Canada's Fur Institute says a recent poll of Europeans shows that the majority support the seal hunt.
"It says very clearly that they — at least the majority of them — find the seal hunt acceptable, while only a small percentage, a third, felt that no form of the seal hunt was acceptable," said David Hutton, co-chair of the Trade Fairness Coalition, a partnership with several sustainable-use and resource-based groups, including the Canadian Sealers Association.
The coalition retained polling firm Abacus Data to survey about 2,400 people in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It was conducted ahead of a decision expected Thursday on Canada's appeal of a ban on the import of seal products to Europe.
Hutton said a majority of people — or 57 per cent — agreed that if the European Union ban is allowed to stand it could set a dangerous precedent for other animal products or natural resources.
However, given six options on another question, most people — or 33 per cent — said no form of the seal hunt is acceptable. Twenty-three per cent said seals should be allowed to be hunted, but only if their populations are not endangered and the animals do not suffer, or if only Inuit or other indigenous groups are allowed to take part.
Still, Hutton said the numbers confirm what the industry has long suspected.
"The majority of Europeans, just as the majority of Canadians, are in favour of the seal hunt as long as it's done in a humane and scientific basis," he said.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) had initially ruled that the ban did violate trade rules but still upheld it, referring to the ongoing outrage that Canada's seal hunt triggers in Europe.
"The panel found, however, that the EU Seal Regime does not violate Article 2.2 of the [Technical Barriers to Trade] Agreement because it fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective," the panel wrote.
A similar decision was filed against a challenge brought against the ban by Norway, another country that allows a commercial seal hunt.
"So, they found in favour of Canada, but overall accepted the EU's argument on the morality clause, which is not defined in any way by the WTO," said Hutton.
He also challenged the anti-seal hunt assertion that the industry is unsustainable and foundering.
"A colleague calculated that the small hunt in 2012 likely --- if you cost out the consumption of fish eaten by the seals that were captured and harvested - would've been a value of over $360 million," said Hutton. "So I think in the end the truth will prevail, and that science over speculation will be the final outcome of these discussions and debates.
Meanwhile, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) quickly responded to the survey, noting the poll also found that only 24 per cent of Europeans support the commercial seal hunt.
"It's obvious that this poll has serious methodological problems, and its conclusions do not reflect reality," the IFAW stated in a news release.
Harpseals.org's analysis of this poll:
This is yet another flawed poll that asks leading questions in order to obtain the desired results.
View or download the poll report here.
The first question is, "In Europe, and around the world, animals are raised and hunted for many different reasons including for food, commercial products and managing wildlife populations according to scientific, technical and traditional knowledge. Of the following three statements, which best describes your personal opinion about the use of animals?"
The three options are:
1. "All forms of animal use, including for food and commercial products, are acceptable."
2. "Animal use is acceptable for food and commercial products, only if it is done in a way that protects animal welfare and the sustainability of the resource."
3. "No form of animal use, including for food or commercial products, is acceptable."
People in 6 EU countries were polled, and the percentage of people selecting answer 1 ranged from 4% to 7%. The percentage selecting answer 2 ranged from 69% to 79%. The percentage selecting answer 3 ranged from 10% to 22%.
From this, the study authors conclude, "75% of respondents saw the use of animals as acceptable, so long it is done in a way that protects animal welfare and sustainability of the resource."
The first problem with this question is that it combines the use of animals for food and for 'commercial purposes', without even addressing the question of whether it is acceptable to kill animals to turn them into fur coats.
The second problem with this question is that, as with all sealing industry polls, it qualifies the statement on the use of animals by suggesting that the welfare of the animals is protected or that the animals don't suffer. This flies in the face of reality, as the video evidence shows that the seal pups endure extreme suffering, as they are clubbed repeatedly on the head, in front of each other, or shot and injured and then clubbed or hooked in the mouth and dragged onto the boat where they are then clubbed and skinned.
What is remarkable is that so many Europeans believe that it is never acceptable to use animals.
All the questions in the survey are flawed in this manner. They do not seek to objectively ascertain opinions of the EU citizens on sealing, as it truly is. They seek only to spread propaganda through their deceptive press releases.
By Natalie St. John
OCEAN PARK, Wash. — Only 24 hours after observers enjoyed the rare experience of witnessing a harbor seal pup’s birth on a Peninsula Beach, wildlife enforcement officers were investigating the mother’s death and the pup’s disappearance.
Carino CEO Dion Dakins sells seal skins at Bryan Adams concert in St. Johns
Seal processing company Carino took a unique approach to promoting the hunt outside the Bryan Adams concert in St. John's on Saturday night.
Adams, who played two shows at Mile One, has previously supported animal rights group PETA, and opposed the seal hunt.
Carino Processing Ltd. CEO Dion Dakins set up a van to sell pelts and other seal products near the stadium on Saturday. Carino is one of the largest seal processing companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, if not Canada.
"It's not a boycott of Bryan Adams or anything else — this is not about Bryan Adams, this is about an industry that's trying to survive," said Dakins.
"We have false information that's going around by parent organizations like PETA … that don't recognize how professional and how necessary our industry is, so we just wanted to offer some product to wanting consumers."
Dakins said he'd welcome an opportunity to discuss the controversial issue with people opposed to the seal hunt to explain the actual process and reasoning behind it.
"I know that PETA has used a lot of false information, I follow their campaigns. We have veterinary inspected protocols that show seals are hunted humanely," he said.
"There's big problems in our fishery, quota cuts, and seals are playing a big part into that. It's the highest [seal population] we've seen since we've been managing fisheries that we've had a seal population this high and we'd just like due respect to have conversations with these people."
Dakins said campaigns by groups like PETA have badly damaged the sealing industry, but the popularity of seal products this year has convinced him the industry still has a future.
It was early in the day when Dakins spoke to CBC News, but he said he had already sold more than he thought he would.
Adams told St. John's newspaper The Telegram he was against the deliberate killing of all animals, not just seals.
By Michael MacDonald
The Canadian Press
April 14, 2014
A young harp seal rests on the ice floes during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine on Wednesday, March 25, 2009. The annual East Coast seal hunt starts Monday against a backdrop of ongoing trade and court challenges.
HALIFAX - A trade agreement to sell Canadian seal meat in China announced more than three years ago has been largely thwarted by animal rights activists, federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says.
Shea announced the deal in January 2011 in Beijing, saying that gaining access to the world's most populous country would breathe new life into an industry crippled that year by a new European ban on seal products.
At the time, representatives of the Canadian sealing industry said a cache of seal meat had already been packaged and was ready for shipment to China.
But the Chinese government later said it had called for a review of the deal, which has remained stalled ever since.
Shea is now blaming the animal rights movement for pressuring the Chinese government to back away from the deal over concerns the Canadian seal hunt is inhumane.
"Part of the thing that's holding it up is that animal rights groups put a lot of pressure on there as well, on the Chinese," she said in an interview Sunday.
