling needed to be found.
“The same happens in Canada, Russia and Greenland. We will have to lobby with the MET to address the seal culling issue”, he commented.
“Critics could post negative comments on the website trying to discourage tourists from travelling to Namibia. Commenting on websites happens in real time online and we have to find ways to tackle this issue”, added //Naobeb.
“A similar challenge occurred in Greenland where we started from scratch and took a pro-active approach. We insured we had relationships with the government communications office and were ready to react to any negative issues”, said Campaign Strategy Advisor Ben Isenberg.
Furthermore, 350 out of 3000 businesses in Namibian tourism have been registered so far according to //Naobeb.
“Solimar will work in partnership with the NTB and industry stakeholders through a consultative process that uses the board’s existing structures and systems as well as generate local ideas and contributions to help shape the strategy”, said the Manger Public Outreach at NTB, Rosa Hamukuaja-Thobias.
Seek explained that online marketing as a two-way communication, story-telling as well as word of mouth marketing.
“We want to tell stories about what makes Namibia fascinating to get people excited about coming to Namibia”, he explained.
“NTB personnel will be trained on online marketing techniques while improving the connectivity of the board’s international network of offices.
“Our goals include increasing tourist arrivals and spending in Namibia, encourage regional spread among tourists as well as mitigate seasonality by targeting niche markets interested in travel to Namibia throughout the year”, added Seek.
“The online campaign will include inviting imagery, rich multi-media, user reviews, tips from the locals, public image as well as social media integration such as Facebook among others”, said Strategy Advisor Isenberg.
The owner of the Ozohere Campsite on the main road to Khorixas in the Erongo Region, Vinice Kambongarera, was pleased with the NTB’s initiative saying that she will be learning about marketing, which is important for the expansion of her business.
“As a Small and Medium Enterprise entrepreneur, I would like to be associated with seasoned tour operators as well as Namibian operators in order for day-visitors to make use of my facilities”, she explained.
The campaign will be implemented from January 2012 to July 2013. The strategic development is currently underway.
Solimar International is based in Washington DC and has offices world-wide.
NO to Seal culling says Operation Desert Seal
Amy van Wyk
August 6, 2011
Namib Times, namibtimes.net
With the Minister of Fisheries adamant to increase the amount of seals to be culled next year, international protest to seal culling in Namibia has raised not merely eyebrows, but various opinions across the world. The Namib Times interviewed one of the main protesting groups, Operation Desert Seal's Laurens de Groot from Australia recently regarding the contentious issue brewing here on the Namibian coast.
NT: Are you objective with what is happening with the seal culling issue? Have you considered the fishing industry and the livelihood that it provides for the population of Namibia with a current unemployment rate of 51%?
L: The seals diet consists of only 30% of what the fisheries are harvesting. The rest is made up from crustaceans and what the industry calls by catch. The seals are not responsible for decline in hake stocks. Rather, bad management and a seemingly lack of attention to the numerous illegal foreign trawlers are the cause. The Namibian Govt increased annual fisheries from 300 000 to 600 000 tons, no sustainability studies were undertaken. Instead of sending their navy after illegal trawlers, they waste further resources by setting them after environmentalists wanting to take photos of wildlife. If objectivity were considered, consider that 81 people are only temporarily employed for 4 months of the year in this slaughter. They earn $8 per day; they live in tin shacks and can hardly support their families. Sustainable seal based eco-tourism can generate 80x more revenue, provide subsidiary markets such as conservation management, marketing, hotel management, and niche markets for seal guano. A medium sized hotel and casino can employ over 500 people all year round. If Namibia is so concerned with employment, why are all the major construction tenders being awarded to Chinese businesses, which also happen to have business relationships with seal skins and products? Nanjing for example was awarded a tender for a $73 million office block when Murray and Roberts as well as Namibia construction applied for the same tender? Nanjing also happens to own Cape Fur Seal. This is evidence of blatant corruption.
NT: Have you consulted the authorities involved regarding this issue BEFORE gaining footage of the culling?
L: Respected organizations from around the world pleaded with the government, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Directorate of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Environment and Tourism. Francois Hugo met with the Prime Minister, campaigns got no-where. Individuals wrote letters to Namibian embassies around the world. Despite an EU ban on seal products, the seals continued to be slaughtered and journalists were getting beaten up and detained on nonexistent laws. For all their claims that one needs permission to view the slaughter, they have never granted any media permission to do so. This violates section 21 (1) (a) of the Namibian constitution as well as The Windhoek Declaration, both of which guarantee freedom of the press. We challenge the Namibian government to produce the legislation that bans filming at Cape Cross.
NT: What do you hope to achieve? Banning of the culling entirely and allowing the seals to over breed?
L: The seals population in Namibia has seen a marked decline in the last 25 years and the colony has dropped from over 2 million to 650 000. 1 in every 3 seals will die from natural causes within the first few weeks of being born. The size of the colony is regulated by the ecosystem. They are preyed upon by sharks and orca, jackals and hyena. They are susceptible to rabies and have no immunity from this disease which both the jackal and hyena carry. In the past few years, there have been several mass die offs of the seals due to over fishing. In 2006, the largest die off of any marine mammal in recorded history was reported when 350 000 seals died from starvation. The removal of an apex predator from a delicate eco-system such as the Benguela Eco System is not wise and goes against internationally accepted and scientifically proven conservation practices.
NT: Do you have an alternative method to culling to maintain the balance of the seal and the fish population?
L: Yes. Leave the seals alone, get rid of the illegal trawlers and reduce the unsustainable harvest quota of your fisheries. At the moment there are insufficient seals to thin out the adult hake populations. The adult hake are feeding on the juvenile hake before the juveniles are able to reach sexual maturity. Evidence of this can be found in studies done by independent researchers who have monitored the Benguela ecosystem over several years. No correlation was found between the seals and the hake stocks. When Namibia got its independence, the colony stood at well over 1.5 million and the then quota for seals was 9 000. Now, 20 years later, the colony stands at 650 000, there are no fish and Namibia are slaughtering 85 000 pups. These pups are killed when they are just 7 months old, they are still dependent on the teat and do not begin eating solids until they are over a year old. They are not eating the fish, so why are they being targeted? Is it merely coincidence their softer pelts are more valuable?
Furthermore, when South Africa ended their seal culling in 1990, there were similar concerns by the South African fishing industry that there would be a total collapse in hake stock due to the seals. However, on the contrary, South Africa has seen nothing but positive growth. Sadly, seal populations continue to dwindle.
Citizens need to know
Written by Clemencia Jacobs
Friday, 05 August 2011 09:09
Namibia Economist, economist.com.na
Namibia has been internationally painted as a secretive and cruel nation which condones the harvesting of an “endangered” specie, therefore it will not be in the best interest of the country to stop an investigation into the annual seal harvest, said Ombudsman John Walters this week.
He further said ordinary Namibian citizens are also entitled to the truth about whether seals in the country are being over exploited and whether the growth of the seal population really has a negative impact on the fisheries sector.
“Even the ordinary citizens do not have the facts. They do not know whether it is correct to harvest so many seals and whether seals really consume so much fish that they are a threat to the Namibian fisheries sector. It is in their interest to know so that they can make an informed decision,” Walters told the Economist this week.
Walters said he will continue with the investigation he said he will not be pressured into conducting such an investigation.
