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Articles in the Press on the Canadian Harp Seal 'Hunt', the Namibian Cape Fur Seal Massacre, and Other Organized Killing of Seals 2017

Note: we reprint articles as they are written, complete with erroneous information.

We strongly encourage opponents of the seal slaughter to respond to these articles with letters to the editors of the newspapers and magazines and also with comments on the websites after becoming informed by reading factual information on Harpseals.org and other factual websites on sealing.

We will also include some of our comments, which we often post on these websites.

 


 

Labrador hunting and fishing group condemns shooting of tame seal

Evan Careen evan.careen@tc.tc
Published on September 12, 2017
thelabradorian.ca

HAPPY VALLEY - GOOSE BAY - Whoever shot a young seal near the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association’s dock in Happy Valley-Goose Bay committed an act of cowardice, according to the association’s president.

Bearded seal - the Labradorian
A bearded seal like this one was shot recently near the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association’s dock in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. ©File Photo


Tony Chubbs, president of the LHFA, said the young seal that was found shot on their dock August 30 was a frequent visitor to the dock and very friendly.

“This seal was very much an attraction for parents and kids there. It was very much a tame seal; you could walk up close to him and take his picture. To me it’s pretty much an act of cowardice for someone to shoot a young seal that is very tame. Everybody else appreciated being able to see a live seal in nature in a very public spot.”

Chubbs said whoever shot the seal didn’t use the correct ammo and that’s how it managed to get away and drag itself onto the dock where it died, possibly hours after being shot, meaning the animal most likely suffered unnecessarily. Chubbs said that is an issue, but the bigger one is public safety since the area is very much open to anyone.

“It’s very accessible for people to walk around, a lot of people go down there birdwatching or just watching the boats go in or out,” he said. “It’s really not a place you want to be discharging any sort of a firearm.”

He said when this happened there was a large freight boat delivering salt to the community so there were a lot of truckers working around the clock on the dock, adding to the public safety concern.

“They probably hunted by opportunity and with very poor discretion. Whoever did do this, I wouldn’t call them a respectful hunter. In order to be a respectful hunter you have to respect those who don’t hunt.”

Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials removed the animal that morning and issued statement saying they are investigating the matter this as a potential violation under the Marine Mammal Regulations and/or the Fisheries Act and are unable to comment further as the investigation is ongoing.

 


 

Note: this article contains an error: It says that China is among the countries that banned imports of seal products. The country that banned imports is the Republic of China, known more commonly as Taiwan.

Seal hunt provokes fury from activists

Fram Dinshaw
Staff Reporter
thechronicalherald.ca
April 11, 2017

Grey seal Pictou Island - Chronical Herald
A grey seal along the south eastern beach on Pictou Island in 2006. (Staff)

The Humane Society International strongly condemned Canada’s annual Atlantic seal hunt as “absolutely devastating” just hours after it began Tuesday morning.

While the federal government says that strict protocols are followed when authorizing commercial seal hunts, HSI Canada says seals are dragged onto boats and clubbed to death after being impaled on metal hooks, while others die painfully after being shot.

“Most adult people can’t bear to watch it on video,” said Rebecca Aldworth, HSI Canada’s executive director.

Her organization says that Justin Trudeau’s government, by permitting commercial seal hunts to proceed, is “completely out of step with Canadian values and the international community.”

The HSI says that 40 countries including the European Union nations, the United States, Mexico, Russia, China and others have already banned trade in products from commercial seal hunts and in some cases protect their seal populations from commercial hunting.

“We’re working in more countries to secure prohibitions on the seal product trade, both ensuring that the commercial seal industry has no secondary alternative markets and to stop the global trade in commercial seal products,” Aldworth told the Chronicle Herald.

She said that the long-term solution for struggling Atlantic fishing communities is in marine ecotourism instead of seal hunts.

Aldworth cited a European Union study completed about a decade ago which indicated ecotourism could revive local economies and halt out-migration.

“Marine ecotourism was a really viable solution to these problems,” said Aldworth.

But Adam Burns of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the seal hunt “provides really important economic activity” to Atlantic Canadian coastal communities.

Burns, who serves as the DFO’s acting director of fisheries, added that seal hunters must undergo mandatory training and will face enforcement action if they break the rules by clubbing or impaling live seals.

“It’s completely contrary to the regulations,” said Burns.