"We have to keep telling the world that this is a sustainable hunt. It's a humane hunt."
Organized groups opposed to the sealing industry have succeeded in spreading misinformation about the slaughter of "baby" seals, a practice that was banned in the 1980s, the minister said.
"People are not running around out there with hakapiks killing seals willy-nilly," she said, referring to the spiked clubs used mainly by seal hunters from Quebec's Iles-de-la-Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
"This is well-regulated. More than 90 per cent of the seals are actually killed by high-powered rifles."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare has been campaigning to end the hunt since 1969. Although the group has an office in China, its director of Canadian wildlife said it doesn't have as much influence as Shea would like to believe.
"Looking back at the record, it looks like the Canadian government has been promising Chinese markets for seal products since at least 1985," Sheryl Fink said in an interview Monday. "It's just not a product that people want to buy."
As well, Fink said the Chinese public is aware of what happens in Canada's commercial seal hunt largely because of work done by home-grown animal welfare groups, not Canadian interlopers.
"People are becoming more aware on their own now," she said. "People (in China) have Internet access and can see what's happening for themselves."
As for misinformation about seal pups, Fink said while it's true that two-week-old harp seals with white coats are no longer hunted, she said it's also true that newly weaned grey-coated harp seals as young as 25 days old make up the bulk of the seals killed each year.
"People don't care whether it's a two-week old seal or a three-week old seal, whether the fur is white or silver," she said. "A lot of people consider any animal under one year of age to be a baby."
The annual East Coast hunt started Monday amid heavy ice conditions, mainly off the northwest coast of Newfoundland.
Patricia Williams, resource manager at the federal Fisheries Department, said 37 vessels indicated Monday they planned to participate in the hunt. This year's harp seal quota has been set at 400,000, she said.
The sealing industry represents a small portion of the fishing sector in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. But the annual hunt looms large on the political landscape in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the vast majority of the country's registered seal hunters live.
By Samantha Halyk and Marie-Danielle Smith
April 4, 2014
Capital News Online
Sheryl Fink is in charge of wildlife campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare Canada.
The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency has spent $51,200 on a marketing plan to help grow Canada’s international seal and long fur market in China and Turkey.
But it waited until after money was spent before announcing its plans.
The project started in December and had ended before the federal government issued a March 24 news release announcing the funding.
“It was very specific and targeted primarily to the Chinese market because it is the most important fur trade spot in the world right now,” says Howard Noseworthy, a director at the Fur Harvesters Auctionin North Bay ON. “But, we also targeted Turkey because it is very popular within the fur trade.”
Noseworthy explained that the marketing plan involved promoting the wild fur products from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories at international fur fairs and advertising in International fur trade publications.
The seal and long fur industries create numerous jobs in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The seal industry sales in Nunavut exceeded $1.1 million in 2013 with wild fur sales in the Territories adding $2.7 million.
Sheryl Fink, wildlife campaigns director at International Fund for Animal Welfare Canada (IFAW) suggested the federal government might have been reluctant to reveal the investment because of the timing of a recent World Trade Organization decision against Canada’s seal industry.
“Why wouldn’t they announce it when it happened? I don’t know if they were waiting until after the WTO,” said Fink. “I would guess announcing this after the WTO was meant to counterbalance their stance on the Inuit seal industry. If they put it out before WTO, it would have been contrary to what their lawyers were saying.”
In 2009, the European Union banned the import of seal products from Canada, although the ban does exempt seal products from Inuit.
The WTO recently rejected Canada’s argument that the ban violates the EU’s international trade pledges. It ruled that moral concerns for animal welfare took precedence over trade commitments.
The WTO’s decision was a major victory for animal rights groups such as the IFAW.
While government-funded incentives that support commercial seal hunts are frequently criticized by animal rights advocates, the recent marketing announcement is less controversial.
Fink says that is because it focused on Inuit seal hunts.
“I think we rather see [the investment] go towards Inuit who [hunt seals] primarily for food and subsistence purposes, and sell the furs as a secondary measure, compared to the commercial seal hunt where they are hunting seals specifically for its fur and the rest of the animal goes to waste,” said Fink.
She noted the major controversies surround hunters on the east coast who slaughter seals for the use of only one body part: fur.
“I was actually quite pleased to see that they are doing something to help the Inuit sealers and see that it is something separate from commercial seal hunt on the east,” said Fink.
In addition to the money the federal government invested, the government of Nunavut and Northwest Territories each contributed $7,300 and the Fur Harvesters Auction gave $25,400. The total contribution for the marketing plan was $91,200.
Since the project recently finished, Noseworthy said it is too early to judge the success of the campaign.
Countries with bans on seal product imports in blue and dark grey.
For an advertising campaign abroad $91,200 might not seem like a lot of money, however Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto, explained it is a large investment for these industries in Northern Canada.
“They only make 1.1 million in sales and the other fact is that they are putting in $91,000 with the feds putting in $51,000, so that is almost 10 per cent — that is a fairly high percentage,” said Wiseman.
However, Diana Marmorstein, CEO of HarperSeals.org said she does not expect the investment to lead to an expansion of the sealing industry as a whole.
“Other subsidies, such as taxpayer-funded trade missions to Asia may have a more significant impact on the industry,” said Marmorstein. “Nevertheless, the continued waste of tax money on efforts to support this dying industry is a glaring example of bad governance that favors one well-connected industry despite public opposition at home.”
Although the marketing campaign is completed, Noseworthy explained the Fur Harvesters Auction will continue seal promotion to help the economy in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
“The approach our company has taken is that as long as there is a market available for that product we will attempt to find and satisfy that market.”
By Jamie Baker
Apr 02, 2014 6:59 AM NT
Carino, a company that processes seal pelts, says it will not need government loans this year. (Canadian Press)
A Newfoundland and Labrador seal product producer says it won't need any government loans or assistance this year to carry out its business.
Carino Processing Ltd., based in South Dildo, received loans from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2012 and 2013 to help the company purchase seals from harvesters.
The province made as much as $3.6 million available in each of the past two years for the company to draw upon.
But Dion Dakins, CEO of Carino, told CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast that the loans have been repaid in full, and this year the company can carry on as per usual.
"The two years of loans have been a true success … and now we're moving forward with a more normalized business approach to service the edible products side of the business and the furs," Dakins said.
"The whole intention by the government was to give us a lift during a very critical period when we were looking at restructuring and getting some things in place, and we did that.
"We lived up to our end, we thank the province very much for that and we look forward to the future."
Private investment welcomed, minister says
Keith Hutchings, minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, said this is a big step for the company, and industry as a whole.
He said Carino's ability to secure financing through private investment "marked another important step in the development of the provincial sealing industry."
Hutchings said opponents of the seal hunt have challenged government spending on the industry, but the Newfoundland and Labrador government is not deterred.
"Those investments have been similar to support we make available to other industries with the potential to create positive economic activity for communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are pleased with the economic activity that has been generated by sealing in recent years," he said.