Walters said after receiving a legal opinion from attorney Peter Edwards, on behalf of Seal Alert SA’s Francois Hugo, he approached the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau to hear the ministry’s side of the story.
The legal opinion sent to the ombudsman insists that the seal harvest was illegal and that Walters must obtain an urgent interdict to stop it.
In a letter, Walters told Edwards that he cannot approach the High Court to obtain an interdict preventing the ministry from commencing the harvest, as he did not have all the facts.
“Having been informed and hearing the other side of the story, I wrote a letter to Mr Edwards, and told him that the Honourable Minister of Fisheries Bernard Esau, set out the position of his ministry which clearly contradicted Hugo’s version of the facts. In a statement issued to the media, Mr Hugo demanded to know what my position is on the matter. I have no position. I must investigate a complaint, make findings and make recommendations. And only after this, will my position be made known to the complainant and as the ombudsman, I do not have a personal opinion about the seal harvest,” Walters said.
Walters said he would like to hold a round table meeting with all concerned stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, representatives of the fisheries industry, civil society, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources as well as lobby organisations such as Seal Alert.
Walters said his investigation would benefit tremendously from such discussions, where every stakeholder puts his/her industries concerns on the table.
“This would prove that we are a transparent nation and that we have the watchdog institutions that are competent and independent, to start and complete investigations,” he concluded.
This year, another 80 000 pups and 6 000 pulps will be harvested between July and November.
Government maintains that the harvesting of seals is necessary to preserve the fishing industry, one of Namibia’s biggest contributors to GDP.
Sealing on Thin Ice
by Georges Laraque
Deputy Leader, Green Party of Canada and retired NHL hockey player
May 27, 2011
No professional hockey player likes the sight of blood on the ice -- it's a stark reminder that a career ending injury is just a senseless illegal hook away.
That's why the hook on a sealer's club makes me scratch my head. How can we condone the barbaric killing of a few-weeks-old seal pup for a fur trimmed coat when we all know how Canadians react to a cowardly hook on the ice? All of that blood for no good reason is just not Canadian.
As deputy leader of the Green Party -- which just elected leader Elizabeth May as Canada's first Green MP -- I'm proud to help represent the only federal party willing to speak up for the seals and provide a fair buyout for commercial sealers.
The other parties might talk a good game when it comes to supporting the sealing industry, but as global markets for fur are disappearing and as climate change melts away the ice habitat of Canada's seals, it is clear that this is a dying industry and that real support for the sealers means shifting to a sustainable economy. Only the Greens have a real and viable solution for ending the commercial seal slaughter.
Canada's annual seal slaughter is the largest killing of marine mammals on earth. That's nothing to be proud of. While the Greens do not oppose to subsistence hunting by Aboriginal peoples and local communities, we do however consider the commercial killing of seals, like whaling, to be a threat to the marine ecosystem. And in fact, much like whale watching, more money could be made off seal watching than hunting.
There's also no doubt that Canada's reputation on the world stage is being damaged by the internationally condemned slaughter. Both the European Union and the United States have banned the trade in seal products. Now the Canadian government is wasting our tax dollars on a WTO challenge against the EU that will likely cost over 10 million dollars. That's several times more money than sealing generated in the past two years combined.
Our plan is more than just lip service. The Green Party will end federal assistance to the commercial seal slaughter and redirect tax dollars toward sustainable jobs that don't depend on ice conditions. What we're not prepared to do is let hard workers on the East Coast go without good jobs and force them to move out-of-province to find good work, as is the case for many east coast families today. The Canadian government has been happy to let this situation escalate.
But the Greens want all Canadian communities to flourish. We'll work with fishermen, fisheries unions and local communities to develop a fair federal buyout of sealing licenses. We will help implement training programs and other resources needed to enhance a sealing industry buyout, work with other levels of government to find sustainable economic alternatives, and provide full compensation to sealers for lost income. That's a lot more action than the Canadian government's shallow move to announce the highest seal quota in history this year when they know full well the markets for seal products are closing for good.
It's a real shame that none of the other federal parties are willing to have a public debate on this issue, but we all know now that they don't like to debate with the Greens because they know we're willing to have hard conversations on issues that aren't scripted. When one of their own goes against the party line and takes an ethical stand on an issue they believe in, all the parties are quick to distance themselves and crank up the pro-sealing rhetoric.
I definitely took a lot of hits on the ice over the years, but none were as brutal as the crushing blow of a club coming down on a defenseless baby seal resting peacefully on the ice floes. The NHL has recently cracked down on cowardly hits that lead to senseless injuries -- it's time the Canadian government does the same and ends the commercial seal kill for good.
Cartoon keeps seal hunt in the spotlight
Animal People Online Magazine
TORONTO--Just when Atlantic Canadian sealers imagined it might be safe to go back in the water, because maybe no one was watching with cameras this year, a cartoon seal walked into a bar and attracted media notice from St. Johns, Newfoundland, to Vancouver, British Columbia.
“PETA printed clever coasters and distributed them in bars around Toronto,” explained Treehugger blogger Lloyd Alter. Drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss, the coasters showed a sad-eyed seal telling a bartender, “Anything but a Canadian Club.”
Continued Alter, “On the back is a more graphic photo of a seal hunter who has gone clubbing, and a message sending drinkers to anti-sealing site CanadaShame.com.”
Said PETA spokesperson Ashley Gonzalez, “Following a few years of online campaigning, which resulted in the Canadian government hiring someone to monitor PETA’s social media activities, PETA now aims to reach a broad cross section of people in actual social hotspots. Later this spring, PETA will be bringing the ad campaign to bars and clubs nationwide with postcards and posters placed above urinals.”
Added PETA senior vice president Dan Mathews, “With this bar blitz, we’re reaching people where they least expect it. We want the happy-hour crowd to be just as outraged as the online community over wasteful government spending on the cruel seal industry.”
Picked up Simon Houpt of CTV, the largest privately owned Canadian broadcasting network, “Ten thousand copies of the cartoon were distributed in 20 Toronto bars, with more slated to roll out across the country, until Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. of Norfolk, Virginia,” the owners of the Canadian Club whiskey brand, located in the same city as PETA headquarters, “insisted PETA put the campaign on the rocks.”
Fumed Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. senior vice president and general counsel Kenton Rose, “PETA’s malicious publication has caused degradation of Canadian Club’s corporate image and the advertisement has and will damage the Canadian Club brand and trademark.
“For the record,” Rose added, “Jim Beam and Canadian Club take no position on PETA’s position with respect to the Canadian government’s policy regarding the treatment of seals; our interest is solely protection of our important intellectual property rights.”
That reinvigorated media notice across Canada, and around the world. The government-controlled Canadian Broadcasting Corporation rarely airs critical commentary about the Atlantic Canada seal hunt, but remarks by entertainer George Stroumboulop-oulos on the CBC show George Stroumboul-opoulos Tonight sparked intensive denunciation of the hunt on the program web site.
More than 6.5 million web sites and Facebook pages amplified notice of the Bliss cartoon within less than three weeks.
PETA general counsel and senior vice-president of corporate affairs Jeffrey Kerr responded to Rose that the cartoon coasters meet the legal test of fair use of trademarked and copyrighted material, which in the U.S. includes incidental use in the contexts of parody, commentary, news reportage, and academic discourse.