DFO spokesman Vance Chow said the harvesting of “whitecoat” harp seal pups and hooded seal pups, known as bluebacks, is has been illegal in Canada since 1987.

Those seals that are taken are self-reliant, independent animals and both harp and grey seals cannot be legally hunted until they have moulted their first fur and are living independently — not usually until they are 25 days or older. Hooded seals cannot be taken until they’re two to three years old, which is when they lose their blueback fur.

“The government of Canada is committed to supporting a sustainable, humane and well-regulated seal harvest and recognizes the economic and cultural value of sealing to those Canadians who take part in this fishery, including indigenous groups, individuals and commercial harvesters,” said Chow in an email to the Chronicle Herald Tuesday.

However, Atlantic seals are also being menaced by climate change which is steadily melting their sea ice habitat.

 


 

Seal hunt reopening but only for a few vessels

March 27, 2017
thenorwester.ca

The seal hunt will reopen in Newfoundland and Labrador tomorrow morning, but not for all harvesters and fleets as the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters (FISH-NL) thought last week.

Only a small number of vessels are being issued licenses to hunt adult seals for PhocaLux International Inc., a Fleur de Lys-based sealing operation.

The limited harvest will be open until April 7.

FISH-NL is calling the decision by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) a disappointment.

“It’s acknowledged by all quarters that an unchecked seal population is having an impact on delicate stocks such as shrimp, crab and cod, so why is DFO putting any restrictions at all on reopening the hunt?” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary asked in a news release this afternoon.

“If licensed sealers want to hunt seal, let them hunt seal.”

FISH-NL called on DFO to reopen the harp and hood seal hunt to all harvesters and all fleets in the province by March 25th early last week.

The hunt was closed on March 15th to allow time for seal whelping and nursing.

The group was apparently under the impression a decision had been made to reopen the seal hunt to everyone on March 28 and issued a news release Friday applauding the move.

The federal government, however, clarified details of the reopening today.

 


 

DFO Corrects FISH-NL On Seal Fishery Reopening

March 27, 2017
vocm.com

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is clarifying information released from FISH-NL on the reopening of the seal fishery.

FISH-NL announced the reopening of the hap and hood seal hunt to all harvesters and fleets by March 28th.

DFO says it will only be a limited harvest beginning March 28th and closing April 7th. The hunt will not be open to all fleets and harvesters, rather licences will only be issued to a small number of vessels harvesting for the seal processor Phocalux.

So far nine vessels have been identified.

Phocalux processes seal oil, and DFO says the harvest is for that purpose only. The hunt is limited to just over a week to allow for the taking of between 3,000 and 4,000 male seals.

 


 

Seal hunt to reopen by early next week, according to FISH-NL

Adult harp seal -TC Media
An adult harp seal basks on sea ice about 30 kilometres northeast of Fogo Island. Photo: TC Media file photo

March 24, 2017
NorthernPen.ca

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says it has been notified that Ottawa will reopen the harp and hood seal hunt to all harvesters and fleets in the province by this coming Tuesday.

“That’s great news for sealers and our rural communities,” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary said in a news release Friday afternoon.

“We had requested a reopening on the 25th, but the 28th is close enough. I want to thank MPs Judy Foote and Scott Simms for hearing our call.”

The federal government closed the hunt on March 15 to allow time for seal whelping and nursing. Sealers want to harvest the older seals now for their meat and high fat content.

 


 

Norway's seal hunters hang up their clubs

By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter
BBC News
Tromso, Norway
February 16, 2017

Captain Bjorne Kvernmo, who first began hunting seals more than four decades ago, guides MS Havsel into the harbour of Tromso, the Norwegian city that owes its existence to his trade.

harp seals on ice - KOKO film
Seal hunting in Norway is a dying industry


But his vessel is not arriving laden with dead seals. Rather, he and his crew are in Tromso for the premiere of a documentary about Norway's last seal-hunting expedition to the dangerous ice edge off the coast of Greenland.

Sealers - One Last Hunt is an unashamed celebration of a controversial industry that a century ago numbered more than 200 ships. Their owners, captains and crews did much to shape the economy of coastal Norway, which stretches north of the Polar Circle towards Russia and the Barents Sea.

Capt Bjorne Kvemmo - KOKO film
Captain Bjorne Kvernmo of the MS Havsel


Along with many locals, the documentary's producers lament the demise of the seal-hunting industry.