Hutchings said it's an important step in highlighting the significance of the sealing industry to the province.
"The sealing industry is culturally and economically significant to many rural areas in this province. It is conducted in a humane, highly professional, and carefully monitored manner," said Hutchings.
Despite a boycott and a European Union import ban, Hutchings said Carino continues to sell its products internationally.
By Nick Logan
April 1, 2014
The international court ruling that essentially ended Japan’s whale hunt won’t affect Canada’s equally contentious seal hunt, but it may be a sign that animal rights issues can be fought and won in courts, rather than with protests and picket lines.
A hunter heads towards a harp seal in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence March 25, 2009. (File photo) (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Monday’s International Court of Justice decision found Japan’s “scientific” whaling program was not for research purposes and was illegal.
Animal rights groups that fought the hunt for more than a decade are heralding the court’s 12-4 vote against the hunt as a victory.
“[It shows] a lack of tolerance for the slaughter of marine mammals, which is not necessary in this day and age,” said Sheryl Fink, the director of Canadian wildlife campaigns at the International Fund for Wildlife (IFAW).
While groups such as IFAW and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society can take credit for raising awareness and criticism of the whale hunt – and Canada’s seal hunt, for that matter – a University of Ottawa law professor said this ruling shows a shift in how international panels evaluate environmental and conservation issues.
“I think we’re really at the brink of a bit of a sea change, where you can no longer just ignore environmental protection objectives,” said Markus Gehring.
“In my mind, at least, there is no doubt that international courts and tribunals are moving to adopt more sustainable development-oriented arguments.”
He pointed out the significant difference between the Japanese whale hunt and Canada’s commercial seal hunt – the most obvious being that there are no strict international treaties regarding seal hunting as there are with whales.
But like Japan, Canada’s defence of the seal hunt has gone before an international body – the World Trade Organization.
Environment and Northern Economic Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq flew to Geneva last month to appeal the findings of a WTO decision that found the European Union’s import ban on seal products undermined trade agreements but was justified under “public moral concerns.”
The Appellate Body is expected to rule on Canada’s appeal later this month.
“Any politician or policymaker in Ottawa needs to be acutely aware that blatantly ignoring international environmental standards might be palatable in certain domestic circles, but will not be welcomed by international courts and tribunals,” Gehring said. He doubts the WTO’s Appellate Body will reverse the panel’s findings.
He added the seal hunt’s future will most likely hinge on economics, not international relations.
That’s something that Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, a longtime opponent of the seal hunt, aims to capitalize on in the group’s campaign against the Canadian seal hunt.
“If we remove the market, then it removes the reason to kill seals,” Watson told Global News in a Skype interview. “That’s where the effort is being made right now – not on the ice but to undermine those markets.”
Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups argue the commercial seal hunt is not economically sustainable and would not survive without government support. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it no longer subsidizes the hunt because it’s economically viable.
But the Canadian government financially supports the hunt in indirect ways, such as funding a project that will help offer seal products in Canadian grocery stores.
Keith Hutchings, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, said the province’s seal industry can stand on its own and is growing, not faltering. And he says measures have been taken to ensure the hunt is carried out humanely.
Last spring’s commercial hunt off Newfoundland landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before but far short of the federal quota of 400,000, The Canadian Press reported.
The provincial government has provided economic support to the industry the last two years in the form of inventory financing that was paid back with prescribed interest each year, he explained.
Hutchings said the industry is thriving enough that the government won’t need to provide that financing this year.
But, the Newfoundland and Labrador government has promised $60,000 to support a campaign that will combat misconceptions around the seal industry.
He added that the EU ban “is not a showstopper for the industry, no matter what WTO rules or where that goes.”
Hutchings said he understands that people have their criticisms, but he said “we believe in what we’re doing.”
With files from The Canadian Press
© Shaw Media, 2014
By Cory Hurley
The Western Star
March 28, 2014
If indeed the sceptics have lessened their stance on the cruelty of the seal hunt, then it is on to the sustainability argument, says the provincial fisheries minister.
Keith Hutchings was reacting to recent comments made by Sheryl Fink, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s wildlife campaign director, as she made a visit to Corner Brook this week.
Fink forecasted the demise of the seal industry, saying there is no worldwide market for its products and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need to determine how exactly they want it to end.
No thanks, says Hutchings. Fishermen and processors, with government’s continued support, are busy growing the already sustainable industry.
“It’s like any sector in the province for economic development, when we see an opportunity to support it, we will,” the minister said. “We are certainly big on the sealing industry, and we are going to continue to support it.”
Hutchings said Carino Processing Ltd. has paid the province back, with interest, its loan for inventory financing — something the province has done the past two years. He scoffs at the accusation there is no worldwide market for seal products.
“They are obviously doing well, turning a profit, and that is why they are going to continue to do it,” he said of the processor.
Building on the increase in seals harvested last year, the minister said the industry is expecting more growth this season.
“To suggest it is a floundering industry, and it is not economically sound, I don’t know where that is coming from,” he said.
“What business model would you operate to make that conclusion? It is not the business model that this industry is operating under in this province.”
Hutchings attended a seafood show in China last fall, and visited Honk Kong.
He said the federal government continues to work on exporting edible meat into that market.
Hutchings says he heard first-hand how some of the byproducts, such as oil and pharmaceuticals, have interest.
With the Canada-South Korea trade deal, he expects a reduction of tariffs into that market.
The minister said the fishermen deserve a lot of credit for their efforts to deflect the undue criticism of an inhumane hunt.
He said some 8,000 sealers have been trained in the three-step process, and recognized with humane harvest and quality harvest certification.
The first step is to shoot the animals with an approved rifle to crush the skull.
Secondly, the harvester checks with his hand to ensure the skull is crushed, and if not they use a club or hakipik to do that.
Finally, they bleed the carcass for one full minute before skinning the hide.
All of these steps are done to ensure that the animal does not feel any pain.
Hutchings acknowledged the critics can be frustrating, but it is important to continue proving them wrong.
Now, it is time for them to realize there is opportunity for the industry.
“We certainly believe there is growth, and we are going to work toward increasing that growth — and certainly lead to the return to the harvesters, and those who help their income and supplements their overall enterprise,” he said.
With the seal population increased to about 8 million, the fisheries minister suggests the protestors of the hunt should spend time considering the impact on the ecosystem.
Press Release from the Government of Canada
March 24, 2014
Canadian News Wire
IQALUIT, NU - Minister Aglukkaq today announced $51,200 to help diversify the international market for seal and long fur. This investment supports marketing efforts in Beijing, China and Istanbul, Turkey.
The seal and long fur industries in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories make an important contribution to local economies, creating jobs in harvesting, processing, and arts and cultural sectors. Through this investment, the Governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and the Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc., are promoting the seal and long fur industries abroad, creating new long-term partnerships internationally with businesses and manufacturers, and gaining access to growing markets. By developing these overseas markets, the seal and long fur industries can continue to grow and develop in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The Government of Nunavut and the Government of Northwest Territories each contributed $7,300 to this project. The Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc. contributed $25,400. The total investment in this marketing plan is $91,200.
