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* Dead Cape fur seals litter coast

* Pam Anderson gets cold shoulder in St. Johns

* Sam Simon, Pam Anderson offer $1M to stop seal hunt

* Cape fur seals dying - Samuel's story

* Canadian gov''t' promoting seal products

* Local MHA urging fed to appeal WTO ruling

* Canada to appeal WTO ruling

* Ottawa plans to appeal WTO ruling

* WTO rules: EU seal product import ban stands

* Seal ban omitted from Canada-EU trade talks

* Chef fires back at Anthony Bourdain over boycott

* Backlash over Canadian seafood boycott

* NL gov't gives marketing subsidy to Carino

* Injured seal caught in fishing net

* Seal meat burger draws ire

* Walnut, CA couple indicted for importing seal products

* EU Court rejects Inuit appeal of seal import ban

* Help needed: rise in grey seal deaths in England

* Mainland team rush to save seal in Scilly

* Climate change causing polar bears' diet change

* Namibia: seal processing plant planned for Luderitz

* First harbor seal count in UK

* Seal industry expands despite activism

* Bardot weighs in on seal dispute in France

* Namibia expanding fish export market

* Declining sea ice strands baby harp seals

* S. Africans protest Namibia's Cape fur seal kill

* Earthrace releases Namibia sealing video

* PEI grey seal pup killers sentenced

* PEI teens to be sentenced in beating deaths of seals

* EU General Court maintains seal import ban

* EU General Court hands down judgment

* Sealing continues in spite of legal battle over EU ban

* NW chefs join boycott of Canadian seafood

* EU General Court may overturn seal import ban

* Jude Law asks WTO to uphold EU seal import ban

* Grey seals eat more cod - DFO

* Demonstrators in Halifax protest seal hunt

* WTO hearings on EU seal import ban begin

* Anderson urges WTO to uphold EU seal import ban

* Taiwan bans seal imports




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Other seal and sealing-related issues and articles

Note: we reprint articles as they are written, complete with erroneous information. We urge those who care about seals to educate themselves by perusing the various sections of our website and to respond to these articles with letters to the editor and web comments.



Dead Cape seals litter coast

December 19, 2013
New Era

WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources received numerous reports from the public regarding dead Cape seals washed ashore as well as living seals that appear to be lost or hungry along the coast.

Cape fur seal colony - New Era

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources therefore wishes to inform the public that these scenarios are natural and occur more frequent during the August to February period.

The Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) is endemic to the Southern African region (southern Angola to the west coast of South Africa). About 60 percent of the Southern African population occurs in Namibia along the coastline on twenty-six colonies, some of which are situated on islands and others on land. To date, Namibia has about 1.2 million Cape fur seals, which is the highest recorded population estimate.

The period between November and December is a breeding season for seals and during this period many pups from the previous breeding season are weaned and expected to fend for themselves. Some pups find it difficult to survive on their own in the new environment, hence they starve and die, while others get lost and end up in strange places, such as towns, instead of going back to their colonies, stated the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

“At the breeding colonies, new-born pups usually die from being abandoned by their mothers or from injuries incurred during bull fights. Furthermore, pups that are born on islands are at a high risk of drowning during high tides. Mortalities may also result from viral or bacterial infections,” the ministry said.

“Thus, it is normal to encounter dead and lost seal pups along the coastline during this time of the year. Besides natural causes of death, anthropogenic induced mortality, especially littering from fishing gear, especially nylon material, results in snares that entangle body parts (e.g. neck). As the entangled animal grows, the snare cuts through the flesh suffocating the animal leading to death (when neck entangled). Flipper entanglement disables the seal causing it to drown,” Charlie Matengu the spokesman at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources stated on Wednesday.

The ministry acknowledges and shares the concerns of the public. However, this is a natural phenomenon and very little can be done as it is extremely difficult to rear seal pups outside of their natural environment. Therefore, the ministry advises the public (as per the Marine Resources Act of 2000, section 32 (1)) not to touch or remove seals from their natural habitat.

“The ministry’s officials will continue to closely monitor the population and any abnormal mortalities observed shall be communicated to the public,” Matengu assured in the statement.

By Staff Reporter



Pamela Anderson gets cold shoulder in St. John’s over seal hunt

Canadian Press
December 17, 2013

Pam Anderson in St. Johns - Photo Paul Daly - Canadian Press 2013
Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson waits outside the Canadian Sealers Association in St. John's, N.L., Tuesday, Dec.17, 2013. They attempted to deliver a letter with a million-dollar cheque to end the annual commercial seal hunt to the association but the office remained closed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
Photograph by: Paul Daly , THE CANADIAN PRESS

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Actress Pamela Anderson and a co-creator of “The Simpsons” received a frosty reception in St. John’s, N.L., on Tuesday as they tried to present a $1 million incentive to help end the East Coast seal hunt.

Members of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, representing sealers, shouted questions at Anderson and Sam Simon during a chaotic news conference outside the office of the Canadian Sealers Association.

At one point, comic Mark Critch of “This Hour has 22 Minutes” showed up, offering Anderson $1 million to stop acting.

Simon offered a giant $1 million cheque to the Canadian Sealers Association and said his intention is to respectfully encourage governments to legislate an end to seal licences while protecting aboriginal hunts.

In a letter dated Tuesday to Eldred Woodford, president of the Canadian Sealers Association, Simon said he’s making the offer after the World Trade Organization upheld Europe’s ban on imported seal products.

A dispute settlement panel said last month that aspects of the embargo undermine fair trade but can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

“With bans firmly in place across Europe, Russia, the U.S., and other countries, the writing is on the wall,” says the letter.

“The seal trade is finished. Leaders as diverse as President Obama and Vladimir Putin embrace this change, yet Canadian politicians remain too timid to initiate a buyout for fear of upsetting swing voters in Eastern Canada — and because they don’t seem to care about individual sealers.”

The association’s office was closed and no one from the association was present.

But Earl McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, called Simon’s offer an ignorant insult based on misinformation.

Anderson is among other celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Martin Sheen who have spoken out against the seal industry.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea reaffirmed her support for Canada’s commercial hunt on Dec. 6 during a visit to a boutique in St. John’s that sells seal fur products.

She was there as Ottawa and the provincial government announced they’ll spend almost $500,000 on a joint pilot project to offer seal meat at stores in Canada and overseas in the new year.

© Copyright (c)



‘Simpsons’ creator Sam Simon, Pam Anderson offer $1M to end seal hunt

By John R. Kennedy
Global News
December 16, 2013

Sam Simon - Getty Images
Sam Simon, co-creator of 'The Simpsons,' pictured in June 2013.

TORONTO – Hollywood producer Sam Simon and Canadian actress Pamela Anderson will be in Newfoundland on Tuesday to make an offer they hope sealers can’t refuse.

Simon, one of the creators of The Simpsons, will pledge $1 million to the Canadian Sealers Association (CSA) if it can arrange a federal buyout of the East Coast seal trade.

“The Sam Simon Foundation will pay $1 million to the Canadian Sealers Association for distribution to its members as a year-end bonus on December 31, 2015,” Simon explains in a letter he will hand-deliver to CSA president Eldred Woodford.

The offer comes with several conditions. The CSA must secure, by the end of this year, bipartisan agreement to enact legislation ending the commercial seal hunt and to compensate sealers. The legislation would have to permanently dismantle the commercial seal fishery license program, including revoking existing licenses, by the end of 2015.

