Is the seal hunt dying?
Green party Leader Elizabeth May has so far been able to put the lie to predictions that she’d fade into virtual oblivion after the novelty of being the only member of her party in the House of Commons wore off.
She ensured the vote to extend Canada’s military mission in Libya to the end of September wasn’t unanimous, as the glaringly lone dissenter of 295 parliamentarians due to concerns about “mission creep.”
And May and her party also take a decidedly unique position — among parliamentarians — on the commercial seal hunt, and some recently released stats gave the Greens some ammunition to defend their opposition to the hunt.
DFO recently reported that 38,000 harp seals were killed during this year’s commercial hunt. That’s a lot of dead seals, but it’s only 9.5 per cent of the total allowable harvest of 400,000 animals. Poor markets and poor ice conditions are cited as reasons for the relatively small harvest.
“Instead of slashing valuable programs, it’s time to stop throwing taxpayers dollars at the commercial seal hunt,” May responded. “For less money we now spend propping up this dying industry, we could buy out sealing licences and develop sustainable economic alternatives for coastal communities, like seal watching.”
Of course, the federal government and seal hunt proponents argue that the industry isn’t dying, it’s simply in a slump due to a lack of ice and a European ban on seal products, and opening up new markets for seal products, particularly in China, will help revive it.
Animal welfare groups claim that the amount of money DFO now spends supporting and monitoring the hunt is greater than what the hunters earn. Indeed, DFO confirms that most seal hunt licence holders haven’t even been participating in the hunt.
If the relatively low harvest numbers realized this year persist, it is going to become increasingly difficult to defend subsidizing what is sounding more and more like a recreational hunt maintained for the sake of tradition.
But sealers will likely have lots of time to test their theory that the seal hunt can be made viable again. Although much of the world appears to be ganging up on them, Canada, for the most part, has their back.
All three major federal parties support some form of seal hunt. DFO continues to insist that the harp seal population is approximately nine million, jeopardizing groundfish stocks. And a significant segment of Canada’s population continues to support the seal hunt because it’s a Canadian tradition.
The combined efforts of Mother Nature and animal activists may eventually create the conditions that prove May correct in her assertion that the sealing industry is dying, if they haven’t already.
But it will likely be years before anyone with any political power has the guts to sound the death knell on the seal hunt.