"People buy meat in the store that's packed in plastic, and they don't want to see how animals are killed," says co-producer Trude Berge Ottersen. "Seal hunting is an old culture and tradition. It's been a big part of northern Norwegian culture. So for me it's better to eat seal meat than to eat chicken or produced salmon."

'Defenceless pups'

Accusations of animal cruelty have long been levelled at seal hunters in the Arctic by campaigners.

Norwegian sealers  - KOKO film
Seal hunting has been a big part of northern Norwegian culture


The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) describes the commercial hunts as "cruel and wasteful". The Humane Society refers to "defenceless pups [that] die a cruel death". Greenpeace is opposed to what it calls an "inhumane and cruel industrial hunt", while defending traditional hunting by Arctic Indigenous communities.

Images of bleeding seals purportedly clubbed to death by brutal hunters have been a persuasive feature of anti-sealing campaigns that eventually brought the Norwegian seal-hunting industry to its knees.

harp seals on ice - KOKO film
Ending government subsidies has rendered seal hunting uneconomic


And while the film also features pools of red-hot seal blood as it mixes with pristine white snow and blue ice, it paints a more nuanced picture by offering an insight into the harsh conditions endured by the Arctic hunters.

'Ethical' meat

Mr Kvernmo believes the protesters who have shaped public opinion have misunderstood the situation. "I know a lot of their information is wrong - it's not a real picture of what's going on," he says.

Gry Elisabeth Mortensen, who co-produced the documentary with Ms Ottersen, agrees.

Sealer jumping - KOKO film

"Jumpers" approach the seals after they have been shot to deliver the final blow with a club

 

Seals are no longer clubbed to death, she explains. Rather, high-powered guns with expanding bullets are used to deliver a swift death.

"I think it's perhaps the most ethical meat you can have," Ms Mortensen argues. "The seals are lying on the ice, maybe sleeping, and then they get a shot in the head, and that's it."

After the seals have been shot, dedicated "jumpers" use the hakapik hunting tool - a heavy wooden club with a hammer head and a hook. The jumpers deliver blows to the animals' heads to ensure they are dead, before hooking them and dragging them back to the boat.

Seal skin boots in Norway
Boots made from seal skin can still be bought in Tromso

 

"We are doing it in the most humane way that it could be done," Mr Kvernmo says.

Dying industry

However, the entire debate about whether Norwegian seal hunting is cruel has been rendered largely irrelevant by a 2009 European Union ban on trade in seal products. That includes skins that are made into boots and jackets, omega 3-rich oil used in food supplements, and meat that has been served in restaurants or cooked in homes across the Arctic region.

Seal-skin boots can still be bought in Tromso's shoe shops, but probably not for much longer.

"It's over," says Mr Kvernmo as he heads into the cinema for the screening of the documentary. "In Norway, there's nobody hunting anymore. The protest industry has been the winner."

Norwegian sealers - KOKO film
Sealers are now having to look for other opportunities

 

However, the withdrawal in 2015 of a 12m kroner (about £1m) Norwegian government subsidy means the practice is no longer economically viable. Subsidies had accounted for up to 80% of sealers' income.
More lucrative opportunities now await Mr Kvernmo. These days, his boat is kept afloat by fees from film crews, which help ensure seasoned seal hunters' knowledge about the Arctic lives on.

"Throughout all these years on the ice and at sea, Bjorne really has a lot of knowledge and respect for the nature and the animal life there," says Ms Ottersen.

Oil rush

Mr Kvernmo is also working for the oil and gas sector, again putting him at odds with environmentalists.
"We don't think there's any room for oil in the Arctic," Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace, told the recent Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso.

Norwegian energy giant Statoil has been exploring the Arctic for oil and gas. Bjorn Otto Sverdrup, its head of sustainability, defends its policy and says there has to be a gradual shift to renewable energy. "We cannot change that system overnight."

Greenpeace Arctic oil protest - Greenpeace
Greenpeace is one group opposing oil exploration in the Arctic

 

The Norwegian government also argues that oil and gas exploration can take place safely in the Arctic.
"We have shown that it is fully possible to combine ocean-based industries, such as fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy, and a healthy marine environment," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the Arctic Frontiers conference. "But it is crucial to set high environmental standards and ensure that these are met."

Norway is also set to announce a national ocean strategy. "Sustainable use of ocean resources is the very foundation of Norway's prosperity and well-being," Ms Solberg said.