“There are several factors to that test,” Kerr explained. “The first is, quite clearly, this is a joke. It’s a cartoon of a seal ordering a drink at a bar. It’s obviously a play on the words ‘Canadian club,’ which unfortunately is the implement used to slaughter the seals. It’s clearly not talking about the drink.
“It was not a happy hour when PETA received your letter,” Kerr continued, claiming PETA’s “intentions were entirely top shelf,” and adding that in view of the bloodshed soon to follow in Atlantic Canada, “it’s hard not to want a stiff drink.”
But Kerr told Rose that no further use would be made of the Bliss cartoon, because “it’s never our intention to anger somebody who’s not an animal exploiter.”
“Unfortunately for PETA,” wrote Neil Melliship of the Vancouver trademark law firm Clark Wilson LLP, “fair use is a U.S. doctrine that doesn’t apply in Canada in the context of either copyright or trademarks.”
By then, however, Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. was no longer commenting on the matter, and may have just wanted the whole controversy to disappear.
The cost of sealing
Said PETA spokesperson Gonzalez, “World leaders-including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama-have spoken out against the [seal] massacre, yet the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper still spends $7 million each year to prop up this dying event.”
Gonzalez’ estimate of the cost of the Atlantic Canada seal hunt to Canadian taxpayers came from a 2010 study by Guelph University professor John Livernois. It was probably low.
“According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ own data,” said an April 6, 2011 press release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “the landed value of the commercial seal hunt was only $1.3 million in 2010, with exports valued at a mere $2.1 million. Yet taxpayers will spend an estimated $10 million to challenge the European Union ban on seal products at the World Trade Organization, an estimated $1 million is spent each year on attempts to monitor the commercial hunt, and hundreds of thousands are spent annually to develop seal products and promote them overseas.”
While backing the seal hunt, the Harper government has proposed cuts of $31.9 million to the budget of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and $84.7 million to the Department of Fisheries & Oceans, whose activities reputedly create more jobs in Atlantic Canada than in all the rest of the nation combined.
The Liberal Party held six of the seven Newfoundland seats in the most recent Parliament, and has always supported the seal hunt, but Liberal Member of Parliament Hedy Fry, of central Vancouver, on March 16, 2011 challenged the longstanding party line of all three major Canadian national parties in an e-mail headlined “Re: Harp Seal Action Month in Nanaimo BC,” addressed to an unidentified recipient.
“I agree that the commercial seal hunt is unnecessary,” said Fry. “I also agree that it is pointless to kill animals for pelts that are used for luxury clothing when artificial products can be used insteadŠThe food-based and traditional seal hunt should be maintained for Inuit, First Nations, and Atlantic Canadians,” Fry declared. “However, it is time to take the necessary steps to end the commercial seal hunt.
“I have written to the Minister of Fisheries [Gail Shea], asking her to take whatever measures [are] necessary to end the current commercial seal hunt,” Fry said. “I am also discussing this matter with my colleagues in the Liberal caucus to build support for taking steps to end the hunt.”
Wrote Vancouver Sun national affairs columnist Barbara Yaffe, “My vote on this one goes to Fry.”
But the Fry e-mail brought vehement denunciation from leaders of all three national parties, heading into a national election that is expected to be held on May 2, 2011, after the Stephen Harper government lost a “no confidence” vote on March 25, 156-145.
The only Canadian party that has ever formed a Parliamentary majority without substantial support from Atlantic Canada was the Progressive Conservative Party, under former prime minister Brian Mulroney–who suspended the seal hunt in 1984. The suspension was lifted in 1995, a year after Mulroney left office.
The Progressive Conservative Party merged with Harper’s Reform Party in 2003 to form the present Conservative Party. The last national secretary of the Progressive Conservative Party was Dominique Bellemare, a World Society for the Protection of Animals board member since 1992, and a former WSPA board president. A policy adviser to the Canadian Ministry for External Affairs in 1990-1991, Bellemare appears to have never spoken on the record in opposition to either the Atlantic Canada seal hunt or the fur industry, and has said little on the record about any animal issue. Bellemare has three times run unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Progressive Conservative and a Conservative in the Beauharnois-Salaberry riding, south of Montreal, but is not a candidate in 2011.
Polls indicate that the Conservatives will win the most seats in the 2011 election, after winning 143 seats in 2008, but opposition parties won 160 seats in 2008 and could make enough gains in 2011 to replace the Harper government with a center/left coalition.
Only 69,000 seals were killed during the 2010 Atlantic Canada seal hunt, as the 2009 European Union ban on importing seal pelts and products took effect with the support of 27 nations. The average price paid for a seal pelt has fallen from a high of $97 in 2006 to just $21 in April 2011. However, Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea on March 25, 2011–the same day that the government she represents lost the no confidence vote– approved record high quotas of 400,000 harp seals, 60,000 gray seals, and 8,200 hooded seals. The Canadian Department of Fisheries & Oceans contends that there are now more than nine million seals in Atlantic Canadian waters, despite two successive years of poor ice conditions which have resulted in high pup mortality even before the hunts have begun.
Only 1,200 seals were killed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence phase of the seal hunt in 2011, of a regional quota of 105,000, the DFO said. The Newfoundland/Labrador Front phase of the seal hunt started on April 11. Participation was reportedly low.
William Shatner urges Harper to end seal hunt
April 30, 2011
Actor William Shatner threw his celebrity status into the federal election this week, calling on Stephen Harper to "let the seal slaughter die off already."
William Shatner: It's "cruel to bludgeon and shoot thousands of seals every year... the slaughter also costs taxpayers millions more to support than it actually earns." Photograph by: Jerry Lampen, Reuters
In a letter on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Shatner questioned the government's financial support for the annual seal hunt, while "citizens from coast to coast are being hammered by the harmonized sales tax, property taxes continue to soar, and inflation is driving away investment."
The Canadian-born actor continued the fiscal theme, saying that while it is "cruel to bludgeon and shoot thousands of seals every year, the slaughter also costs taxpayers millions more to support than it actually earns." In the letter, Shatner cited a University of Guelph study that found that ending the hunt would save Canada at least $7 million annually.
Shatner's letter also seized upon the May 2 election, saying that the continued federal support of the hunt is an attempt to win votes in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"At a time of massive budget cuts in Canada, when many Canadians are struggling just to pay their bills, the government continues to defend this dying industry because both the Conservative and Liberal parties crave the region's seven swing seats in Parliament," he wrote.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Same old tactics from protesters: sealers' group
Published on April 27, 2011
The Weekend Telegram
Sealers operate at high level of compliance, group insists
A crew member walks across the ice in front of the icebound ship Labrador Concept in the harbour in St. Anthony in this April 11, 2007 file photo. File photo by Aaron Beswick/The Northern Pen
The executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association has slammed an article in Monday’s Telegram — “The end of the seal hunt? Fresh allegations made of violations of Marine Mammal Act at the Front” — calling it lopsided reporting, overweighted with the opinions of protest groups.
“You’ve got a picture there with a sealer — the picture overrides everything on the front page,” Frank Pinhorn said. “Because it’s the age-old question of blood on the ice. And that’s all we see there. It’s not balanced reporting.”
He specifically objected to the inclusion of claims of violations of Marine Mammal Act regulations at the Front this year, as made by representatives of both the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Humane Society International (HSI).
Those organizations, as well as other anti-seal hunt groups, do not want any seals being killed by commercial harvesters, he said, and it would therefore suit their purposes to promote an image of an inhumane hunt.
