Return-path: <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG> Received: from FLO.ORG by VMSVAX.SIMMONS.EDU (PMDF V4.3-10 #8767) id <01HOA2EBBXVK000MEE@VMSVAX.SIMMONS.EDU>; Sat, 18 Mar 1995 11:12:30 -0500 (EST) Date: Sat, 18 Mar 1995 11:22:59 -0500 (EST) From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG> Subject: Case Study: Canadian Seal Hunt To: whalenet@VMSVAX.SIMMONS.EDU Message-id: <950318112259.d784@FLO.ORG> Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT From: SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 14-MAR-1995 14:27:55.82 To: WHE_WILLIAM CC: Subj: Seal Hunting Conflict Date: Tue, 14 Mar 1995 11:17:59 PST Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET> Sender: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET> From: email@example.com Subject: Seal Hunting Conflict To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET> ----------------------------Original message---------------------------- Seal Hunting Conflict Still Rages in Canada; Government Expanding Annual Harvest By Anne Swardson Washington Post Foreign Service IN THE GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE -- The white baby seal lifts his head, looks around and yowls plaintively. Quickly, he gets what he is looking for. His dark-coated mother, poking her head from the water through a hole in the thick ice, gives him a reassuring nuzzle, just as members of her species have done for millions of years. This particular maternal gesture, however, is greeted by a thoroughly modern chorus of oohs, aahs, coos and shutter-clicks from a group of orange-suited, wide-eyed city folk, brought here by a fleet of helicopters standing just a few yards away. It's not just seals who revel in the sweet joys of whelping season. The days when Canadian pelt-hunters bashed the skulls of baby harp seals such as these are more than 10 years gone, but the war over seal hunting rages on. Each year at this time, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which almost single-handedly shut down the seal hunt here more than a decade ago, flies dignitaries and journalists out to the ice floes for a firsthand look at the soft-eyed creatures saved from the hunter's club. At the same time, the government of Canada, and some very unhappy and unemployed seal hunters, are searching for ways to revive the seal trade without alienating world opinion. They see the need as particularly great this year because fish stocks have declined so drastically -- in part, locals say, because so many seals are eating them -- that former fishermen along the impoverished Atlantic Coast need another way to make a living. This year, the Canadian government is offering a 15 cents-per-pound subsidy for seal meat in the hopes of developing a market for the stuff, and in addition to the regular professional hunt will allow amateurs to kill up to six adult seals each when the annual hunt takes place later this month. IFAW officials say the moves could lead to another round of confrontations between hunters and "seal-huggers." "The government of Canada freely admits [it is] committed to expanding the seal hunt threefold. This does not have the makings of a hunt seen favorably in world opinion," said Thomas P. Moliterno, North American animal welfare coordinator for IFAW. The now-defunct hunt for the whitecoats, as harp seal cubs are known before they shed their baby fur during weaning, may have been the biggest international public-relations disaster Canada has seen. For hundreds of years, men had been killing seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, the two spots in North America where harp seals give birth on the ice after migrating south from Arctic waters each year. The Inuit, or Eskimo, used seals for food and leather. Explorers after them killed seals for oil used, like whale oil, in lamps. Then came the pelt hunt, in which hunters killed the whitecoats with hooked clubs. Hunters preferred the clubs because neither the seals nor neighboring hunters could get unnecessary holes in their hides. But the clubs looked even more brutal than guns, and in the 1970s animal-welfare groups, equipped with helicopters and cameras, began bringing in foreign politicians and journalists to record the annual spring hunt. Western civilization could not bear to see televised images of baby-seal corpses bleeding onto the white snow in front of their mothers. In 1983, the European Community banned the import of pup-seal pelts; imports of seal products had been prohibited by the United States since 1972. In 1987, Canada itself banned the killing of whitecoats under an IFAW threat of further action, including an international boycott of all Canadian fish products. Since then, Canadian seal hunters have been able to find a market for only 50,000 or so adult seals each year, less than one-fifth of the government quota they are allowed to kill. Many hunters are also financially suffering because of the loss of their summer occupation. Sharp declines in the numbers of cod, a staple fish for hundreds of years, have virtually ended commercial fishing off Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and other Atlantic provinces. The cod fishing grounds have been closed by the Canadian government in hopes stock will recover. Although the cod was mainly done in by overfishing, it doesn't make hunters feel any better that two components of seal diet are cod and the cod's favorite food-fish, the capelin. There is disagreement about how much cod is eaten by harp seals, but seal hunters and seal experts say harp seals are consuming at least some of the very fish that the government does not allow fishermen to catch, slowing the cod's revival. "We are to blame too. No one is clear on the fish. But seals harm the effort the government is making to build cod stocks up," said Ghislain Cyr, a seal hunter from the Madeleine Islands in the middle of the gulf. About 10 years ago, angry hunters on the Madeleines overturned and damaged an IFAW helicopter, and relations have not improved much since then. "They make a lot of money off the whitecoats" in fund-raising, Cyr said of IFAW. He also accused organization officials of hiding large increases in the seal population by not escorting guests to the most heavily populated areas. Whether harp seal numbers have risen is disputed, but the government says they have. Jean-Eudes Hache, senior adviser for fisheries management for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans said that from 1985 to 1990 the population of harp seals climbed from 2 million to 3.1 million. More recent figures will be released later this spring. Canada hopes that its subsidy program will encourage the hunt and thus stimulate processing companies to find new uses for seal products. To IFAW, the strategy doesn't make sense. Why try to create a market just so more seals can be killed? "If you've got a subsidy, that's a sure sign there is no market," Moliterno said. IFAW will respond to the subsidy program with a "high-profile, hard-hitting campaign," he said, declining to elaborate. The search for large markets for seal products is proceeding slowly. A company in China ordered 50,000 seal carcasses last year -- a sale IFAW said was only for seal penises, which are said to be used for aphrodisiac purposes in Asia. The companies involved denied this. Meanwhile, the world beyond Newfoundland and the Madeleine Islands has shown little interest in canned seal, seal pate, seal sausage and flipper pot pie. To the uninitiated, canned seal tastes like a gamy, liverish beef stew with fishy overtones. It smells like cat food, but one randomly selected Toronto-based cat, when offered some, declined to eat it.