Although the formerly lucrative seal hunt has become a thing of the past, Norway's Arctic gold rush appears to be far from over.

 


 

New money for Quebec seal hunt study draws praise, protest

UPEI researcher to study commercial potential of grey seals in Magdalen Islands

By Angelica Montgomery
CBC
Jan. 13, 2017

Grey seal - Charles Caraguel
A young grey seal appears to be napping on the ice. (Charles Caraguel)

After rejecting a scientific study that involved culling 1,200 grey seals from the Brion Island nature reserve in the Magdalen Islands, the province is helping to finance similar research nearby.

The $72,904 in funding will allow a University of Prince Edward Island researcher to study an unspecified number of grey seals harvested on Corps Mort, or Dead Man's Island, a few kilometres west of the Magdalen Islands archipelago.

Plan B gets green light

Pierre-Yves Daoust is pleased the Quebec government decided to support an alternative proposal.

"We always felt that the Ministry of Agriculture was working hard to provide us with some financial support to carry out our work, and that's what has happened," said Daoust, a wildlife veterinarian and pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI.

Daoust plans to harvest the seals to collect a variety of samples from their blubber and organs in order to analyze the animals for contaminants, heavy metals and potential pathogens.

Grey seals - Brion Island - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
The grey seal population on Brion Island, pictured here in 2015, has ballooned from 400 in 1999 to an estimated 10,000 today. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

People have more commonly hunted harp seals, but some Magdalen Islands fishermen have been advocating a grey seal hunt, arguing that their exploding numbers are depleting fish stocks.

Daoust's analysis will serve to determine if Magdalen Islanders can turn grey seals into quality commercial products.

"This is extremely important for them from an economic point of view," he said.

The original proposal to kill more than a thousand seals on Brion Island, a nature reserve just north of the Magadelen Islands archipelago, was rejected by the province in late December because of its commercial nature.

An estimated 10,000 seals live on Brion Island. Daoust said Dead Man's Island has far fewer seals, possibly no more than several hundred.

Cull opponents 'deeply disappointed'

Some opponents of the seal hunt are appalled by the decision.

Grey seal - Andrew Vaughan - Canadian Press -2005
A UPEI researcher plans to study whether grey seals can be used to make quality commercial products. This grey seal is in Canso, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"We are deeply disappointed to see this so-called study funded,"said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International – Canada, calling the study a make-work project for the commercial sealing industry.

She called the harvesting of grey seals the most cruel commercial sealing she has seen, and she said she doesn't believe an effort to create a market for them will be successful.

"Like commercial whaling, this industry is gone. It's time that our government stop using tax dollars from an unwilling public to keep this industry on artificial life support."

"There is no future in commercial sealing of grey seals or any other species of seals in Canada," she said.

with files from Julia Page and Saroja Coelh

 


 

UPEI veterinarian behind rejected seal cull proposal plans to move forward

The proposal had goals of building a seal industry, protecting Brion Island's ecosystem

By Sarah Betts
CBC News
Jan. 04, 2017

Grey seal - Charles Caraguel
UPEI's Pierre-Yves Daoust proposed the seal cull, and says he will 'try again.' (Charles Caraguel)

The wildlife pathologist who proposed the slaughtering of 1,200 grey seals on Brion Island is upset the Quebec government rejected it last month, but said he hopes to conduct the study elsewhere.

Pierre-Yves Daoust, who works at the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College, said he thinks it wasn't the proposal itself that was rejected, but the fact that the study was to take place on one of the Magdalen Islands' nature reserves.

"I think it was clear through some of our discussions with the minister of environment in Quebec that they understand the project [and], in principle, they support it," he said.

"But this project was intended to be carried out on a small island which was designated many years ago as a nature reserve and that was strictly the problem with authorizing this combination of scientific and commercial venture on a nature reserve."

Daoust also said the government was not on board with the commercialisation aspect of the project.

Pierre Yves Daoust
Pierre-Yves Daoust is a wildlife pathologist and veterinarian at UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College. (UPEI)

"We were lead to believe if they want a scientific component in this project … even a nature reserve can be open to scientific studies," he said.

"What happened in this situation is that the commercial component of this venture was a substantial part of the project and that's where the objection on the part of the Quebec ministry of environment was."

Sustainable resources

Daoust said there is a healthy population of grey seals overall in the northwestern Atlantic. He did not have exact numbers, but estimated there are approximately 400,000. Around 10,000 of those are situated in the Magdalen Islands.