“The animal rights (groups) do not agree with us harvesting a seal.”
Frank Pinhorn, Sealer
A spokeswoman for the IFAW, Sheryl Fink, has told The Telegram there is no objection from her group to the continuation of a subsistence hunt through personal-use licences — allowing for up to six seals to be taken per person each year.
Pinhorn said that means nothing to commercial harvesters, the people relying on the seal hunt as part of their annual income.
“What are people in St. Anthony and Bonavista and Twillingate, what are they going to do for a living? ... People in rural Newfoundland and Labrador depend on the ocean for a living and that means they’ve got to have all available species to make a reasonable living,” he said, adding that fishermen in rural Newfoundland and Labrador communities are some of the lowest-income earners in rural Canada.
“(This article) doesn’t represent what is happening in rural Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to the importance of the industry. People need it for their livelihoods and their incomes for their families and it represents anywhere from 15 to 55 per cent of their income for the year.”
Pinhorn said the commercial hunt is humane, although not all sealers can properly perform the recommended three-step kill process at all times.
“We’re not going to get 100 per cent compliance, because you’re not going to get it anywhere. We don’t live in a perfect world,” he said. “If you went into an abattoir, their rate is 10 to 12 per cent, so their success rate is 80 to 90 (per cent).”
“Scientists who have gone out on the boats say our success rate is equal to or better than what’s happening in the abattoirs,” he said.
An abattoir is a slaughterhouse or similar setting.
Pinhorn pointed out sealers have received increased training in the last several years with regards to the three-step process for humane harvesting. This helps to reinforce best practices.
Working with the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board, Mark Dolomount has helped provide information workshops for sealers.
“In the past three to four weeks leading up to the opening of the seal hunt this year, there were 30 workshops held in 30 different communities with over 2,400 participants, which would be more than the number of sealers who participated in this (year’s) hunt so far,” he told The Telegram Tuesday.
Dolomount said upwards of 150 people turned out to one of the meetings. “So that’d give you an idea of the turnout and the interest in trying to obtain this information,” he said.
“(The information) is specific to the humane harvesting of seals. It was developed in partnership with Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, an internationally renowned marine mammal pathologist and veterinarian, and it includes, essentially, all aspects of humane harvesting of seals with an understanding of seal physiology, seal pathology ... in order to get an understanding of why the humane harvesting protocol is important — not only the what you have to do, but why it’s important to do it.”
Dolomount was asked about the allegations of inhumane acts at the Front this year, as filed by anti-hunt protest groups.
“My initial response would be the same as it’s been any year for the last number of decades, that those types of unfounded allegations have been used for years and years and years ... for, I guess, the sole purpose of — in my opinion — not ending the seal hunt, but to raise funds for anti-seal movements and the animal welfare groups,” he said.
“I mean, it’s easy to make unfounded accusations without backing it up with the proof.”
The consultant who helped to develop the training program is also a professor of anatomical pathology and wildlife pathology at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island. At the website for the Seals and Sealing Network (www.sealsandsealing.net) there is a letter to the editor written by Daoust and dated April 15, 2011.
“I find it increasingly difficult to understand what is unique about the seal hunt, other than that i(t) occurs in the open air against a backdrop that could have been designed specifically for dramatic effect — red on white, to be exact — and over a short, well-defined period so that any individual who has lots of money in his or her pocket can witness the hunt,” he writes.
“In any event, it is exactly the same thing as the slaughter of chickens (more than 600 million are killed each year in Canada), pigs or cattle: the same abundance of blood and the same proportion of missed blows.”
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is investigating the accusations made against individual sealers this year. No charges have been laid as a result of the allegations.
The Telegram will have more in the next week from the Canadian Sealers Association with regards to the annual hunt — specifically, on the current hard times for the industry and sealers’ outlook for the future.
The end of the seal hunt?
Fresh allegations made of violations of Marine Mammal Act at the Front
Published on April 26, 2011
The Weekend Telegram
An unidentified sealer brings a harp seal to his boat on April 13, during the 2011 commerical seal hunt.
photo by: Photo courtesy of IFAW/S. Cook
Harp seals give birth in late February or early March. The seal hunt on the Front off of Newfoundland and Labrador normally takes place in early to mid-April.
A sealer’s job is to first crush the skull of the seal — by bullet or blow, depending on the age (a seal older than one year has to be shot first). They then check to see the skull is crushed, that the animal is unconscious or dead, before proceeding to slice open two arteries located beneath the seal’s flippers, to bleed it. After at least one minute, they are able to skin the dead animal and otherwise process it as required.
This has been determined to be the most humane method of conducting the seal hunt.
It is a method that not all sealers have been following this year, according to a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Sheryl Fink.
Fink said she witnessed three days of the seal hunt this year and has come to expect that the odd sealer won’t be able to properly conduct the three-step killing process. But this year, she said, she has seen displays of cruelty by some sealers.
“We’ve got videos of bluebacks (young hooded seals) being hunted, which is not legal right now. We’ve got video of seals being hooked in the face while they are clearly alive, barking, trying to bite at the gaff, being hooked and brought into the boat,” she said.
The latter would be in violation of the federal Marine Mammal Regulations, set to ensure a humane harvest.
Having witnessed the seal hunt for 13 years, Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International made similar statements when contacted.
Holding a seal he has harvested, a sealer tries to find stable footing in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador during the 2011 commercial seal hunt.
photo by: Photo courtesy of IFAW/S. Cook
“This is the worst killing I’ve observed yet,” she said. “Seals would be shot in the neck, back or jaw and show directed movements (raising its head, crying out, crawling) and the sealer would not shoot again.”
Fink said the apparent violations she witnessed were not all from one boat.
“They said there was 29 boats out. We were on top of maybe eight of them,” she said.
“At least half of the boats we found there was some kind of problem.”
Despite having spent three years at the Front, she said she was not familiar with the boats allegedly committing the offences.
As for enforcement, Fink said representatives of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) were present at times — with a fixed-wing patrol plane seen one day and a helicopter on another. However, they were not on hand at the time of the aforementioned violations.
“They had the Henry Larsen out there, which is the icebreaker that I understand is dedicated. It was over on the Gulf side. It was like 100 nautical miles (185 kilometres) from where the sealing was taking place,” she said.
A spokesman for DFO, responding to submitted questions, said aerial patrols are being conducted in addition to sea patrols, inspections of vessels at sea and at landing sites and at both buying and processing facilities.
“The 2011 seal harvest is on-going and potential violations are under investigation,” he stated.
“It would not be appropriate to discuss at this time.”
“To their credit, I guess they saw our press release and someone from DFO was on the phone that night asking for our footage. So we will be turning it over for them,” Fink said.
No charges have been laid.
Final coffin nail, or a point to rally from?
Charges of inhumane acts at the Front would spell trouble for the industry.
Work at the Front accounts for about 70 per cent of the seals taken annually.
A combination of a lack of potential markets and poor prices (top quality pelts net about $21 apiece this year) has already been keeping the majority of licensed sealers at home. This year, the seal quota was set at 400,000 animals. However, the actual take is unlikely to come anywhere near that number. Landings have been less than 100,000 since 2008.
About 12,500 commercial licences were issued to sealers last year. According to DFO, “the majority of these licences are unused and are renewed annually by the holders simply to maintain eligibility, in anticipation of favourable harvesting conditions and prices in future.”