Simon also says the government must agree to stop fighting overseas bans on seal products and its efforts to establish new markets for Canadian seal products.

Native people can continue to hunt up to six seals each for personal use.

Pam Anderson and Seal Mascot - photo - John R. Kennedy - Global News
Pamela Anderson, pictured at an anti-seal hunt demonstration in Toronto in 2009. (John R. Kennedy / Global News)

“This money would go directly to Canadian sealers,” Simon says of his $1 million offer.

The CSA represents more than 6,000 sealers, so each would receive less than $165 of the $1 million from Simon.

Anderson, a B.C. native, has long been an animal rights activist who has called for an end to the commercial seal slaughter.

“Nothing shocks me any more than that we still have the seal hunt and awful government officials not protecting the way they should,” Anderson told Global News in 2012. “It’s really time for politicians to face the facts and end this thing for good.”

In July, 58-year-old Simon revealed that he was diagnosed in November 2012 with terminal colon cancer and vowed to spend his fortune before he dies.

Simon and Anderson plan to spend two days in St. John’s.

Neither Woodford or anyone from the CSA could be reached for comment.



Samuel the seal’s sad story

By Grant Christie on December 12, 2013 in Conservation

Mother and baby Cape fur seal - photo Grant Christie 2013

Click on all images in article to see larger images

As I approached she strained to lift herself up onto her flippers and hustled down towards the ocean. But unlike all the others she didn’t glide off into the waves. She stopped, turned and looked back. Desperately she called to her tiny pup, imploring him to follow her to the safety of the water. Blind and bewildered, he bleated back but he didn’t budge.

Dying Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie 2013

Dying Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

Dying Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

Perhaps he thought I was his mother as I knelt down beside him. But she was watching anxiously from amongst the waves. Samuel I called him. With tears rolling down my face I walked away, looking back every now and then to see if his mother had returned to his side. After a few hundred metres, overcome with emotion, I fell to my knees and wept.

Decaying Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

This little chap, mere days old, didn’t stand a chance. And there was nothing his mother could do to help. Weak and underfed herself, she couldn’t produce the milk needed to sustain him. If mom starves, baby starves.

Dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

A few days ago in Lamberts Bay, I had told Yves – a Lamberts Bay Bird Island conservationist – the story of the all the seals I’d come across on the beach. “A seal on the beach is a sick seal,” he had told me.

“I thought they were just chilling on the beach, warming up in the sun.” I’d said, revealing my naivety.

“They are. But it’s because they’re malnourished. They don’t have enough energy to keep swimming, and they don’t have enough blubber to regulate their body temperature in the cold water. There just aren’t enough fish to sustain the colonies. They’re in pain.”

Dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013


The anguish in his voice was tangible.

Dead Cape fur seal pups - photo - Grant Christie - 2013


With my heart heavier than my rucksack I picked myself up and leaned into the stiff south-wester. As the blistering wind whipped sand across my legs I trudged past corpse after rotting corpse. Each one a graphic reminder of the cruel fate awaiting the little pup. Periodically I lashed out with my trekking poles, taking my emotions out on the plastic bottles discarded by tacky human beings.

Head of dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

A sacred ibis picked at the bones. Every time I got close it would fly ahead to the next carcass. Taunting me. Reminding me. Not even the howling wind could drown out Samuel’s desperate cries, now forever etched in my mind. Ten kilometres further on a pup of Samuel’s age lay motionless. The crows had already pecked out his eyes, his dignity, his very soul. The sight brought another flood of tears.

Dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

After that I felt terrible every time I disturbed a seal. They’d use what little energy they had left to dash back into the icy water. Some of them didn’t have enough strength. They had only enough life left to open their eyes as I walked by.

Dead Cape fur seal pups - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

I counted 86 dead seals in just four kilometres before Lamberts Bay. Over the last four days between Doringbaai and Draaihoek I have walked past over 2 000 carcasses at varying degrees of decay.

Dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

*What can we do about this?

1. Be a responsible consumer: Check the SASSI list and only eat fish on the green list. (SMS the name of the fish to 079 499 8795 to check). Say goodbye to that tuna mayonaise sandwich… most tuna species are over-exploited. Don’t buy “cheap” crayfish. It was probably caught illegaly. Don’t waste food.

2. Be a responsible fisherman: Don’t exceed your quota. Don’t fish outside of permitted times. I don’t care if your papa and oupa have been doing it for decades! Report illegal fishing and poaching.

Dead Cape fur seal pup - photo - Grant Christie - 2013

About Grant Christie
Inspired by a childhood love of nature and driven by a distinct dissatisfaction with ordinary living, South African Grant Christie aims to walk from Alexander Bay on the west coast to Kozi Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, carrying all his possessions on his back. Starting in early October 2013, this seven month journey will conclude in early May 2014; covering a distance of over 3000 km on foot. Endorsed by the Wilderness Foundation South Africa, the purpose of the journey is to uncover the environmental burdens on the coastline and to raise awareness of these issues as well as for two of the Wilderness Foundation’s conservation programmes; namely the Forever Wild Shark Conservation Initiative and the Pride Project. Follow his progress on Facebook, Twitter or on his website.



Governments offers help to develop seal products in backing Atlantic industry

The Canadian Press
December 6, 2013 08:50 AM

Sealer drags seal pup - Canadia Press - Jonathan Hayward 2005
A seal hunter drags a harp seal back to his snowmobile in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in this April 2, 2005 file photo.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Almost $500,000 is being spent by the federal and Newfoundland and Labrador governments to enable the Atlantic Seal Development Association to develop a frozen seal meat product for the wholesale market and a vacuum packed product for retailers.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says Ottawa will spend $292,000 through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, while the province will contribute the remaining $206,000.

Shea made the announcement today at a boutique in St. John's, N.L., that sells seal skin coats, boots and other merchandise.

It comes after a World Trade Organization ruling last week that Europe's ban on imported seal products can be justified on public moral concerns for animal welfare.

Ottawa has defended Canada's commercial seal hunt as humane and plans to appeal the WTO decision.

Animal welfare advocates called the trade ruling a major victory that respects aboriginal sustenance hunts.

They say public tax dollars should not be used to prop up what they describe as a dying industry.

Shea said the WTO findings should be of concern to all its members and by appealing the ban Ottawa is standing behind thousands of families that rely on commercial sealing.

The pilot project for seal meat will be based in Newfoundland and Labrador.

© Copyright 2013


Local MHA urging federal government to appeal seal ban ruling

Cory Hurley
November 26, 2013
The Western Star

CORNER BROOK One of the most outspoken political supporters of the seal hunt is disappointed at what he characterized as Monday’s short-sighted decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The organization ruled that, while the European Union ban on imported seal products does undermine fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

It was being viewed as a partial victory for advocates both for and against Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Chris Mitchelmore, the independent MHA representing the Straits-White Bay North, was not in a celebratory mood following the ruling Monday.

“This is terrible news for trying to look at entering into the European market when it comes to seal products,” he said. “I don’t think the European Union is recognizing the importance seals play in Newfoundland and Labrador’s development, and even their own industrial revolution.

“I am a strong supporter of the seal hunt, and seals are harvested in Canada in a very human, environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. They are a valuable resource that are important to many rural communities.”

The report from a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel affects sealers across Atlantic Canada and Inuit communities who argue the ban discriminates against Canadian seal products. Canada and Norway challenged the union’s ban, stating it unjustly blocked products resulting from the commercial hunt.