Nunavut sealskin and fur sales exceeded $1.1 million in 2013. Wild fur was worth $2.7 million to the Northwest Territories economy in 2013.
"Our Government recognizes the importance of a sustainable and diversified economy," said Minister Aglukkaq. "These investments to market the sealing and long fur industries in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories will help increase local participation in the fur industry, creating jobs and prosperity for Northerners."
Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic
Development Agency, and Minister for the Arctic Council
"The Government of Nunavut continues to be a strong supporter of the sealing and fur harvesting industries, which contribute significantly to food security and the local economies of our communities" said Minister Mike. "Nunavut's ongoing marketing partnership with the Northwest Territories and Fur Harvesters Auction has been successful in showcasing our products and generating international market demand for Canada's high quality northern furs."
Johnny Mike, Minister of Environment, Government of Nunavut
"Traditional practices play a valuable role in a strong and diversified Northern economy. By supporting the seal and long fur industries, the Government of the Northwest Territories continues to provide our communities and regions with economic opportunities."
David Ramsay, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Government of Northwest Territories
"As the only trapper-owned and -operated fur auction house in the world, Fur Harvesters Auction is intimately aware of the importance of the wild fur and sealing sectors to the peoples of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Our services to these peoples run the gamut, from informational workshops, to international marketing and promotion of their beautiful wild fur products."
Howard Noseworthy, Director of Planning & Development
Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc.
20 March 2014
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
The high-profile debate on the EU’s seal products ban returned to the WTO this week, with the organisation’s Appellate Body hearing appeals from Canada, Norway, and the EU on the subject. The case has received widespread notoriety both due to its emotive content and also since it deals with the thorny topic of how public morality goals relate to international trade rules.
At issue in the case is a 2009 European Commission regulation, which bans the imports and sale of seal products within the 28-member trade bloc. Citing the inhumane nature of seal hunting, the EU has said that the ban is necessary on grounds of public morality, a move that has been widely endorsed by animal rights activists.
Last November, a WTO dispute panel ruled that the EU’s seal regime did restrict international trade, but granted Brussels a partial victory by finding the public morality justification valid. (See Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest, 30 January 2014).
Appeals were filed shortly thereafter by both Canada and Norway - the complainants in the case - and the EU, in order to clarify certain points of law in the panel’s ruling. Under WTO rules, the Appellate Body can review aspects of law - such as legal interpretation - but generally will not interfere with the factual findings of the original panel.
Within its seal ban, the EU has carved out three significant and controversial exceptions, including a loophole for seal products obtained through sustainable resource management programs (SRMs) and the traditional hunts of indigenous communities (ICs). (See Bridges Trade BioRes, 2 May 2011)
During the three-day hearing, which was open for public viewing, the exceptions to the regulation proved to be one of the key areas of disagreement. While neither side disputes the panel’s initial finding of trade restrictiveness, both the complainants and the respondent focused on the issue of whether the trade restriction is justified according to WTO rules, and how the ban’s exceptions affect the validity of the overall regime.
Canada, Greenland, and Namibia - a third party in the dispute - account for 60 percent of seals killed annually worldwide, according to EU statistics. Canada and Norway argue that under the IC exception, Greenlandic hunters, who are overwhelmingly indigenous Inuit, have been able to substantially increase their market share as a result of the diminished competition caused by the ban. Although it is not a part of the EU, Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, an EU member.
Meanwhile in countries that have lost market share, the impact has been significant on seal hunters who depend on sealing as a “vital economic activity,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Environment Minister, ahead of the WTO appeals hearing.
The original panel took into consideration the compatibility of the exceptions with WTO law. Some 80 percent of Greenland’s population is Inuit, giving the Arctic island an upper hand in seal products trade. The panel ruled that this exception was discriminatory in relation to Canadian and Norwegian-caught seal.
Furthermore, the design of the IC and SRM exceptions were found to lack “even-handedness,” in the context of the legislative history of the EU’s seal regime. In last May’s dispute panel hearing, Canada questioned EU officials as to how the IC exception had been developed, noting that its native Inuit were on record stating they had not been “meaningfully consulted,” and were unhappy with the measure. (See Bridges Trade BioRes,May 2013)
In a move that has now become the heart of the dispute, the panel also found that the objectives of these exceptions were separate from the regime’s overall goal of promoting public morality with regards to animal welfare.
During this week’s hearings, Canada and Norway objected to the legal framework and factual findings used by the panel to evaluate the ban’s contribution to protecting public morality, given the exceptions inherent in the EU seal regime.
In oral arguments on Monday, the two seal-harvesting countries argued that the original panel failed to assess the EU Seal Regime as a whole and also failed to take into account the negative impact of the IC and SRM exceptions, as well as other implicit exceptions.
In its opening statement, Ottawa put forward that the dispute panel had ignored its own finding that the IC exception - which effectively grants Greenland access to the single market - detracted from the objective of addressing EU public concerns regarding animal welfare.
“Pursuant to these exceptions, EU consumers are exposed to and may, in fact, unknowingly purchase seal products derived from seals killed inhumanely,” said Aglukkaq, who flew to Geneva to read her country’s opening statement.
For its part, the EU has also urged the Appellate Body to reconsider what it calls the panel’s legally “erroneous characterisation” of its “public morality” objective.
According to the EU, the IC exception fits within the same moral standard that the ban seeks to uphold, because that standard is the protection of animals from suffering “without sufficient justification,” rather than the absolute protection of animals from suffering.
Also on the table is the question of whether the EU regime counts as a technical regulation at all, which would put it under the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
In its third-party statement, the US - which has its own seal-product import ban - agreed with the EU in suggesting that an outright prohibition, which does not prescribe a product’s characteristics, cannot be deemed a technical regulation. In its original report, the panel had found that the EU’s ban and its exceptions did indeed constitute a technical regulation under the TBT Agreement.
In their closing statements, all parties stressed the responsibility and significance of the WTO’s decision on this case, which sits at the sensitive intersection of international trade and public policy objectives.
Canada stated that the potential reach of a case in relation to public morals rendered the global trade arbiter’s interpretation ever more important, adding that the vague and subjective nature of public morals makes them particularly susceptible to protectionist misuse.
For its part, Norway reiterated that its interest in the dispute addressed policy areas other than animal welfare, noting that the EU’s regulation had frustrated their sustainable management of marine resources.
Brussels, meanwhile, concluded that the EU ” would have preferred to ban all trade in seal products. But legislators were mindful of the important contribution of seal hunting to Inuit communities.”
The Appellate Body has ninety days from the “notice of appeal” in which to render a decision on the case. As the WTO’s forum of last resort, neither side will be able to appeal the final ruling.