Industry members have said that future could be kickstarted with a reversal of the European Union’s ban on Canadian seal products. It would require winning a legal challenge launched against the ban.
“This court case is costing a huge amount of money,” said Dion Dakins of pelt processor NuTan Furs in Catalina, speaking on CBC Radio’s “The Fisheries Broadcast.” Yet, “for broad scale impact globally, this court case will turn the tide,” he said.
The Fur Institute of Canada has four of the five active seal processors in Canada contributing to the activities of its sealing committee. Representative David Barry said the institute focuses on addressing animal welfare concerns, but believes “the EU ban on seal products, which specifically targets Canada, does a lot to reinforce negative stigma and misconceptions about the products. Because it is extremely difficult for sealers or individual companies to compete with the media-savvy lobby groups who forced in the European ban, many have high hopes that present legal challenges will have the legislation evaluated on fairer, more rational grounds,” he stated recently.
Provincial Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman told The Telegram he supports the sealing industry’s use of that natural resource, regardless of any allegations by individual sealers of Marine Mammal Regulations violations this year. He said any sealers found to not be following the rules would be dealt with the same way as anyone else who breaks the law.
“There have always been challenges to this seal hunt. But the thing is it is an industry that is humane — we’ve always touted that.” he said. “We are certainly not out there slaughtering the last seal that is on the face of the Earth.”
Harp seals are not endangered. Population estimates put the number of animals at more than 9 million, up from 5.8 million in 2004 and many times over the numbers recorded in the 1970s.
Costly battle: politics and public relations
Joining a “for” or “against” side of the debate on the commercial seal harvest carries a literal cost that has to be covered.
While the anti-hunt Humane Society is accepting “emergency gifts” for its campaign to protect seals, for example, the pro-harvest Seals and Sealing Network (read: industry) is accepting financial contributions towards its legal battle over the European Union’s seal product ban.
The anti-hunt campaigning — bolstered by celebrity spokespeople like Ke$ha, Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney — has tended to do better than the pro-harvest operations, yet the provincial and federal governments have assisted campaigning by industry.
In May 2010, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) granted $100,000 to the Canadian Seal Marketing Group (based out of Little Catalina) to attend trade shows in Russia and China. The marketing group is made up of NuTan Furs Inc. of Catalina, Rieber Carino Ltd. Of Dildo and Tu Ma Su Seal Products Inc. of Quebec.
In September 2010, $50,000 went from ACOA to the Northeast Coast Sealers’ Co-operative Society of Fleur de Lys to “develop a comprehensive plan for value-added seal products.”
And $200,000 was provided in the provincial budget this year for sealing industry advocacy and development. The province has committed $700,000 to the cause over the last six years.
International trade missions play a significant role in the work of pro-harvest groups, including the government. Loyola Sullivan toured European capitals in 2008, for example, while Jackman joined federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Nunavut Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk in China last year.
“We want to get into expanding our trade into those particular areas,” Jackman said. “It requires financed support to do these types of things.”
Comments by politicians on recent trade missions to China have pointed to the growth of the whole seal market — expanding trade of seal meat, oil and other as yet undefined products, in addition to furs. But these markets cannot replace the value of pelts, at least in the near future.
According to federal statistics on seal meat, “in 2008, 91 per cent ($141,000) of all seal meat exports were destined for Japan. The remainder went to South Korea ($13,000) and France ($1,000).” In the same year, pelt exports were valued at $6.5 million.
That said, dramatic change has also taken place within the seal pelt market, with the export value for pelts tanking since 2008. In 2010, exports were valued at just $813,000.
Considering this, can the sealing industry survive if the European Union ban remains in place?
“The short answer is yes. Russia has always been the primary traditional market for seal pelts, with Chinese buyers increasing their demand in recent years, while demand for fish oils and other marine oils (e.g. seal oil) is on a steady increase worldwide,” stated the Fur Institute’s Barry.
“We have always seen most meat go for local consumption, and I would suspect that to remain the same in the near future.”
Yet the IFAW’s Fink and other anti-hunt protesters dispute the claim that China or Russia can be enough to justify the hunt financially.
Fink also said changing ice conditions and lower birth rates of seals have to be considered when looking forward, adding that the IFAW feels the commercial hunt is just about at an end.
“They know it, the sealers know it. It’s the politicians that are living in La La Land.”
The Canadian Sealers’ Association could not be reached for comment.
WTO to rule on Canada, Norway's case against EU seal ban
(AFP) April 21, 2011
GENEVA — The World Trade Organization said Thursday it will rule on complaints brought by Canada and Norway against the European Union over Brussels' ban on the import of seal products.
"A panel has been established," said a WTO spokeswoman, referring to a panel of arbitrators.
Norway and Canada had filed separate complaints in 2009 but the WTO decided that it will merge the two cases.
The European ban, which took effect in 2010, was imposed following pressure from animal rights activists who decried the cruelty of seal hunting.
While the ban includes an exemption for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and indigenous communities for subsistence, the Inuit insist the move adversely affects them because it shrinks the market for the product. They also fear the exemption would not always be respected.
In addition, Canada claims that commercial seal hunting has been hit over the past two years by shrinking sea ice.
The Canadian envoy stressed to the WTO dispute settlement body meeting that "Canada and Norway have long made efforts to ensure that the seal hunt is humane, well managed and sustainable."
In its request for a WTO ruling on the issue, Norway claimed that the EU seal regime appeared to discriminate among products originating from different countries. This violates international trade rules, it said.
However, the European Union said it was "strongly convinced of the strength of its case."
"We stand ready to defend our measures that we consider to be fully consistent with WTO law," said the envoy.
Kesha protests against seal hunt
By Bang Showbiz
Apr 15, 2011
Kesha has taken a stand against the annual Canadian seal hunt, appearing in PETA ad to bring attention to the slaughter of the baby mammals.
Kesha is fronting a new anti-seal clubbing campaign.
The “Take It Off” singer appears in an ad for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to bring attention to the annual slaughter of the baby mammals on the ice floes of Canada for their pelts.
In the print ad, a picture of the 24-year-old pop star can be seen along with an image of a seal pup accompanied by the slogan "Canada's Club Scene Sucks".
PETA intends to display the poster at various music festivals and at Kesha's concerts to draw attention to the hunting of the animals.
The organization also wants the singer's fans to write protest letters to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, urging him to ban seal hunting.
Kesha has spoken out about her feelings on the "archaic" practice and admits she fell in love with aquatic mammals after seeing them in the wild.
She said: "I was lucky enough to get to watch a bunch of wild seals recently and truly fell in love with these amazing creatures. Canada gets to be host to harp seals each year during their migration to the ice to give birth which is beautiful and peaceful. But because the babies' fur is so soft, there are people who club and brutally kill these young animals. The Canadian seal slaughter is barbaric and archaic."
The hunt takes place every year during the birthing season and sees thousands of the animals killed before they are a month old. A limit on how many animals can be killed is set by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
‘A stain on Canada’s reputation’
Group protests annual seal hunt
Steve Henschel, staff
Apr 07, 2011 - 1:10 PM
This year up to 468,200 of harp, grey and hooded seals will be killed during the annual commercial seal hunt in Canada, and some individuals just won’t stand for it.
On Saturday afternoon a group of concerned citizens gathered at city hall to protest a long standing Canadian practice, the annual commercial seal hunt.