The Canadian government argues the commercial hunts are humane and sustainable, while critics — such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare — applauded Monday’s ruling. Word out of Ottawa Monday was Canada would appeal the ruling. It has 60 days to do so.

Mitchelmore said an appeal is the right action from this country.

“I also hope other people — local people, politicians of all stripes — will come out and draft letters, speak out and be supporters of the Canadian seal hunt.

“It is something I have been an advocate for. I always have been and I always will be. We all have our work to do, and I am prepared to help out.”

The EU ban exempts seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, along with those carried out solely to manage ocean resources.

A press release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare stated the World Trade Organization concluded animal welfare is a globally recognized issue and a valuable public moral concern.

“The report from the WTO panel is a victory for seals, animal welfare and Europeans,” Sonja Van Tichelen, the organizations’s European Union regional director, stated.

“EU leaders can be proud that they have simultaneously protected seals, represented the needs of their citizens and respected EU obligations under the WTO — that is not a simple task.”



Canada to appeal WTO ruling on EU seal ban

Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, November 25, 2013 10:35AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 25, 2013 12:42PM EST

Sealer runs to seal - photo Andrew Vaughan 2009 Canadian Press
A hunter heads towards a harp seal during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine on March 25, 2009. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The federal government plans to appeal a ruling by the World Trade Organization that a European Union ban on seal products undermines international trade obligations but is justified due to “public moral concerns” over the animals’ welfare.

The ruling was hailed by animal rights’ activists but panned by advocates of Canada’s seal hunt, saying the ban contravenes trade regulations and discriminates against Inuit peoples.

On Monday, the WTO issued its ruling in the years-long dispute, saying that while the ban largely conforms to international trade rules, it does contain inconsistencies that need fixing.

For example, exceptions for aboriginal hunts are “not equally available to all Inuit or indigenous communities” and are “not designed and applied in an even-handed manner.”

But the WTO also found that the ban “fulfills the objective of addressing the EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure has been demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution” to that goal.

Canada has 60 days to file an appeal, and a statement issued by the office of International Trade Minister Ed Fast Monday morning said Canada “will appeal to the WTO Appellate Body any findings that would allow this unfair ban to continue.

“The WTO panel confirmed Canada’s long-standing position that the EU ban is discriminatory and treats Canadian seal products unfairly. However, the panel also took the view that such a ban can be justified due to some of the public’s concerns regarding seal harvesting.”

The statement went on to say that Canada “remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation and the panels’ findings should be of concern to all WTO members.”

The EU ban exempts seal products from hunts by Inuit and other aboriginal communities. Canada’s Inuit leaders also released a statement Monday to express their “disappointment” at the WTO ruling, although the statement noted that the WTO still found the exemption for aboriginal hunts is not fairly applied.

“Inuit have always maintained that the so-called Inuit exemption is an empty box. But our goal from the beginning has been to overturn the ban itself, not merely to modify the terms of the exemption,” Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said in the statement.

“The ban runs contrary to principles of fair trade, and it is truly inexplicable that the WTO did not dismiss outright the EU’s Orwellian ‘moral grounds’ justification of this outrageous trade impediment.”

Meanwhile, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) released a statement to say it is “pleased” with the WTO’s decision.

"This decision is welcomed, and it is significant in that the World Trade Organization is recognizing animal welfare as a public morals concern that can be legitimately protected through measures such as trade bans." said Sheryl Fink, director of IFAW's Seal Campaign.

“The WTO ruling should send a strong message to the Canadian government and sealing industry. Concerns over the way seals are killed in commercial hunts are found to be justified, and countries may protect their consumers from these concerns by regulating trade in seal products." Fink said.

The ruling came from a 2009 decision by the EU to ban all seal product imports, with an exception for products resulting from Inuit and aboriginal hunts. The ban came into effect in August 2010.

Canada and Norway appealed the ban to the WTO, which convened a trade dispute panel to review the ban and the challenge.

Canada’s appeal will likely be heard early next year.

Canada is among a handful of countries that has a commercial seal hunt, including Norway and Greenland. Last spring’s commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland netted about 91,000 harp seals, far fewer than the federal quota of 400,000.

With files from The Canadian Press


Ottawa plans to appeal ruling from World Trade Organization on EU seal ban

The Canadian Press
November 25, 2013

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Ottawa will appeal a World Trade Organization ruling that says aspects of Europe's ban on imported seal products undermine fair trade but can be justified on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.

While anti-sealing advocates say it's a landmark victory that upholds the European Union embargo, the WTO points out inconsistencies that it wants fixed.

A dispute settlement panel reported Monday that exceptions under the ban for aboriginal hunts and those conducted to manage seal populations and protect fish stocks are not being fairly applied. As a consequence, those exemptions "accord imported seal products treatment less favourable" than for domestic and some other foreign products.

The panel recommends that the WTO ask the EU to bring such measures in line with its international trade commitments.

However, the report also finds that the ban "fulfils the objective of addressing the EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure has been demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution" to that goal.

The decision affects hunters in Atlantic outports and Inuit communities who say the embargo discriminates against Canadian seal products.

The federal government said in a statement that it will appeal.

"Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the panel's findings should be of concern to all WTO members."

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.

Norway argued that the embargo unfairly exempts some seal products, including from some smaller-scale European hunts, but not those from its commercial hunt.

Ottawa has staunchly defended sealers, talked up the potential of other markets such as China, and deflected animal rights protests as it supported seal meat tastings for MPs and senators.

Still, the industry is a shadow of what it used to be.

The ban is hailed by animal welfare activists who say the hunt is a cruel and needless slaughter. It has also drawn Hollywood star power from the likes of actor Jude Law who want it upheld.

"This is a very important precedent that has been set which certainly supports the rights of nations around the world to ban seal product trade," Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International Canada said Monday from Montreal.

"It also is an important precedent for animal welfare in general as it applies to global trade. So this is a landmark decision."

The EU ban exempts seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, along with those carried out solely to manage ocean resources.

But Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said those uneven exceptions mean little under a ban that essentially wipes out European markets.

"It's a sustainable harvest," he said Monday. "It's not a detriment to the seal populations. And they're basing it on public morals that, really, where do you draw the line? The poultry, pork and beef industry — they're next.

"It's a very maddening, saddening decision."

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. Countries that have commercial hunts include Canada, Norway, Greenland and Namibia.

Countries with bans on imported seal products include the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan.

A European Union court last year upheld the EU embargo, saying it's valid because it fairly harmonizes the EU market while protecting the economic and social interests of Inuit communities.

© Copyright 2013



WTO backs EU in seal ban battle with Canada and Norway

November 25, 2013

Geneva (AFP) - The WTO on Monday ruled in favour of the European Union in a bitter battle with Canada and Norway over its ban on the import and sale of seal products.

Peta demo WTO 2013 - Fabrice Coffrini - AFP
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists stage a demonstration against the seal hunting in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters on February 18, 2013 in Geneva (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

The Geneva-based World Trade Organization said that while its disputes panel found merit in the countries' complaint lodged against the EU, that was outweighed by the 2010 ban that "fulfills the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent".

Canada said it would appeal the decision, while critics warned that the moral grounds defence justifying the EU ban could be widely applied to all sorts of products.

"Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the Panel's findings should be of concern to all WTO members," said a Canadian government statement.

The European Union had argued that scientific evidence backed its claims that slaughter methods, such as using a club with a metal spike on it to stun seals before killing them, were cruel.

It also underlined that the EU public was overwhelmingly in favour of the ban.

