Green Party Opposes Seal Hunt

harp sealThe Green Party has renewed its call for an immediate end to the Canadian commercial seal hunt, saying the hunt is impossible to justify on any basis and that successive governments have protected the hunt for far too long.

"The federal government has pulled out all the stops this year to keep the seal hunt afloat," said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. "Taxpayers' dollars have been wasted on a grand show for the European Union, complete with an expensive propaganda campaign and lobbying effort. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has even gone so far as to arrest and detain a foreign vessel. I can't recall the last time the DFO bothered to arrest a foreign ship for actually overfishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, which speaks to the DFO's priorities."

Ms. May said that the annual hunt is inherently inhumane, dangerous for workers, damaging to Canada's international reputation, produces little economic benefit to Atlantic communities and would cease to exist without massive government subsidies.

"Government propaganda and support for the seal hunt cannot be justified by economics," said Ms. May. "The seal hunt accounts for less than one percent of Newfoundland's economy, yet it is a huge drain on public coffers. For instance, the landed value of the 2007 seal kill was $12 million, but that year the federal government paid at least $3.4 million to rescue ice-locked sealers and more than twice that to compensate fishers affected by ice conditions, including those sealers. Taxpayers also foot the bill for aircraft used to locate seal nurseries and are led to the seals by Coast Guard icebreakers. Canadian tax dollars support this hunt, even though most Canadians favour ending it.

"This year, pelt prices are down, fuel costs are up and many sealers say it is not worthwhile to go to the ice floes. The European Union will bring down a ban on seal product imports this summer which will cripple the sealing industry. The clock is running out on this hunt, but the government can make the transition smoother by devising a strategy for those affected.

"The government should bite the bullet now, buy out sealing licenses and initiate negotiations with provincial and municipal governments in Atlantic Canada to find sustainable alternative livelihoods for sealers and their communities."

The Green Party is proposing a generous compensation package for sealers coupled with ecotourism and seal watching tours to develop the economies of affected communities. Ms. May noted that ecotourism is more consistent with the goal of rehabilitating the ecosystem as a whole and that other measures, such as banning drag trawling, are also critical to preserving the regional ecosystem.

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