“The seal hunt is a stain on Canada’s reputation,” said Dylan Powell, an organizer of the protest. He explained that while he believes as a vegan that killing any animal is morally wrong the brutality and seeming futility of the hunt spurred the protest.
“It’s a visibly brutal operation,” said Powell, explaing that while baby seals are no longer hunted young pups barely able to flee are hunted often shot or clubbed to death.
“We want the local MP to justify his position,” said Powell, explaining that Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, like his fellow Conservative members, supports the hunt. One way the government has backed the hunt according to Brock prof. Paul Hamilton is to challenge through the World Trade Organization an European Union ban on the Canadian furs. Hamilton explained that appealing the ban will likely cost Canadian tax payers upwards of $10 million.
“There’s a growing sense of opinion that this is a barbaric practice,” said Hamilton, adding that according to his research the seal fur industry’s demand is shrinking. Hamilton went on to explain that on an international level many people have spoken out against the hunt.
He noted that recently when the Canadian government announced a fur trade deal with China, Chinese citizens took to the streets in protest of the Canadian furs.
Some have argued that the traditional hunt is part of Canada’s cultural identity, especially for those who take part annually.
“There is a lot of things that were historic practice that were unethical,” said Powell, explaining that similar arguments were made to justify slavery.
After picketing city hall the group of protesters marched to MP Rick Dykstra’s office to voice their demands that the hunt be halted.
Canada's seal ban appeal goes to WTO panel
Canada, which has argued that its annual seal hunt is conducted humanely, is challenging the European Union's ban on the import of seal products. A WTO dispute panel will be assembled to hear the case. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))
CBC News Posted: Mar 25, 2011 3:58 PM NT
Canada will get to challenge the European Union's trade ban on seal products at a World Trade Organization dispute panel.
The WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, which met in Geneva on Friday, accepted Canada's request to have a panel of experts established to hear the dispute, federal officials confirmed.
Twenty-seven European countries adopted a resolution to ban the import of seal products in 2009, based in part on public opposition to Canada's controversial seal hunt.
Canada, which has maintained that its annual seal hunts are humane, argues that the seal ban resolution violates the EU's trade obligations.
"Canada is deeply disappointed that the European Union has ignored its international trade obligations with this measure," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea stated in a release Friday.
"We have requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel to address the matter."
2nd request successful
Canada had asked the WTO Dispute Settlement Body to create a panel on the seal ban appeal last month, but the EU blocked that request.
But under WTO rules, a panel must be automatically set up if Canada makes a second request, which it did on Friday.
Federal officials told CBC News it's not clear when Canada's case will be heard, but a panel of independent experts could be established within the next few weeks or months.
Panels can take 15 months to make a public report and issue a ruling, federal officials said.
Norway has also submitted a request to the WTO dispute body for a panel to rule on the EU seal ban.
"We hope to continue to co-ordinate efforts with Norway and pursue the matter in tandem," Newfoundland and Labrador Senator Fabian Manning said in a release.
"Like Canada, Norway has long made efforts to ensure that the seal hunt is humane, well managed and sustainable."
Topless activists stage protest in Taipei against seal killing
Topless activists protest Canada's seal hunt in Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, March 23 (CNA) Two members from an international animal welfare group on Wednesday staged a topless protest in front of the Canadian trade office in Taipei against the annual seal hunt in Canada, and urged the public to stop buying seal products to help end the slaughter.
Ashley Fruno and Michelle Chen, who hail from the Asia branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) , decided to bare it all for the furry mammals, wearing nothing but knickerbockers and red and white body paint slathered onto their bodies in the shape of the Canadian flag, despite drizzly skies and chilly temperatures. They are demonstrating against the Canadian government's raising of the quota for culling grey seals from 50,000 to 60,000 in February.
Throughout the day, the duo directed slogans, such as "stop the bloody seal slaughters" and "don't buy seal products, " at the trade office building.
Asked if she was cold, Fruno replied, "this is nothing compared to what the animals go through. Many baby seals have their heads bashed in and are skinned alive."
Fruno told reporters that over the years, PETA has called on the Canadian government to ban the annual commercial seal hunt in eastern Canada, but the government has refused to comply with that request.
Instead, quotas have been increased. The Canadian government raised the quota for harp seals between 2009 and 2010 by 50,000 animals. In 2010, it allowed seal hunters to cull 330,000 harp seals, 50,000 grey seals, and 8,200 hooded seals.
This year, Canada has so far raised the quota for grey seals, but has not yet released its limits on the other two species.
Fruno said that because the European Union and the U.S. have banned imports of seal products, PETA is now turning its attention to Asia, calling on Asian governments to ban the sale of seal products and appealing to local people to boycott seal meat and skins from Canada.
Similar demonstrations have been held in Tokyo, Manila, Sydney, Melbourne, and Thailand.
"It will only take the demand of the people to make changes, " the other protestor, Michelle Chen, said.
But some might wonder why the two decided to go topless.
"We think this is a fun and sexy way to draw attention for seals," said Fruno. (By Hermia Lin) enditem/ly
Seal hunt protest set for Saturday
Comox Valley Echo March 18, 2011 At noon on Saturday, March 19th, concerned Comox Valley residents will demonstrate their opposition to Canada's annual east coast commercial seal hunt in downtown Courtenay.
They will be standing in solidarity with Canadians of conscience also protesting in Nanaimo on Saturday, and those in other BC communities and across the country gathering throughout the month to demand an end to the imminent slaughter.
The demonstrators will gather at noon at the corner of Cliffe and the 17th street bridge to remind people to make their voices heard by writing or calling the offices of elected officials, including MP John Duncan toll-free at 1-800-667-8404.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Protesters gather in Nanaimo to rail against annual seal hunt
Vancouver Island group declares March 'harp seal action month'
By Danielle Bell, Daily News; with a file from postmedia news
March 4, 2011
People gathered across Nanaimo on Thursday to protest the commercial seal hunt held in Eastern Canada.
Carrying signs including "let baby seals live," "capitalism is not an indigenous tradition" and others with graphic photos of carcasses, about 15 people in support of the protection of seals gathered downtown at lunch hour Thursday.
Protesters were outside the office of Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder and along Terminal Avenue, with plans to move north outside the office of Nanaimo-Alberni James Lunney. The Vancouver Island Animal Defense League declared March harp seal action month in Nanaimo.
Marley Daviduk has been protesting against the commercial seal hunt for years, citing "barbaric" killing methods and wasted taxpayer money for little earnings.
"This is such a bloodstain on the Canadian reputation," said Daviduk. "It's so inhumane."
Sealers started this year's hunt with grey seals off of Cape Breton late last month but the majority of sealing takes place in late March off of Newfoundland.
It is one of the world's most controversial hunts and demonstrations have been held throughout Canada and overseas.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare was among several animal rights groups that successfully lobbied for a seal product import ban in the European Union, which last month was in the process of being challenged by Canada.
In 2010, 67,327 harp seals were harvested, according Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Protesters also plan to gather during busy traffic in front of the B.C. Ferries Departure Bay terminal on March 19.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
The hunt must go on
Lorne Gunter, National Post · Friday, Mar. 4, 2011
I was born and raised in Southeastern Alberta. The largest body of water in the region was Pakowki Lake, which is officially listed as "intermittent." In an exceptionally rainy year, it might raise its status to "slough." But in the 65 million years since mammals replaced reptiles as the planet's dominant animal form, Pakowki has been full probably only a half-dozen times.