Canada and Norway 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 insist their seal-hunting methods are humane and provided counter-arguments to the WTO from scientists. They said the methods were no worse than those used in commercial deer-hunting which is widespread in the EU.

They also called the ban trade discriminatory because seal products from EU members Sweden and Finland enjoyed unimpeded market access within the bloc. The EU rejected that argument.

Canada's indigenous Inuits, who have traditionally hunted seal for centuries, are exempt from the ban. But Inuit say it has collapsed the market for their seal products too.

Canadian Inuit leader Terry Audla said the EU ban showed a "fundamental lack of understanding of Arctic peoples" and called the WTO's decision "truly inexplicable".

A seal processing plant boss in Canada's Newfoundland, Dion Dakins, said the ban threatened the livelihood of people in Canada's coastal communities.

"Where do we draw the line on right versus wrong or good versus bad when it comes to the products of living resources?" he asked.

Animal rights groups, though, say seal hunting is a barbaric ritual and have waged a robust campaign in recent years to stop it.

The Brigitte Bardot Foundation, set up by the French film star turned animal rights campaigner, hailed the ruling.

"The WTO has taken an historic decision by recognising that animal welfare is a moral public concern that can justify trade restrictions," it said in a statement.


WTO Allows EU's 'Moral' Ban on Seal Products

BERLIN November 25, 2013 (AP) The World Trade Organization has ruled that the European Union can ban the import and sale of seal products for "moral" reasons.

Canada and Norway had challenged the ban on the grounds that it was inconsistent. It grants exceptions to support indigenous Arctic communities that export limited amounts of seal products and to protect fisheries' nets and their catch.

Canada and Norway claim such exceptions discriminate against them.

A WTO panel decision published Monday found that the exceptions do flout international free trade rules. But it concluded that if the EU applies the exceptions consistently, then a ban designed to address "public moral concerns" is permitted.

Animal rights groups have long protested the mass clubbing of seals for fur and other products, saying it is inhumane.

Canada said it will appeal the WTO ruling.



Seal ban omitted from Canada-EU trade talks
Issue kept off table in trade negotiations, left to World Trade Organization process instead

By Jamie Baker
CBC News
Nov 22, 2013 5:51 AM NT

Sealer throws seal pelts - Canadian Press 2009
Members of the European Union have blocked the import of Canadian seal products since a ban was introduced in 2010. (Canadian Press)

The European Union's ban on the import of seal products was not discussed as part of the free trade negotiations between Canada and Europe, CBC News has confirmed.

A source close to the negotiations told CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast that the seal ban was considered, but it was felt that the issue was a dispute best left to be resolved under the ongoing World Trade Organization dispute process.

The European Union officially banned the import of seal products in August 2010 over disputed and controversial animal welfare concerns. Canada appealed the ban at the WTO on the grounds that the seal harvest is sustainable and humane, and that the ban violates the EU's trade obligations.

The WTO is expected to hand down its decision on that appeal in just a few days.

While it may seem the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations with Europe — which came with a substantial series of fishing industry and seafood market provisions — would have been an ideal time to resolve the matter, industry representatives say it seemed clear early on that was not going to be the case.

"When [former parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade] Gerald Keddy came down several months ago ... I raised the issues of where seals stood on the issue," Frank Pinhorn of the Canadian Sealers' Association said in an interview.

"He implied that seals were not part of this and it was going to be done afterwards."

Pinhorn said he was concerned by that view.

"I simply said — based on the history of the government dealing with the sealing industry — [that] afterwards rarely if ever comes, and it's never really dealt with."

Tough talk on seals

There had been a lot of tough talk in Ottawa about the seal product ban in recent years.

As recently as this past April, then-fisheries minister Keith Ashfield and former health minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a joint statement calling the EU ban on seal products, "a political decision that has no basis in fact or science."

They further noted that they would, "continue to defend Canadian interests in this regard on the world stage," and that, "the Canadian government will continue to send a strong message that we are serious about defending our legitimate commercial seal harvest."

In the end, it seems those hard-line words did not come to action at the CETA negotiating table.

"They were very vague about any connection with the sealing industry," Pinhorn said. "I can understand the sensitivity to the commercial fishing industry and sensitivity to markets and things like that, but the sealing industry is an integral part of rural Newfoundland and Labrador."

General Court rejection

The WTO challenge is not the only step that has been taken to address the EU seal ban.

This past April, the General Court of the EU rejected a claim from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and other groups that had wanted to overturn the ban.

ITK, the Fur Institute of Canada and sealing organizations argued that the 2010 ban was effectively preventing seal products from any source from entering the EU, even though Inuit were to be exempt from the ban.

The court rejected that assertion, saying that, "The General Court confirms that the objective of the basic regulation, which is the improvement of the conditions of functioning of the internal market, taking into account the protection of animal welfare, cannot be satisfactorily achieved by action undertaken only in the member states and requires action at EU level."



Chef Fires Back At Anthony Bourdain Over Seal Hunt Boycott

Posted: 10/31/2013 6:57 am EDT

Anthony Bourdain - photo CP
A prominent American chef is taking aim at celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, a vocal critic of a campaign to boycott Canadian seafood because of the seal hunt. (CP)

A prominent American chef is taking aim at celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, a vocal critic of a campaign to boycott Canadian seafood because of the seal hunt.

Cathal Armstrong, who runs the upscale Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., was reacting to the tweets of Bourdain, who labelled the Chefs for Seals campaign as misinformed and ignorant of facts of the seal hunt, particularly its value to Inuit communities.

Bourdain also said the campaign — which has enlisted the help of more than 40 well-known chefs — is punishing other Canadian fishermen who rely on the seal hunt for part of their income.

But Armstrong said Bourdain's criticism will not derail the campaign.

"To think of a baby seal being clubbed to death simply for its pelt and then anything else being wasted is sinful," said Armstrong, a Dublin-born chef who was one of the first to step forward to the Humane Society of the United States campaign.

Armstrong said he has no problem with exempting Inuit from the campaign.

"We're not opposed to the Inuit tribes continuing with what they do," Armstrong said in an interview. "What we are specifically opposed to is the commercial seal hunt."

Boycott will have ramifications: chef

The Humane Society of the United States has been the strongest opponent of the seal hunt over the last decade, often enlisting the help of celebrities, such as musician Paul McCartney, to persuade the public.

Armstrong said he recognized that a boycott of Canadian seafood could have ramifications.

"It's a very difficult choice to affect the life, the livelihoods of honest, hard-working, dedicated families that depend on some of the seal hunt as part of their income," he said.

"They're unfortunately affected by the fact that there are many, many irresponsible people out there that are not following the regulations, that have no care for the welfare of these animals and are only interested in the pelt."

The Association of Seafood Producers, a St. John's-based trade organization, says the impact of the boycott has been marginal at best.

Canadian seafood exports totalled $4.1 billion in 2012. The U.S. is the top market for exporters.



U.S. celebrity chefs boycotting Canadian seafood draw backlash

The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013, 11:38 AM EDT

A heated debate is raging among some of the biggest names in the food world over a boycott of Canadian seafood, a move aimed at ending the annual seal hunt.

At issue is the Chefs for Seals campaign launched by the Humane Society of the United States in 2005, which has received support from thousands of restaurants, grocery stores and celebrity chefs – including Mario Batali and Michael Symon – to boycott Canadian seafood until commercial seal-hunting is ended.

Anthony Bourdain - photo - The Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain. Photo: The Travel Channel

However, some chefs are criticizing the campaign.