By Aly Thomson, Halifax
March 16, 2014 07:51 AM
The Canadian Press
A hunter heads towards a harp seal in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence March 25, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
GENEVA - An international trade organization will hear arguments from Ottawa on Monday in an appeal of a landmark ruling that upheld the European Union's ban on imported seal products.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she will argue at the three-day World Trade Organization hearing in Geneva what the Tories have steadfastly defended — that the seal hunt is humane, sustainable and well-regulated.
"Any views to the contrary are based on myths, misinformation and misguided emotion," said Aglukkaq said in an opinion editorial released Sunday.
"Canadian coastal and northern communities continue to depend upon the humane seal harvest as a vital economic activity and they should have every right to do so."
A WTO dispute settlement panel upheld the EU's embargo on imported seal products in November, saying that while it undermines fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.
At issue was a challenge by Canada and Norway of the 28-member EU's 2010 ban on the import and sale of seal fur, meat, blubber and other products.
Aglukkaq said the ban undercuts the livelihood of sealers who rely on the industry to support their families.
"We will continue to work with Canadian sealers to defend this industry as a healthy, humane and sustainable source of food, clothing and income," she said.
Animal rights advocates say the commercial hunt is a needless slaughter and have called the trade ruling a major victory that protects aboriginal hunts.
But critics of the decision, including Inuit hunters, said the European ban and others like it all but wipe out major international markets. They also warned of a dangerous precedent that could be used against other commercial animal products such as beef, pork and poultry.
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said proponents of the seal industry are fighting a losing battle.
"It's a slaughter for a luxury product that people no longer require," Fink said on Sunday from Geneva, where she will attend the hearing as an observer. "Two hundred years ago, we had a reason to kill seals. It was for their blubber that was used to light lamps and to heat buildings.
"That need no longer exists and we're trying to keep an industry alive that really isn't necessary in the 21st century."
The federal Fisheries Department has said that as of this year, all licence holders taking part in the commercial hunt must complete training on its accepted three-step kill process.
It involves first shooting or striking the animal on the head with a hakapik or club, then ensuring the seal is dead before cutting major arteries and bleeding it for at least a minute before skinning it.
The commercial seal hunt off Newfoundland last spring landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before, but far short of the federal quota of 400,000. About 900,000 seals are hunted around the world each year, according to the European Commission.
Canada, Norway, Greenland and Namibia all have commercial seal hunts. Countries with bans on imported seal products include the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan.
© Copyright 2014
By Joan Reddy
March 13, 2014
Canadian conservative MP for West Nova, CPC, Greg Kerr recently proposed Private Member’s Bill C-555, which seeks to modify the minimum distance that unauthorized persons or unlicensed observers must keep from those slaughtering seals. Bill C-555 will change the safety distance from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile (900m to 1.85km).
Kerr claims the bill will protect both the hunters and observers, and help the seal harvesters perform their job without “fear of disruption.” He said that “[s]ealers put their lives on the line each time they step on the ice. I presented Bill C-555 in order to put in place better protections for all those involved in the seal hunt.”
Animal activists who oppose the bill say that this is an attempt by the Canadian government to suppress those who advocate against the annual seal hunt. This is a “nuisance bill,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada. “We are there to document and record what happens, not to obstruct [the seal hunt], and the Canadian government is well aware of that.” Aldworth says that “[i]n the 15 years that I’ve observed the commercial seal hunt at close range I have never once heard of or seen a sealer threatened by an observer in any way, shape, or form. But I have seen countless instances where sealers have attacked observers.”
Director of Wildlife Campaigns in Canada, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Sheryl Fink says that “Bill C-555 is yet another way for Canadian politicians to claim they are supporting sealers…while doing absolutely nothing of consequence. At best, it is unnecessary legislation and a waste of government resources. It would not affect licensed observers, including those from IFAW.”
According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the “Canadian commercial seal ‘hunt’ is the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Canada intends to kill over 325,000 seals this spring with an additional 10,000 harp seal quota for an aboriginal allowance.”
“The Canadian government looks for as many avenues as possible to profit from their annual, government-subsidized slaughter. Currently, Canada exports the following products: sealskins (furskins/pelts and leather), seal oil and seal meat. Unfortunately, due to a revised fashion trend, the demand for seal pelts has sky-rocketed, especially in Europe,” said Sea Shepherd.
Similar to the “ag-gag” laws that are gaining momentum in the United States, where it is now illegal for journalists and undercover investigators to photograph, or to obtain video footage of the inside of slaughterhouses, the Canadian government is trying to hide the unnecessary and barbaric practices of the seal hunt, from being exposed to the world.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Minister Terry French stressed the new agreement signed with South Korea will strengthen the fishing industry in the province. (Foto: Stock File)
Newfoundland and Labrador will gain tariff-free access to markets in South Korea with the signing of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The agreement will increase trade for fish and seafood products, as well as create new opportunities for the industrial goods and ocean technology sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The trade agreement will place Newfoundland and Labrador companies on a level playing field with other key competitors who enjoy preferential access to the South Korean market, and opens market access by removing non-tariff barriers that hinder trade. This is a positive agreement for Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are pleased with the agreement the Federal Government has negotiated, which strengthens the environment for business growth in our province,” said Terry French, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development
The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement is Canada’s first free trade agreement with Asia. The trade agreement covers trade in goods and services, investment, non-tariff barriers, and other areas of economic activity. Benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador include: duty free access for fish and seafood including molluscs, crab, shrimp and lobster; duty-free access for industrial goods, including maritime radar apparatus and industrial machinery; enhanced market access for many agricultural and agri-food products, including seal meats and food preparations; improved access for professional services; and predictable, non-discriminatory rules for Canadian investors.
The trade agreement will diversify export markets for the fishing industry by eliminating prohibitive tariffs on fish and seafood entering Korea. The Provincial Government has reserved its right to enforce minimum processing requirements for fish and seafood destined for the Korean market.
“Achieving tariff-free access to the Korean seafood market should strengthen the provincial fishing, aquaculture, and sealing sectors in the coming years by creating even more international demand for Newfoundland and Labrador’s world class products," said Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
"It has been important in the past to enforce the province’s minimum processing requirements for Asian markets, and I am pleased to note that our minimum processing requirements will be maintained within the terms of this exciting new trade agreement,” he continued.
By: Lucy Hobson
March 12th, 2014 1:20pm EDT
Rhys Ifans. Photo by David Gabber. PR Photos
Rhys Ifans has spoken out on the slaughter of seals for their fur, calling it "inhumane."
The 'Amazing Spider Man' actor branded the killing of the marine mammals for their skins as "an off-season cash grab" for the Canadian fishing industry in a letter urging the Appellate Body of World Trade Organisation (WTO) to maintain the organisation's decision to uphold the European Union's ban against the practice ahead of their meeting in Geneva on March 17.