If there is a drier part of Canada, I don't know it. And if there is a spot which has less in common with the ice floes off the coast of Newfoundland, you'd be hard-pressed to find it. Still, I would defend without hesitation the right of Canadian sealers to earn a living each spring against the hysteria and hand-wringing of environmentalists and animal-rights activists, particularly those from the European Union.
At present, the EU bans all Canadian seal products, except those harvested by Inuit using traditional methods. Like so many things enviro and activist, this ban is based on emotion as much or more than reason and fact.
Two years ago, when the European Parliament was debating the ban, it was told by the European commission that 98% of the seals harvested annually in the hunt were killed in keeping with the EU's standards for humane animal slaughter. That's roughly the same percentage as calves killed humanely in Europe's own veal industry.
But never mind the facts. Seal pups are big-eyed, cute creatures. Members of the European Parliament wanted to be seen as trendy and compassionate, so they voted to ban seal meat, pelts and oil almost entirely. Perhaps if steers and calves could find a better PR agent, the EU could be cajoled into prohibiting beef and veal, too.
The seal hunt debate has parallels to the horsemeat industry. Few North Americans would ever think of killing horses for meat or hides. They are the noble beasts who helped us homestead, open a continent and cover vast distances before the advent of mechanized transportation. Our respect for the horse is cultural; it is engrained in our psyches and our history. We look at them and see a steed, not a steak.
But not the French. They don't share our reverence for the pony, so they think nothing of chowing down on one. What anyone eats and wears is often determined psychologically as much as scientifically.
So European resistance to the seal hunt is as much about sentiment as reason, and sentiment is harder to overcome. No amount of pleading by sealers or the Atlantic provinces and federal government is likely to lift the emotionladen ban. So activists hoped and sealers feared that the EU ban would end the hunt in the coming years. Last year, for instance, the hunt ended early and the harvest was way off.
But that was before the Chinese stepped in and signed deals to buy large quantities of seal products. Now it almost doesn't matter what the Europeans do.
The Chinese are newly rich and they have cold winters. It shouldn't be that hard to convince them to wear sealskin fashions. Moreover, any culture that believes duck inner-ear fungus soup is a delicacy won't need much persuasion to eat seal heart. And any nation with 1.3 billion mouths to feed is never going to be as squeamish about slaughter techniques as the limp, childless, postModern Europeans.
So hunt on, my Atlantic brothers. Hunt on.
The seal hunt you didn’t see
Published on February 26, 2011
Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
Until this week, readers of the Cape Breton Post have only been able to read descriptions supplied by the sealers and anti-sealing observers of the grey seal hunt that takes place annually on Hay Island.
Readers have also been limited to seeing pictures by newspaper photographers taken at the wharf or those shot on the island and supplied by the anti-sealing groups.
Cape Bretoners can now understand what they would see if they went out to Hay Island to observe the hunt.
What readers didn’t see were the hours spent phoning and sending emails back and forth between journalists, Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials, sealers and anti-sealers. Because hunt regulations are so tightly controlled, lengthy negotiations were required just to access the waters within a half a nautical mile of Hay Island.
DFO says observers have the right to attend the hunt, but for safety reasons, can’t get any closer than 10 metres.
No one has any objection to that. But after several rounds of discussion, regulations seemed to become simply a way to keep media and anti-sealers from getting a reasonable opportunity to properly observe the hunt.
DFO determined that only five observers could be on Hay Island at one time. That wasn’t unreasonable, but it became difficult to determine which five would be allowed, and at what time and for how long. DFO was asked to issue permits to all observers for the entire day and let the observers choose the time frame they needed. DFO was well aware that media and anti-sealers agreed to share access equitably, and the agency had plenty of enforcement staff on the island.
Instead, officials ruled that observers had to choose the specific timing. The media and the anti-sealers were told permits would be issued for one group from midnight to noon and for the other group from noon to midnight. Not knowing in advance how quickly the hunt would conclude after sunrise, accepting that deal would have seriously risked the chance that some would observe the hunt and some would not. So we bargained blindly for a changeover time that we thought would work. It very nearly didn’t.
Readers also didn’t see the tight public relations controls implemented by DFO. The government did supply a local fisheries officer to speak to media on the wharf in Main-a-Dieu after observers returned from the hunt. What almost no one saw was the Halifax DFO communications official behind the reporters’ backs shaking his head vigorously when he didn’t want the officer to answer a question, nodding slowly when the talking head was on safe ground, or signalling the officer to wrap up quickly.
Covering the 2011 grey seal hunt wasn’t easy, and the results are not easy for most people to view.
Regardless, if seal hunting is to be allowed as a legal activity, there is no question it should be regulated for the safety of participants and observers and the appropriate harvest of seals. DFO says the public has a right to observe the hunt. The government also has a duty to make the regulations enabling observation reasonable.
Canada to challenge EU seal ban at World Trade Organization
A sealer (R) clubs a harp seal during the 2010 commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland April 9, 2010
Postmedia News · Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
OTTAWA — Canada has launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization against the European Union ban on Canadian seal products.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea made the announcement Friday in Ottawa.
Shea said the government was “deeply disappointed” the EU hadn’t changed its position regarding the ban.
A report tabled this week from the House of Commons parliamentary committee on trade suggested the seal issue could hurt the chances that the Canada-European Union free trade agreement would be ratified.
MPs on a fact-finding mission to Europe reported hearing complaints on matters that had nothing to do with the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, including Canada’s seal hunt.
“The committee heard that Canada must develop a better communications strategy on sensitive issues like the seal hunt and the visa requirement for nationals of certain European countries,” the all-party committee said in the report tabled Wednesday.
“Although these irritants are not part of the CETA negotiating agenda, they could affect ratification of any future agreement.”
The European Parliament, which holds sessions in Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France, gained veto powers over trade deals in the Lisbon Treaty that took effect in 2009.
Canada is hoping to announce later this year an agreement-in-principle that would slash tariff and non-tariff barriers that affect trade and investment.
Edible seal products good news on trade front
Mon, Jan 17 - 7:19 AM
THE new trade deal signed last week with China, immediately allowing Canadian exports of edible seal products to the large Asian country, is promising news for the beleaguered domestic seal industry.
As Fisheries Minister Gail Shea cautioned, however, benefiting from that "potential" will depend on Chinese consumers’ acquired taste for seal meat, at least in part, so it’s difficult to predict what this new market will be worth.
New products gaining access to the Chinese market include cured and smoked seal meat, seal terrine and omega 3-rich oil supplements, says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The outlook for Canada’s sealing industry was bleak after the European Union hypocritically voted to ban most Canadian seal products last year, due to public opinion and pressure from animal rights groups — despite evidence Canada’s seal hunt is as humane as other forms of animal slaughter.
But the Chinese market — which already buys Canadian seal-pelt products — could prove a viable alternative, especially while Canada’s formal complaints against the EU ban make their way through the convoluted World Trade Organization appeal process.
Meanwhile, international animal welfare groups, and similar groups in China, have lashed out at the new trade deal as "racist," "condescending" and a move to treat China as a "dumping ground" for Canadian seal products that North Americans and Europeans won’t eat.
The reaction is overwrought.