“I’m all for protecting seals, but a total ban dooms the indigenous people above arctic circle to death or relocation,” tweeted Anthony Bourdain on Monday, after the HSUS announced that more than 40 of Food & Wine Magazine’s “best new chefs” have supported the campaign.

Although the boycott is not intended to target native seal-hunting for subsistence, Mr. Bourdain pointed out that “there is certainly a commercial dimension to indigenous seal hunts,” and that people should not be stopped from making a living.

Mr. Bourdain, who has visited northern Quebec and spent time with Inuit seal hunters, called the HSUS campaign “ill-considered.” (At least one of the boycott’s signatories, Danny Bowien – owner and chef of the popular Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York – seems to have reconsidered in light of Mr. Bourdain’s comments, tweeting “Oui, chef,” in response on Monday.

“I completely understand well meaning intentions of good-hearted chefs who signed this petition,” Mr. Bourdain tweeted. “But they are wrong. Visit the Inuit.”

Dave McMillan, co-owner of Joe Beef in Montreal, also criticized the boycott, saying it hurts fishermen across the country. “It’s hard work,” Mr. McMillan said in an interview. “It’s a nightmare – it’s akin to coal mining, for real. I’ve never met a very rich mussel fisherman, oyster fisherman.”

He also called the boycott hypocritical. “Americans should look no further than their chicken industry, their processed junk food, their soda drinks before they look at the Inuit hunt of seals,” he said.

“I like to listen to scientists, conservation groups, people at Indian Affairs, things like that,” he said. “But a chef from Seattle? Really?”

Frank Pinhorn, the executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association based in Newfoundland, added that the group of chefs “have absolutely no appreciation for what it means to live in a rural community and depend upon the ocean day upon day for a living.” Newfoundland and Labrador has about 11,000 licensed sealers, he said, many of whom depend on seal-hunting.

The reality, he said, is that “some of the lowest incomes in Canada are in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, all who depend on the ocean for their living.”

But the HSUS defended its ban on Tuesday. The HSUS has received the support of more than 6,500 restaurants and grocery stores since 2005, said Kathryn Kullberg, the organization’s director of wildlife protection. Other big name participants in the boycott include Cat Cora, Kerry Simon, Trader Joe’s, and Michael Voltaggio.

“We decided that this was the best tactic to put pressure on the Canadian seafood industry to end the barbaric slaughter of baby seals for their fur once and for all,” Ms. Kullberg said. “These chefs object to the slaughter of these baby seals, and they’re in a unique position to do something.” (The Canadian Sealers Association denies that seals are hunted just for their fur, saying that the animals are also used for their meat and Omega-3 oils).

Ms. Kullberg repeated that the boycott is intended to target only commercial seal hunters – not native subsistence hunters – and said that many of the fishermen affected by the boycott also hunt seals.

“They’re the same men, the same boats, it’s the same industry,” she said.

Mario Batali, co-owner of Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca and Del Posto in New York, stood by his decision to support the boycott Tuesday. “I’m holding Canada accountable for its policy,” he tweeted.

Ms. Kullberg added that some of the chefs who signed a pledge agreed only to boycott certain types of Canadian seafood. At least three signatories, Scott Conant (chef at Scarpetta Restaurants), Whole Foods, and Old Spaghetti Factory, have locations in Canada.

Margaret Wittenberg, global vice president of quality standards and public affairs at Whole Foods wrote in a statement that the company has suspended the purchase of some but not all of seafood from Canada, and only from areas where the seal hunt occurs. “We believe it would be unfair to punish fishermen in other parts of Canada who are uninvolved in the seal hunt,” she wrote.



Program provides funding for seal marketing strategy

Transcontinental Media
Published on October 26, 2013

SOUTH DILDO Carino Processing Ltd. of South Dildo will carry out an international branding and marketing strategy for its seal products with funding support through the provincial Fisheries Technology and New Opportunities Program (FTNOP).

Fisheries and Aquaculture Keith Hutchings today announced $38,700 to advance this new promotional initiative.

“This funding will help produce a variety of marketing materials that will convey important information about the humane and sustainable nature of provincial sealing activities, and the many high quality products produced,” Hutchings stated in a press release.

The new marketing campaign will feature a website and brochures that will be available in Mandarin and other languages to help the company penetrate new markets.

“Sealing represents a significant economic opportunity for many people in rural areas,” stated Calvin Peach, MHA for Bellevue.

Carino Processing Ltd. has identified sales opportunities in a number of growing foreign markets, and especially in China. Print and online promotional materials will focus on promoting seal meat, seal oil, and fur and leather products.

“Carino Processing Ltd. is most appreciative of the continued support of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, in our endeavours to further develop markets for edible (meat and oil) and non-edible (leather and fur) seal products," stated Dion Dakins, chief executive officer of Carino.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s sealing industry produces products for the fashion, pharmaceutical, and food industries.

The production value of sealing has been as high as $55 million annually, and the industry remains strong with approximately 90,000 seals harvested in 2013 — approximately 30 per cent more than was harvested in 2012.


Seal caught in fish netting

Last updated Thu 24 Oct 2013

Injured grey seal - photo RSPCA
The injured seal. Photo credit: RSPCA

A seal is being cared for by the RSPCA after being found on the Norfolk coast with fishing netting wrapped tightly around her neck.

The female adult grey seal, named Queen Size by staff because of her size, was found on a beach in Bacton, 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.

She was taken to the RSPCA’s East Winch wildlife centre in King’s Lynn where she was given pain relief, antibiotics and fluids by stomach tube, and was offered fish.

Manager at East Winch Alison Charles said:

“It took 48 hours in our intensive care unit until we were able to give her the sedation needed in order to unravel it and she’s now doing a lot better.

“The netting has left really deep infected wounds though – almost like two necklaces around her neck. It is going to take quite some time for them to heal properly.”



Restaurant’s seal-meat burger, named after Brigitte Bardot, sparks threats from animal-rights activists

Graeme Hamilton
October 16, 2013
National Post

Brigitte Bardot - Fabrice Coffrini - AFP-Getty image
Brigitte Bardot in 2005.The French film star and animal-rights activist has long been critical of the Canadian seal hunt. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images

MONTREAL — When Kim Côté and Perle Morency added a seal-meat burger to the menu of their popular bistro in Kamouraska, Que., they decided to have some fun with the name. The Phoque Bardot Burger — combining the French word for seal and the name of the actress known for her campaign against the Canadian seal hunt — became one of the restaurant’s top sellers.

But last month news of the couple’s creation made its way across the Atlantic, and animal-rights activists there failed to see the humour. A French Facebook page called “Defend the animals and protect nature” reported the burger was concocted from “the meat of massacred baby seals” and lamented that its name was disrespectful toward Brigitte Bardot.

“We are receiving a lot of hate messages, and we’re almost inclined to let them win, because we don’t feel like fighting,” Ms. Morency, co-owner of the Côté Est bistro, said in an interview Wednesday. “There is a lot of intimidation. I don’t want my restaurant to be blamed any more, for people to call and say, ‘You are crazy, you are inhumane, you are assassins.’ ”

Kim Cote - Seal burger restaurant owner - Photo - Martin Chamberland - La Presse
Kim Côté, co-owner of the Côté Est bistro. Its popular Phoque Bardot Burger is made ​​with seal meat and seaweed. Photo: Martin Chamberland, La Presse

She said the criticism is coming mostly from Europe. The restaurant briefly took down its own Facebook page after being deluged with nasty messages, including a death threat. “It is really a small minority with a lot of power,” she said of the critics. The threat, which was reported to provincial police, was, “We’re going to kill you with baseball bats like you kill baby seals.”