An extract from a signed letter written by Rhys on behalf of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) reads: "EU nations have made it clear that they want no part in the seal slaughter, which is merely an off-season cash grab for the Canadian fishing industry and accounts for less than 1 per cent of Newfoundland's economy. Since Canada is challenging the EU ban merely for political reasons back home, I hope the Appellate Body will uphold it."
The letter comes just two weeks before Canada's annual seal hunt, a practice dating back centuries which sees seals slaughtered, officially in a bid to prevent fisheries damages, however young seals are coveted for their fur.
The EU, Mexico, Taiwan and the US have now banned seal fur imports, as have Russia , who were responsible for importing 95 percent of Canada's seal fur.
The Canadian government have been arguing against the EU ban to revive the trade but officials are being forced to examine whether the practices should be put to rest.
Posted: Mar 05, 2014 10:39 AM NT
A new anti-seal hunt app for iPhone and iPad users has the Canadian Sealers Association describing it as being based on lies..
Executive Director Frank Pinhorn believes the anti-sealing app is targeting a younger generation. (CBC)
The creators of 'Seals Hero' say the game is meant to be a fun way to educate people about what it calls a serious issue: "Each year, hunters bludgeon to death hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals."
The Canadian Sealers Association executive director Frank Pinhorn said the whole premise is based on lies and deceit.
"We all know the harvesting of white coats occurred pre-1985 — this is 2014. We're talking 29 years ago that the white coats were banned from being harvested," Pinhorn said.
Pinhorn believes the creators are aiming at a younger generation as the latest way to raise money for anti-sealing campaigns.
"Well, it's sad that it appears to be targeting younger generations, and it's full of lies and deceit. And they're using the younger generation to generate funds for their own selfish reasons. Which is what they always do."
The game, launched on Monday, was created by Maiko Enterprises. On the app website, people are asked to support PETA and other activist groups.
In December, actor Pamela Anderson and Sam Simon, a co-creator of the The Simpsons, delivered an oversized cheque for $1 million to the sealers association's office in St. John's to end the seal hunt.
By Sue Bailey
The Canadian Press
02/25/2014 11:15 am EST
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador is funding an awareness campaign aimed at seal industry "misconceptions" ahead of a World Trade Organization appeal — support animal rights groups say is a misuse of public funds.
Newfoundland and Labrador will help fund an awareness campaign that it says is aimed at combatting misconceptions around the seal industry. (CP)
Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings said Tuesday the province will give $60,000 to the Seals and Sealing Network, an industry group that's leading the campaign.
He said it's part of ongoing efforts to support the commercial hunt as hearings for Canada's appeal of a WTO ruling are set for March 17-19 in Geneva.
A WTO dispute settlement panel in November upheld the European Union's ban on imported seal products. Its decision in part cited "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.
"We want to be out in front again during that period to communicate as we've done in the past that it is a humane hunt," Hutchings said in an interview. "It's an industry, we believe, that can grow.
"It has been part of our culture and certainly our economic well-being for years."
Animal rights advocates say the commercial hunt is a needless slaughter, and called the trade ruling a major victory that protects aboriginal hunts.
Critics of the decision, including Inuit hunters, said the European ban and others like it all but wipe out major international markets. They also warned of a dangerous precedent that could be used against other commercial animal products such as beef, pork and poultry.
Both the province and Ottawa have vigorously defended the seal hunt as sustainable and well regulated.
Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International-Canada, has observed commercial seal hunts off Newfoundland, Labrador and Quebec for the last 15 years. She said she has witnessed wounded seals left to suffer, adding that the industry makes unsupported claims that the hunt is safe.
"The only misinformation that I tend to see in the seal campaign comes from the commercial sealing industry and the government representatives that defend it," she said from Montreal.
"It's particularly frustrating to see tax dollars poured into this industry over and over and over again despite the clear indications that it is an industry that is dead."
She questioned the extent to which commercial hunts over vast areas of open ocean are truly regulated and whether they're sustainable.
"It's impossible for any entity to keep this hunt under close supervision, which is just one of the many reasons why the European Union has chosen to ban trade in seal products."
And while the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list assessing species at risk now considers threats to harp seals to be of "least concern" it also warns that climate change poses a serious future threat. It recommends the species be reassessed within a decade.
Glen Doucet of the Seals and Sealing Network said Canada's hunt is the most professional in the world.
"Our sealers are trained and have to pass a certification process," he said from Ottawa. "We have observers on board that supervise the hunt to ensure we're meeting those standards" set in consultation with veterinarians, he added.
The federal Fisheries Department has said that as of this year all licence holders taking part in the commercial hunt must complete training on its accepted three-step kill process. It involves first shooting or striking the animal on the head with a hakapik or club, then ensuring the seal is dead before cutting major arteries and bleeding it for at least a minute before skinning it.
Hutchings said there are now an estimated eight million seals in the region, taking an uncertain toll on cod and other fish stocks.
"Just looking at one species like the animal welfare groups do, I'd certainly welcome a look at the whole ecosystem and how they can support us in supporting that ecosystem."
The commercial hunt off Newfoundland last spring landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before but far short of the federal quota of 400,000.
Monday, February 17, 2014
THE CANADIAN PRESS
A female grey seal moves over thin ice near the shore in Canso, N.S. on Jan. 20, 2005. Photo: Andrew Vaughan, Canadian Press
VANCOUVER -- Researchers at the University of British Columbia say they have identified the parasite that killed hundreds of seals off Cape Breton in 2012.
Michael Grigg, a molecular parasitologist and adjunct professor at the school, says a new strain of sarcocystis is responsible for the deaths of 406 grey seals on Hay Island in February 2012.
In a release on the university's website, Grigg says the strain of parasite is not harmful to humans but has killed an endangered Steller sea lion, seals, walruses, and polar and grizzly bears.
Scientists had previously thought a parasite was responsible for the grey seal deaths, but had not identified it.
Grigg and his colleagues presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last week, saying that the disappearance of ice is exposing various mammals to new pathogens.
They also say they found for the first time an infectious form of a cat parasite in western Arctic belugas that can cause blindness and fetal abortions in people.
January 27, 2014 11:34am
Norway and Canada have appealed a ruling by the WTO that backs a European Union ban on the import and sale of seal products, the Geneva-based body announced Monday.
In a statement, the World Trade Organization said Oslo and Ottawa filed their appeals on Friday. In general, WTO appeal rulings are issued within three months.
In November, the WTO disputes settlement body ruled that while there was merit in Norway and Canada's complaints over the 2010 EU ban, that was outweighed by the goal of addressing moral concerns about seal welfare.
Brussels argues that the EU public overwhelmingly favours the ban, and that scientific evidence back claims that slaughter methods, such as using a club with a metal spike on it to stun seals before killing them, are cruel.
Norway and Canada have deployed counter-arguments from scientists, insisting that their seal-hunting methods are humane and no worse than those used in commercial deer-hunting, widespread in the EU.
They both kill tens of thousands of seals per year, and say hunting is an age-old method allowing Atlantic fishing communities to earn an income, as well as to manage fish stocks and thereby the environment.