Chinese consumers will decide, as they have a right to do, whether they wish to buy edible seal products from Canada. Are animal welfare groups suggesting that Chinese tastes should be the same as those of the majority of Canadians? Though, it should be added, some Canadians indeed do eat seal products.
China’s not the first market for edible seal products, either. Japan and Korea now buy seal meat from Canada for consumption.
The hysterical criticism from animal welfare groups underlines how furious they are at any hope of markets, and hence long-term survival, for the Canadian sealing industry.
Seal populations are at record levels, so there’s no fear — despite the propaganda from some quarters — that the seal harvest, properly monitored, will hurt the species.
Animal rights groups slam Canada-China seal deal
By PETER O'NEIL, Postmedia News
January 14, 2011
Canada, which failed in a public-relations campaign to convince Europe that the seal hunt is humane, will also flop in its "insulting" attempt to find consumers in China, animal rights groups said yesterday.
"This is a slap on the face for China, Chinese culture and Chinese people," said Grace De Gabriel, the International Fund for Animal Welfare's regional director in Asia.
"China is not a dumping ground for Canadian seal products, and Chinese consumers should not shoulder the ethical responsibility of paying for the cruel slaughter of seals in Canada."
The IFAW was reacting to the Canadian government's announcement Wednesday that it has secured an agreement with Beijing to allow the export of seal products, including meat, oil and fur, as early as this year.
The IFAW was among the many powerful animal rights groups that successfully lobbied for the European Union's seal products import ban, which is being challenged by Canada before the World Trade Organization.
"The IFAW believes that Chinese consumers, like those in the European Union, will not condone the horrific slaughter of seal pups and will reject meat and oil that is tainted by cruelty," the IFAW said.
In China, more than 40 animal rights groups blasted Canada's efforts to find a new market there for sealers, reports Agence France-Presse.
"It is insulting for Canada to market these products in China," said Lu Di, head of the China Small Animal Protection Association.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
China's seal of approval
Published on January 13th, 2011
Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
What do a small, rocky, uninhabited island off the coast of Main-a-Dieu and a Communist country with a population of 1.3 billion people have in common? As of Wednesday, seals.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced Wednesday from Beijing that China has agreed to import Canadian seal meat and oil. That’s big news here in Atlantic Canada and we can expect those on both sides of the seal hunting controversy to start ramping up the rhetoric and spectacle in anticipation of this year’s harvest.
On one side, there’s the likes of 79-year-old Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. John (“Pass the tequila, Sheila”) Crosbie wearing a sealskin coat during the 2009 royal tour and Newfoundland beauty queen Sara Green, who hotly defended the seal hunt last year.
On the other side, there’s Baywatch star Pamela Anderson hugging a seal mascot while calling the hunt “an embarrassment to Canada” and protests with half-naked women covered in fake blood laying down as men dressed as hunters pretend to beat them with sticks.
Sober science and scrutiny land in the middle.
The lion’s share of the grey seal hunt in Nova Scotia is restricted to Hay Island, off the coast of Main-a-Dieu.
Last year, sealers, citing poor markets, didn’t harvest any seals on Hay Island, despite a quota of 2,200 animals to be taken between Feb. 8 and March 15. On July 27, 2009, the European Union banned imported seal products. Earlier in 2009, only 200 seals were killed on Hay Island.
Robert Courtney of Dingwall, the unofficial spokesman for Cape Breton sealers (who have also hunted harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), told the Chronicle Herald on Wednesday that markets opening up in China “could be very, very good news” for local sealers.
Newfoundland native Rebecca Aldworth, a director with Humane Society International, travelled to China in November to show reporters seal hunt footage. “I’m confident the people of China will reject these products of cruelty just as the rest of the world has done,” she said.
Aldworth’s confidence may be misplaced. China, unlike the EU, is relatively repressed when it comes to protests, its consumer-base is huge, and relations between Canada and China have warmed up since 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who’s been critical of China’s human-rights record) angered China by awarding the Dalai Lama honorary Canadian citizenship.
China has been and continues to be courted successfully by Canadian companies as a market for products that elicit protests in more progressive countries. Asia, including China, is the primary market for Canadian asbestos, which has been directly linked with cancer. And there are those who want to build a pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia to enable oilsands bitumen to be shipped to Pacific Rim countries such as China.
Anti-sealing groups have their work cut out for them in China. Shea’s announcement Wednesday may have been their worst nightmare come true.
China opens door to seal imports from Canada
By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
Thu, Jan 13 - 4:54 AM
OTTAWA — A new deal to ship Canadian seal oil, meat and pelts to China could breathe new life into Nova Scotia’s tiny sealing industry, setting up the possibility of a public relations battle on a small Cape Breton island.
A seal hunter drags a harp seal back to his snowmobile during the annual seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in April 2005. Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says China has agreed to import edible seal products from Canada. (File photo by JONATHAN HAYWARD / CP)
In Beijing on Wednesday, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced that China had agreed to open its doors to imports of meat and oil, which might boost an industry that lost a huge market last year when the European Union banned Canadian seal products.
"One year ago, I came to China to begin this process," Shea said. "The Chinese market holds great potential for the Canadian seal industry."
Sealer Robert Courtney of Dingwall said sealers and processors are excited about the announcement.
"It could be very, very good news," he said. "We’ve been trying the last few years to get a market for our juveniles and also trying to get a market for our meat, and everything points to China, where there is a market."
Nova Scotia grey seal populations have boomed as groundfish stocks have recovered somewhat, to the point that Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists have proposed a costly cull. So sealers say a hunt is not just good business but necessary to preserve fish stocks.
Animal welfare activists, who traditionally are suspicious of federal scientists reporting increases in seal populations, say that shrinking ice cover threatens Nova Scotia’s grey seals and the harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where sealers from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador traditionally hunt every spring.
The hunt in Nova Scotia is much smaller and takes place onshore, on Hay Island, in a nature reserve near Scatarie Island, off the eastern end of Cape Breton. Markets for pelts and meat have been so weak that there hasn’t been much of a hunt in the last two years.
If the Chinese want to buy, said Courtney, Nova Scotia sealers can fill the demand.
"We have grey seals pretty well all year round, right from Yarmouth up to Quebec shore, so we can harvest seals 12 months a year. And if the market is there, we can harvest to bring this population down."
Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International recently went to China to show films of the seal hunt to the Chinese media. She said the Chinese will oppose a practice that she considers cruel.
"Robert Courtney is always convinced that a buyer is going to emerge somewhere for seal products from Hay Island," she said. "The reality is, there is no future for the Canadian seal industry in China."
Aldworth said she will be on Hay Island to film the hunt if Courtney and his colleagues return to take grey seals, although she said it is terrible to watch because juvenile seals are beaten to death in front of their mothers.
"It’s not something that any human being could accept, if they could see it," she said.
Courtney says the hunt is humane, it’s hard for sealers to work with the protesters’ cameras on them, and something has to be done about the booming seal population.
"Ask them the right question," he said. "How do they think we should feed the animals? There are 300,000 greys and 11 million harps. What are their suggestions on how to feed them?"
Premier Darrell Dexter said finding new markets for products is a good thing.
"There’s no question that the seal hunt has always attracted a certain level of controversy, and I don’t expect that that will change," he said in Cole Harbour.
"But the simple reality is that there are people who, for their livelihood, depend on that hunt. It’s a part of the traditional industry of the region. I don’t expect that will change."
With David Jackson, provincial reporter