On the rights group’s Facebook page, commenters denounced the restaurateurs as monsters and idiots. “Ashamed to be of their race,” one woman wrote. “This woman fought for the baby seals and they dare use her name,” another said in reference to Ms. Bardot. After Côté Est closed its Facebook page, the activists took to Trip Advisor to post negative reviews.

What Ms. Morency finds most frustrating is the lack of understanding of the seal hunt among the animal-rights “extremists.” For one thing, the hunting of seal pups has been outlawed since 1987. For another, the seals are far from endangered, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reporting the east-coast population at its highest level in more than 30 years.

Brigitte Bardot - AFP-Getty image
Brigitte Bardot back in the day. 1972 to be precise. AFP/Getty Images

“The real debate is that there is a resource that is over-abundant at this time, and yet it is not accepted that this resource be exploited in a healthy, respectful way,” Ms. Morency said. “Eating seal meat is a way to participate in the solution to this over-population. The seals are going to be killed anyway, all the better if they are eaten.”

At Côté Est, that means first soaking the meat in milk, then seasoning it with a local concoction called sea pepper and topping it with a slab of foie gras, wild greens and some Saskatoon berries.

“People adore the seal burger,” Ms. Morency said. “It is one of our best sellers, and the majority of our European customers order the seal burger.”

The dish, using seal from the Magdalene Islands, fits with the restaurant’s mission of showcasing the food of eastern Quebec.

For that reason — and because customers love it — they are determined to keep it on the menu. But Ms. Morency said they are considering dropping Ms. Bardot’s name from the dish.

“We never thought the debate would go this far. In calling it the Phoque Bardot Burger, there was some provocation, but our intention was purely humourous. There was no malice,” she said.

“We know Brigitte Bardot can be provocative herself, so we played at her game a little.”

The animal-rights gang was not feeling playful, and Ms. Morency remains mystified at the hypocrisy displayed by the more virulent critics. “They can send us death threats but we’re not allowed to serve seal?” she said.

National Post



Walnut couple indicted for importing seal products

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Posted: 10/04/13, 8:37 PM PDT

A Walnut couple was indicted Thursday on eight counts of importing and selling millions of capsules of seal oil most likely originating from baby harp seals clubbed to death off the eastern coast of Canada.

Lin Liang and her husband, Denian Fu, face five years in prison and fines of more than $1 million for allegedly smuggling seal oil from China and selling it as nutritional supplements through the mail to customers in the United States, China and Vietnam, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Liang and Fu are also accused of cheating the U.S. government by underestimating the value due the Chinese supplier by 50 percent in order to reduce custom taxes, according to the indictment.

Liang, who is listed as president of UBF Group and Fu, vice president, was doing business as Nu-Health Products Co. in a two-story warehouse building located at 20875 Currier Road in Walnut.

From October 2008 to March 2010, UBF Group as Nu-Health Products sold about 3,734,800 seal oil capsules. A shipment from China of about 4,000,000 were labeled as “fish oil soft capsules,” according to the indictment handed down by the federal grand jury.

All seals are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972. The act prohibits the sale, transfer and purchases of marine mammal products other than for scientific research purposes.

Earlier this year, Canadian seal fisherman killed 90,000 harp seal pups near Prince Edward Island. Prosecutors and environmental groups suspect the seal oil allegedly sold by Nu-Health came from the annual harp seal slaughter, which is legal in Canada.

“These baby seals suffer greatly for this,” said Diana Marmorstein, CEO of Harpseals.org, a nonprofit based in Victorville working to prevent the killing of harp seals in Canada and cape fur seals in Namibia.

Seal pups in Canada are clubbed with a wooden implement known as a hakapik or shot to death from ships by fisherman or both. Sometimes, the seals don’t die immediately, Marmorstein said.

“The fishermen often miss the seals’ heads and leave them suffering for several minutes from gunshot wounds to other parts of their bodies,” she wrote in a prepared statement. “Once the fishermen reach the seals, they bludgeon them to death.”

A lengthy, undercover probe began on March 25, 2009 when investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed vials marked “seal oil” for sale on the shelves of stores in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Investigators confiscated the vials and had the oil tested. Each time, they came back positive for seal oil, according to a federal affidavit.

A bottle of “harp seal oil complex” was confiscated from the store Jian Min Health LLC, according to the affidavit used to conduct a search of Nu-Health Products in Walnut shortly after the discovery. That vial was confirmed by federal laboratories in South Carolina as harp seal oil.

Later, investigators found seal oil for sale in a shop in Chicago. It was selling for $29.99. The indictment says UBF sold the seal oil to the herbal store in San Francisco for about $6.50 a bottle.

In both cities, investigators traced the seal oil and the harp seal oil complex back to UBF Group in Walnut, through invoices and undercover sting operations, prosecutors wrote in court documents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office have also issued an arrest warrant for two employees of UBF/Nu-Health Products. The arrest warrant alleges that Bo Du, also known as Alex Du, and Jannet Shang falsified records in order to cover up the import of seal products into the United States.

Unsealed affidavits said UBF Group and Nu-Health Products often misidentified the seal oil product as fish oil, Fish-S-300 and Fish-S-500. The “S” stands for Seal. Workers at the Walnut company always told customers it was seal oil.

Investigators wrote Shang was on the premises in 2010 when they served the search warrant and she was responsible for modifying the invoices, even though she knew the product was harp seal oil.

Shang told investigators she once placed an order for “millions of pills” of seal oil from Sirio Pharma in China.

Liang and Fu are also accused of falsifying the labels of honey bee royal jelly, honey bee propolis and lamb placenta in shipping documents and on sales invoices as “aloe vera,” “gingko bilboa” and “multi-vitamins,” according to the indictment which accuses the defendants of conspiracy.

Marmorstein said studies show that seal oil, drained from baby harp seal blubber, can contain high levels of PCBs, a toxic and persistent chemical used as a coolant that can cause cancer in humans, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A better source of omega-3 or omega-7 fatty acids are algae or other non-animal-based supplements, she said.

The market for seal oil and seal pelts is shrinking, she said, since Russia recently joined the European Union in banning seal products.


EU court rejects Inuit appeal against seal fur ban

Oct 03, 2013

Europe's top court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Inuit seal hunters and fur traders against an EU ban on products derived from the Arctic animals.

"The court dismisses the appeal in its entirety," the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said in a final ruling issued after an appeal against a September 2011 decision from its general court.

Seal - photo - Gail Johnson
Photo: Gail Johnson

That court had refused at the time to hear a challenge brought by 17 organisations, including Canada's largest Inuit group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

The European Union ban, approved in 2009 under pressure from animal rights groups, includes an exemption for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and indigenous communities for subsistence.

But Canada's indigenous groups fear it will severely damage their traditional seal hunt.

The Canada-led campaign to lift the ban on the trade in seal fur and products was joined by the ITK as well as by Scottish suppliers of the sporran pouch made of seal pelt that is part of traditional Highland dress.

The ban has been highly effective in reducing the number of seals killed commercially, with 40,000 in 2011 against 354,000 in 2006.

Likewise the price of a pelt has dropped from about 90 euros ($118) to nine in the same timeframe.