They also say the ban is trade discrimination because seal products from EU members Sweden and Finland enjoy unimpeded market access within the 28-nation bloc. The EU rejects that argument.
Canada's indigenous Inuits, who have traditionally hunted seal for centuries, are exempt from the ban but say it has ruined the market for their seal products too.
In addition, the ban's adversaries warn that the moral grounds defence justifying it could be applied to a host of other products, thus upsetting trade flows.
The WTO polices global trade accords in an effort to offer its 159 member economies a level playing field.
Disputes at the WTO are often extremely technical and can last for several years amid appeals and assessments of compliance with its rulings.
The WTO's disputes settlement body, made up of independent trade and legal experts, has the power to authorise retaliatory trade measures against a country found at fault and which fails to fall into line.
Grey seal rescued by RSPCA in Bacton, England
January 14, 2014
A seal rescued by the RSPCA after fishing netting got caught around her neck, was successfully released back into the sea on Friday after treatment at East Winch Wildlife Centre.
The female adult grey seal, named Queen Size by staff, was found on a beach in Bacton in October in an extremely emaciated, dehydrated and weak state. The netting had dug so deeply into her flesh that two complete rings had been forged around her neck.
Centre manager Alison Charles said: “We had to borrow a horse box to transport her. It was a bit tricky at times but all went well in the end and it was so lovely to see her swimming away in the sea again – where she belongs.”
January 10, 2014
SAVE OUR SEAL: An online petition has been set up to stop Keith the seal being captured.
KEITH – Worcestershire's very own seal – is facing a very uncertain future at the beginning of 2014.
The grey seal, who is actually a female, was first spotted in the river Severn in November 2012 and has since become something of a local celebrity with various sightings in Upton and Worcester.
But her presence in the river has upset local anglers, who say she is eating all the fish.
Last year, the Angling Trust applied to Natural England for a licence to capture Keith and return her to the sea, although they failed to catch her. That licence expired on New Year’s Eve, but January 1 signalled the start of the open season, meaning that from now until August 31, it is not necessary to have a licence to capture or even kill seals in accordance with the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.
Yesterday the Angling Trust was not available to comment on its plans.
Campaigners Lisa Ventura and Dave Grubb have started an online petition to save the seal. It was launched on the seal’s Facebook and Twitter pages on Sunday, December 29, and has been shared across the country, attracting 850 signatures, and growing, from people in Wor- cestershire, Herefordshire and the rest of the UK, as well as people from the USA, Germany and France.
Mrs Ventura said: “The petition is to be sent to the Angling Trust, Natural England and to send a message to other anglers who want her moved to leave her be where she is in the Severn.
That’s what I’m hoping to achieve – for her to live in peace in the Severn where she has been for over a year and where she seems happy.
“I can’t see how one seal can have that much of an impact on a massive river full of fish. I believe she should be left alone – she has been in the Severn for more than a year now so she must like it in there, and if she wants to return to the sea where she came from, she will do so when she is good and ready.”
A previous petition calling for her not to be shot last year, received 4,555 signatures.
The new petition can be found by visiting gopetition.com/petitions/leave-keith-theseal- in-the-river-severn. html.
For for more information from the Angling Trust, visit anglingtrust.net.
Bill Power, business reporter
January 8, 2014
A North Atlantic right whale mother is seen in the Bay of Fundy. A U.S. environmental group says Canadian fishing practices are putting whales at risk, which local industry officials deny. (Jessica Taylor / New England Aquarium)
Lobster and crab fisheries on Canada’s East Coast are unfairly maligned in an American report condemning them for endangering the North Atlantic right whale, some industry observers in Halifax said Wednesday.
“A call for a boycott of Canadian seafood is misplaced and would be ineffective if ever implemented,” said Robert Rangeley, a marine expert for the Atlantic region with World Wildlife Federation Canada.
The Los Angeles advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council has called for an American boycott of Canadian seafood producers who ignore United States regulations aimed at protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Lobster and crab fisheries on the East Coast threaten to push the species to near extinction due to negligent fishing methods and regulations, the council said Tuesday at a news conference.
It was part of a council call for boycotts of a range of seafood products that threaten endangered marine mammals around the world.
Rangeley said targeting the East Coast lobster and crab fisheries is a misguided move because there are so many other factors affecting the right whale’s plight.
“The lobster fishery is making huge strides to protect the right whale in Eastern Canada. And the crab fishery poses a negligible threat to critical habitats of the species, so it is a bit of mystery why it is included.”
He said the World Wildlife Federation has monitored the endangered right whale for many years, and wants Fisheries and Oceans Canada to introduce new management policies for the lobster fishery to reduce the impact on the right whale.
“The issue is rope in the water, and this comes from other fisheries besides the lobster fishery. There are also concerns about ships striking the whales, and in this regard, we’ve seen protective measures introduced in recent years.”
Geoff Irvine, with the Lobster Council of Canada, said the defence council’s criticism of the East Coast lobster and crab fisheries is confusing because Canada has policies in place to protect the right whale that compare and exceed U.S. ones.
“We have all kinds of measures in place to avoid right whale contact, and this includes regular aerial surveys to track right whale movements.”
The council said the unintentional capture of animals in fishing gear, or bycatch, was pushing some marine mammal populations to the brink of extinction.
“Until the U.S. enforces the law, which requires importing countries to prove they are meeting American standards, consumers can play a role in protecting whales, dolphins and sea lions by choosing American-caught seafood,” the defence council said in a news release.
January 6, 2014
ute, but fishermen see this bundle of fur as a razor-toothed menace (Photo: Flickr / mikebaird)
They may be cute, but the seal populations have now grown to such numbers that a majority of politicians want to regulate their population.
Fishermen have complained that the booming number of grey and spotted seals threaten their livelihoods by competing for the already limited fish stocks and destroying their nets for an easy meal.
Politiken newspaper now reports that Venstre, Socialdemokraterne and Radikale support culling the adorable aquatic mammals to reduce the pressure on the fishing industry.
“We need to bring the population down to a sustainable level so there is space for both seals and fishermen,” Venstre’s fisheries spokesperson, Thomas Denielsen, told Politiken.
Lone Lonklindt, a Radikale spokesperson and the chairman of parliament’s environmental committee, argued that the seal population could be culled without having an enormous impact on biodiversity.
“We might want to ignore the problem because seals are so cute, but they are just like ladybugs – they’re cute right up until there are too many and they start to bite. We need to be more realistic about what is best for everyone, both people and nature. Nature won’t be harmed by us reaping some of its fruit,” Loklindt told Politiken.
There are thought to be around 16,000 spotted seals and 500 grey seals in waters around Denmark, a significant comeback after the grey seal was nearly hunted to extinction, and the spotted seal reduced to around 2,000 individuals in the early 20th century.
The Danish Society for Nature Conservation (DN) argues that culling the seals is not the solution, however, and would prefer developing strategies that reduce the conflict between fishermen and seals.