The ultimate goal for the project was to team up with fisherman and sealers in the Magdalen Islands to "take advantage of this healthy population" in order for the people of the area to build an industry in sealing.

Daoust said it is a sustainable resource and he is not promoting the reduction of the herd of grey seals.

"From my perspective, all that I'm saying is this herd is healthy in terms of numbers and, therefore, yes, it's possible to harvest in a sustainable manner if it is done properly from the perspective of animals and the perspective of harvesting the carcasses in a clean manner so that the product can be consumed by humans."

Daoust said there is evidence the population of these animals is interfering with the recovery of some ground fisheries in the area. He also said they impact Brion Island's ecosystem specifically because they trample the vegetation when they come up from the shores.

Forming a new proposal

Sable Island grey seals - Sarah Medill - Univ. of Saskatchewan
Daoust said there is a healthy population of grey seals overall in the northwestern Atlantic. (Sarah Medill/University of Saskatchewan)

Because of the large population in the Brion Island area, Daoust said it would've been ideal to conduct the study there.

"A large part of the project was to investigate to what extent the people on the Magdalen Islands can build up an industry on the exploitation, the harvesting of grey seals," Daoust said.

"In order to do that, you have to have access to a reasonably large number of those animals to see if the whole logistics of the venture can function."

Daoust, who's main role is to make sure the meat that would come out of this project is safe for human consumption, said the plan now is form another proposal. This time, he is looking to conduct the same study on a smaller scale for now in an area that is open to this kind of research.

"The next step would be to do it on a smaller sale and try to collect as many animals as possible in different areas," he said.

"And [we will] try again for next year so that eventually the people in the Magdalen Islands can build up an industry based on the harvesting of grey seals."

 



Quebec nixes proposed cull of Brion Island grey seals, to dismay of local biologist

Plan was to kill 1,200 of estimated 10,000 seals on Magdalen Islands nature reserve for scientific research

CBC News
Jan. 03, 2017

Sable Island grey seals - Sarah Medill - Univ. of Saskatchewan
A plan by a UPEI veterinary researcher to cull Atlantic grey seals on the Brion Island nature reserve was nixed by the provincial government right before Christmas. The seals depicted here are on Sable Island. (Sarah Medill/University of Saskatchewan)

A biologist from the Magdalen Islands is angry the Quebec government has rejected a plan to slaughter 1,200 grey seals on Brion Island, a nature reserve in the archipelago, for scientific research.

The proposal from Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, a wildlife veterinarian and pathologist at UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI, hinged on getting the approval of Quebec's fisheries and environment ministries.

It was rejected last month.

Biologist Sébastien Cyr said the proposed cull had the unanimous support of people in the Magdalen Islands.

"All the fishermen's associations had supported the project, the environmental groups as well, the municipality's residents ... There was a consensus in the community for the project," Cyr said.

Cyr considers it essential to analyze the health of the grey seal population on Brion Island, which has ballooned from 400 in 1999 to 10,000 today. There are an estimated 600,000 grey seals living in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In addition to analyzing the carcasses of the animals, Daoust and his research team want to determine if the meat and oil are of high enough quality to be sold commercially, should the seal hunt ever be reopened.

The plan had been to then turn over the carcasses to people in the sealing industry, who could then process the sealskins, fat and meat.

Plan rejected

That plan was rejected by the government in late December, however, because of the commercial aspects of the proposal.

Grey seals on Brion Island - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Grey seals on Brion Island in 2014. The grey seal population in the area has ballooned from 400 in 1999 to 10,000 today. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Cyr finds that reasoning deplorable, calling the plan to use the seals after the research on them is done "sustainable development."

"Carcasses wouldn't be left to rot," Cyr said. "To kill for the sake of killing is useless, so we wanted to salvage the animals for the benefit of the community."

Brion Island has been an ecological reserve for close to 30 years, however, Cyr said the seal cull wouldn't threaten its status.

He's written a letter to Deputy Environment Minister Patrick Beauchesne, explaining that the seal overpopulation is damaging the motors of fishing boats and vegetation in the areas where the seals congregate with their young.

Cyr says he doesn't understand why the government refuses to manage the grey seal population the same way they manage species such as moose, to deal with an overpopulation problem.

Daoust and his research team, as well as Magdalen Islands' seal hunters, are still intent on carrying out the research and are looking for a Plan B.

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