Help Needed: Rise In Seal Deaths Off Northumberland Coast

By James Marley
Sept. 24, 2013

Grey seal mother and pup - tyneandwear

Fears are growing over an apparent rise in the deaths of grey seals off the Northumberland coast

The Northumberland Wildlife Trust is also asking for help from anyone who comes across a dead seal during a visit to the coast.

There is growing concern over an apparent rise in numbers of deaths, but this has not been formally monitored.

The Farxne Islands are home to the largest and most important Atlantic Grey Seal colony in the country.

The wildlife charity is working with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at University of St. Andrews, the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site (EMS) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to investigate the cause of seal deaths along the coast.

Some are shot off the Northumberland Coast, some are diseased and some are thought to die as a result of injuries caused by contact with ship propellers.

Grey seals are returning to the Northumberland coast to give birth to their pups and, after a few weeks, these pups head off to sea.

Some will turn up on beaches along the coastline as they learn to swim and feed. In circumstances such as this, their mother is usually not too far away.

As this is perfectly normal, Northumberland Wildlife Trust is therefore urging members of the public who spot any young seals basking on the region’s coastline not to panic and to simply leave them alone.

The biggest risk they face is from disturbance so owners are asked to ensure that any dogs are kept under control and away from any young seals.

Should anybody find a dead seal contact Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at the Trust on 0191 284 6884 or email him at steve.lowe@northwt.org.uk with details of the exact location and, if possible, a digital photo of the dead animal to help establish the cause of death.



Mainland Team Rush To Save Seal Pup Stranded In Scilly

By Andy Hargreaves
September 24, 2013
Scilly Today

Seal in Scilly

A team of wildlife volunteers have been involved in the rescue of a seal pup from Tresco.

Two members of British Divers Marine Life Rescue came over on the Scillonian III yesterday after they received reports that a 5 or 6 day old grey seal had been found, having lost contact with its mother in Appletree Bay on Saturday.

There were fears that, without its mother’s milk, the pup wouldn’t survive.

They had hoped to fly the animal to the mainland for transfer to the seal sanctuary at Gweek but flights were on hold because of fog.

The boat was also full of diverted air passengers and returning gig rowers.

Last night the animal was cared for by the experts with islands’ vet Heike Dorn.

David Jarvis, Director and Area Coordinator for the rescue charity in Cornwall, says they never give up on an animal and will do everything they can to save it.

He hopes that the pup will survive the crossing today on the Gry Maritha.



Climate change: Polar bears change to diet with higher contaminant loads

By Jens C. Pedersen
Sept. 19, 2013

Polar bear kills hooded seal - Rune Dietz - Aarhus Univ.
Polar bear with adult hooded seal, which make up an increasing share of their food. The hooded seal can weigh up to 300-400 kg, so it is a large prey for the approx. 500 kg heavy polar bear. Photo: Rune Dietz, Aarhus University

Over the past 30 years, polar bears have increasingly exchanged ringed seal with harp seal and hooded seal in their diet. This change exposes the polar bear to more contaminants, according to a recent international study.

Researchers expect the climate to become warmer in the future and predict that climate change will have a significant impact on the Arctic. How will a warming Arctic affect the polar bears?

The East Greenlandic population of polar bears resides in an area where the Arctic sea ice is expected to disappear very late. However, the decline in the ice sheet here occurs at a rate of almost 1% per year, one of the highest rates measured in the entire Arctic region.

How does this affect the prey of the polar bears – and, in turn, the polar bears’ intake of contaminants? An international team of researchers set out to explore this question. The team counted researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Aarhus University (Denmark) and a number of Canadian institutions including: Dalhousie University, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Carleton University and the National Water Research Institute.

The researchers studied the fatty acid profiles in the adipose tissue from a unique material of 310 polar bears hunted by East Greenland Inuits from the Scoresbysund area in the years from 1984 to 2011. The composition of fatty acids in the fat tissue of the polar bears namely reflects the profile of fatty acids in their diet.

Harp seal pup and mother - Rune Dietz - Aarhus Univ.
Harp seal with cub. Polar bears increasingly exchange ringed seal with harp seal and hooded seal in their diet and therefore become exposed to higher concentrations of contaminants. Photo: Rune Dietz, Aarhus University.

The results show that the polar bears primarily feed on three species of seals: the high Arctic ringed seal and the two sub-Arctic species harp seal and hooded seal. Moreover, the results showed that the diet of the polar bears had changed over the almost 30 years during which the samples were collected. In this period, the average relative decline in the ringed seal’s significance for the polar bears’ diet was 42%. Similarly, the intake of the sub-Arctic seals increased during the same period. Also, the researchers found that polar bears are generally in better condition now, so at a first glance the polar bears should be happy with this development.

Climate change undermines improvements

There are, however, a couple of problems that might mar the happiness, explains Professor Rune Dietz, Aarhus University:

“The problem is that the sub-Arctic seals the polar bear has switched to have a higher content of contaminants because they live closer to the industrialised world and are higher up in the food chain. Therefore, climate change undermines the improvements that you would otherwise have obtained owing to international regulations in the use of environmental use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). We can see that the content of the POPs after year 2000 decreases slower in the polar bear than in the ringed seal.”

In the long term, the polar bear may very well lose access to the sub-Arctic seals as these depend on packed ice, where they give birth to their cubs and are exposed to sunlight allowing them to form vital vitamin D.

Further information

Professor Rune Dietz, Aarhus University, Department of Bioscience and Arctic Research Centre. Tel: +45-8715 8690. Mobile: +45 21254035. Mail: rdi@dmu.dk.

Dr Robert Letcher, Carleton University, Department of Chemistry. Tel: +011 613 998 6696. Mobile: +011 613 291 3563. Mail: robert.letcher@ec.gc.ca.
Read more

Causes and consequences of long-term change in East Greenland polar bears’ diets: Investigation using quantitative fatty acid estimates and fatty acid carbon isotope patterns. McKinney, M. et al. (2013). Global Change Biology 19: 2360-2372. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12241.

Part 1: Three decades (1984-2010) of legacy contaminant trends in East Greenland polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Dietz R. et al. (2013a). Environment International 59:485-493.

Part 2: Three decades (1984-2010) of flame retardant trends in East Greenland polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Dietz R. et al. (2013b). Environment International 59: 494-500.



Namibia: Seal Processing Plant Planned for Lüderitz

By Chamwe Kaira
10 September 2013

LOCAL investors are planning to set up a N$15 million processing plant in Luderitz for seal products.

Seal harvesting in Namibia is already a controversial topic with international environmental groups calling on the government to stop the practice and calling for trade sanctions if the country does not stop harvesting seals. The groups say the practice is inhumane.

Leefa Ndilula, one of the shareholders of Uukumwe Youth Empowerment Consortium, the company behind the project, said in an interview yesterday that the company will get funding from the Development Bank of Namibia while the rest of the money will be sourced from the investor's own resources. The biggest seal processing plant is situated at Henties Bay while a smaller factory already exists at Luderitz.

Ndilula said the seals for processing will be harvested around Luderitz and will be slaughtered under "humane conditions."

"We cant please everyone. Harvesting of seals brings economic benefits to Namibia through value addition," she said.

Ndilula said the company, which is owned by seven investors, has already found markets for the products in Asia. Production is expected to start next year.

Documents spelling out the Environmental Impact Assessment show that Uukumwe is a 100 percent Namibian entity initiated by young Namibians to participate in and benefit from Namibia's fishing and marine industry through fishing rights and quota allocations.