They point out that static nets are a particular problem as seals rip through them to eat the fish trapped on the inside.
Culling not a solution
“It is only really a problem in coastal waters,” said Bo Håkansson, a biologist working for DN. “But if you want to solve the problem of seals targeting easy food, then shooting them is not a solution. The remaining seals will quickly learn that there is easy food to be found in the nets so it’s a never-ending problem.”
DN has joined its Swedish and Finnish sister organisations to pen a letter to their respective environment ministers demanding that they work together to develop a permanent solution.
Speaking to DY Nyheder, Danish environment minister Ida Auken (SF) said that she could sympathise with fishermen who suffered damage from seals.
“But both the grey and spotted seal are internationally protected and I can’t just give permission to hunt them,” Auken said.
By Cat Ferguson
Posted: 01/04/2014 06:11:58 PM PST
Santa Cruz Sentinel
A harbor seal is seen underwater near Pacific Grove in December 2010. (Scott... ( SCS )
MOSS LANDING -- From basking sea lions to surfacing whales, no vacation to the Central Coast is complete without a sighting of a marine mammal.
But holiday snapshots are not the only pictures the charismatic ocean dwellers have to offer. Scientists are increasingly finding ocean mammals are valuable sources of information about diseases and toxins found in coastal waters.
The most recent research has focused on harbor seals, who live from birth to death just off shore.
"I view them as samplers for the environment," said Stephanie Hughes, a recent graduate of the Moss Landing Marine Labs and marine scientist who researches diseases in seals.
The seals, whose territory ranges from Alaska to Mexico, live close to humans and eat many of the same fish that people do, including sardines and salmon. They scoop up sediment full of human contaminants when they swoop to the sea floor for bottom-feeding fish.
"Seals do similar things that we do, in the same places. So if seals can get something, then people ask, 'Well, what if I swim in the bay?'" said Denise Greig, a marine scientist who studies chemical contamination in seals at Sausalito's Marine Mammal Center.
In a recent study of water from San Francisco to Monterey Bay, Greig and her colleagues found Monterey Bay seal blubber had high levels of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, while San Francisco Bay seals were full of flame retardant chemicals and other industrial toxins.
To better track the local trends, the Marine Mammal Center plans to make "disease maps" for the California coast. Scientists are using the past 10 years' worth of data about diseases in stranded seals, sea lions and whales captured by mammal labs from San Diego to Sausalito.
The center's scientists are looking at health issues, including injury, illness and toxins from human contamination of the ocean.
"The idea is to track trends and find hot spots, both where and when. Then we can address why," said Frances Gulland, the center's head veterinarian.
Gulland hopes the disease map will serve as a model for similar projects around the world -- perhaps in New England, where hundreds of harbor seals died of bird flu in 2012.
"We want to monitor so we don't reach that level of, 'Oh, jeez, we have this disaster, where did it come from?'" Hughes said. "These animals are sick, but we don't know why."
Another recent study highlighted how research on seal diseases can help protect the health of humans.
A collaboration among Moss Landing Marine Labs, the Marine Mammal Center and UC Davis tested 500 seals for Vibrio, a family of bacteria that includes cholera and food poisoning bugs. Hughes, Greig and Gulland were co-authors on the paper. They collected samples from seals from California's North and Central Coasts in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
Many seals were infected with Vibrio, some with strains that could be dangerous to humans. Depending on the type, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria can cause anything from mild food poisoning to sepsis and death -- though none of the seals had the deadly strains.
A recent report by the CDC showed regulations banning raw oysters fished from the Gulf of Mexico from April to October every year has slowed Vibrio infections in humans. The regulations even completely halted California cases of Vibrio vulnificus, the most dangerous form of the bacteria, which recently killed people in Florida.
The Vibrio study was "only four years. So it would be nice in the future to be able to have more of a sample and say, 'Is this increasing over time?'" said Sarah Peterson, a marine scientist at UC Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab. "Is there something that's changing in the environment to cause it to be more prevalent?"
Marine scientists say it will take more than one species to get a good picture of the coastal ecosystem. Another marine mammal they would like to focus on is the sea otter, which shares a similar place on the food chain as the harbor seal.
Sea otters have been dying of everything from the drug-resistant staph bacteria that are terrorizing hospitals, to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that makes it dangerous for pregnant women to change the litter box. Sea lions, who swim much farther out than seals, will eventually tell scientists about contamination in deeper water.
Researchers say as humans continue to adversely affect the seas through pollution and global-warming emissions that raise sea levels, they need all the help they can get.
"The environment is changing and we should be aware of those changes," Hughes said. "Then, if something happens, we'll have the data to know how we can mitigate it."
January 2, 2014
One of the rescued seals
The Natureland Seal Sanctuary in Skegness has ‘never been busier’ after it was inundated with record numbers of seals over Christmas in the wake of last month’s devastating tidal surge.
The record-breaking high tide which swamped parts of Lincolnshire and Norfolk in early December played havoc with grey seal populations in the two counties at the height of their breeding season.
Although the seal colony at Donna Nook in the north of Lincolnshire appeared to lose relatively small numbers of pups thanks to last ditch efforts by wardens to remove the beach fencing, the north winds that accompanied the surge battered the colonies on the more exposed Norfolk coastline.
And Natureland was almost literally left with ‘no more room at the inn’ over Christmas, after taking in a record number of rescues as the lost and malnourished seals began to wash ashore.
The sanctuary wasn’t alone in reporting a busy period over Christmas - sanctuaries at Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe were forced to send some of their rescues to Skegness.
The arrival of so many seals temporarily filled up the Skegness site’s seal hospital and also packed out the pools, leaving the popular sanctuary facing a colossal feeding bill.
Natureland’s Richard Yeadon said: “We’ve never had it so busy all in one go. It was particularly busy over the Christmas period - there was no more room at the inn and we were dreading the next call.
“We’re still nearly full but in the next week we should be able to shift more of the seals from hospital into the pool area - things might just ease up.”
“We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed that there are no more damaging tides, but if there are, and seals need help, we’ll always go out to them.”
He continued: “We deal with 30 to 40 seal rescues over the course of a year and they come in at a steady rate. But we had 14 in from December 1 onwards - and especially after the surge.
“There wasn’t a lot happening for a day or two after the surge but then all hell broke loose between the 16th and Christmas.
“We’ve got enormous fish bills as well - each seal costs us just under £2,000 to feed, go through the rehab process and release, so 14 in December up to Christmas does add to our expenses somewhat at a quiet time of the year.”
He added that most of the rescued seals were now “heading in the right direction” but some of the pups were “slow to catch on” to hand feeding and this meant an especially hectic Christmas for the staff.
“We had to get on top of some of the seals and help the fish down - all while everyone else was tucking into their turkey and gin and tonic on Christmas Day,” joked Richard.
Any financial help with the site’s food bills would be appreciated by Natureland.
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