In December 2011, Uukumwe was awarded a seven year seal harvesting right in Wolf and Atlas Bay in Luderitz. In order to fully realise the business potential of this right, the company would like to establish the seal processing facility which will enable it to process pelts, meat, blubber and other by products, the document states.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allocates a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for seals on an annual basis.

In 2012, Uukumwe received its first quota allocation of 5000 units of pups and 356 units of adult bulls.

"Value will be added to all the products derived from the seals. There are mainly four different groups of products that will be commercialised; skins, oil, meat and organs," the document said.

Enviro Dynamics has been appointed by Uukumwe Consortium to conduct an Environmental Scoping Study and EMP for the proposed seal processing facility. The harvesting process is excluded from this EIA. The plant will be built in the Nautilus Industrial Area of Luderitz.

"The processing plant will be erected to accommodate the different processes needed to produce the bulk products. Products produced are likely to stay in its primary form, but with added elements to diversify usage. Skins will be pelted then sold. Oil from the blubber can be made fit for human and animal consumption, as well as create biodiesel. The meat will be processed and placed on the local and international markets. Organ processing and market set off is still in the early planning stages," the document said.

The government has set the harvest quota for the next three years at 80 000 pups and 6 000 bulls. The government has estimated the current seal population at 1,2 million. The government says seals consume about 700 000 tonnes of fish annually, which it says is far more than the fish caught by the fishing industry.



First seal count by air, land and sea
New survey reveals seal numbers in the Thames

Thursday, 15th August 2013
Kensington and Chelsea Today

harbor seal - ZSL image
A harbor seal. ZSL.org.

An astounding 708 seals have been spotted in the Thames Estuary in the first ever count by air, land and sea, carried out by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Conservationists and volunteers jumped into boats to help tally the number of grey and harbour seals along the Thames, whilst others took to the air for a bird’s eye view of the coast, or stuck to solid ground to investigate small creeks and rivers.

ZSL’s conservation scientist Joanna Barker says: “Recently, we have seen drastic declines in numbers of harbour seals across Scotland, with populations almost disappearing in some areas. Reasons behind the decline are unclear, but other seal populations may also be vulnerable.

“This broad approach will produce the first complete count of harbour seals in the Thames and south-east coast, so that we can accurately monitor the species to better understand and protect them”, Joanna added.

The timing of the survey coincides with the annual seal moult, when harbour seals shuffle onto sandbanks to shed their coat and grow a new layer in time for colder winter months. Seals on land are easier to spot, providing the ideal opportunity to count them. ZSL’s interactive Seal Map here shows the results from this survey.

Stephen Mowat, ZSL’s Thames Projects Manager says: “The harbour seal population in south-east England is the least understood in the country. As well as the survey, we are urging members of the public to report sightings of seals and other marine mammals to us”.

It is hoped that this public appeal to report marine mammals in the Thames will allow ZSL to learn more about the threats that these charismatic species face in UK waters.

Information on seals and other marine mammals seen in the Thames can be reported here.



Seal industry expands despite activism

Adam Hartman
Aug. 8, 2013

Johannesburg protest against Namibian Cape fur seal cull
AGAINST CULLING ... A march held in protest of Namibia’s seal harvest was organised in Johannesburg last month. Photo: Contributed

DESPITE aggressive ongoing opposition from animal rights activists, Namibia’s controversial seal industry is enjoying further development. While there is a global outcry to set an end to the ‘unjustified cruel culling of seals’, emphasised by an international campaign to boycott Namibia’s tourism industry, four new concessionaires were added to participate in the annual seal harvest that usually lasts from 1 July to 15 November.
To add insult to injury, instead of stopping the cull, another three year rolling of Total Allowable Catch (for 2013 to 2015) of 86 000 seals (80 000 being pups) was recently approved.

Other developments include the expansion of the Henties Bay seal factory and the introduction of another N$7,2 million factory in Luderitz.

“We practice the responsible, internationally accepted utilisation of our marine resources,” Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau last week told The Namibian.

At the time, this newspaper unsuccessfully requested permission to go on an outing with sealers and report on ‘a day in Namibia’s seal harvest’. A similiar request in 2008 was also declined by the former minister.

Sealers to whom this newspaper spoke were reluctant to give permission, stating that this was only granted by the minister.

A Cabinet statement from the beginning of this week showed that a recent stock assessment based on aerial counts conducted in December 2011 showed about 255 000 pups and a total seal population of around 1,2 million in January 2012. Allegedly, there is also a northward shift of Cape Fur seal with the establishment of the Cape Frio colony and a breeding colony at Baia dos Tigres (southern Angola) in progress.

Considering the state of the stock at present, marine scientists recommended that the TAC be set at 86 000 seals and that potential new sites for seal harvesting be explored for further commercial exploitation.

There are currently two processing facilities in Namibia: one in Henties Bay and the other in Luderitz. One of the new right holders is in the process of setting up a factory in Luderitz on land measuring 3 363 square meters and has engaged a seal expert from Canada to assist with the project.

The government’s total investment in the seal industry in the last financial year has amounted to N$14 873 000 and is expected to increase by at least N$7,2 million due to the setting up of the new factory.

The existing factory in Henties Bay has also been expanded for value addition purposes.

Value addition is done through processing of pelts in a salted wet form at the respective factories and carried out according to the clients specifications (cutting, stapling and tanning) at Nakara Manufacturers.

Other products are dried and cooked with salt in a mixer and sold as such. These products are sold locally as well as on the international markets, mainly to China and Turkey.

Since the EU ban, new markets have been explored to sell the seal products. These are South Africa, Japan and Korea amongst others.

Irregardless of these developments, activists are still using every possible means to stop the cull. These include petitions, protests, spam mails, tweet bombs and boycotts as well as [seal] funeral marches.

Local tour operators told the Namibian that they have received copies of petitions and pledges but after informing international agents why this was happening, the matter was moved aside and business continued as usual with no real effects on tourism.

However, the Ethical Traveler (a nonprofit organisation that promotes ethical, green, responsible, eco and sustainable travel) recently stated that although Namibia is often cited as the most environmentally progressive of all African countries, this was stained by the seal harvest.

“The continued annual slaughter of fur seals is unacceptable and prevents us from including Namibia on the list [of 10 most ethical travel destinations in the world]. Ethical Traveler appeals to the Namibian government to end this massacre, which traumatises local families engaged in the slaughter and profits only a few individuals.”

Besides the ‘cruelty’ aspect, there are also concerns which involve the export component of the seal products, such as quality standard testing of certain products like oil, meat and bull testicles apparently used for eastern medicines and human consumption.

In fact, China and Namibia last year signed an animal health quarantine pact that involves the export of Namibian meat, fish and other water animal products to China. Whether these products are quality tested, as per this agreement, remains a matter of concern.



Brigitte Bardot weighs in on seal dispute

By Henry Samuel, Paris
The Telegraph, telegraph.co.uk
Aug. 4, 2013

Brigitte Bardot - AFP/Getty
Brigitte Bardot Photo: AFP/Getty

Brigitte Bardot has weighed in to a dispute between conservationists and fisherman who want to curb the thriving seal population In the Bay of the Somme, which they say is decimating the fish population.

Fishermen along the northern French coast are complaining that the number of grey and harbour seals, which returned to their shores in the mid-1980s, have multiplied so well that they pose a threat to their livelihood.

Each of the estimated 600 animals along the strip of coast consumes around 1,650lb of fish each year. As a result “the sole population has declined by 15 per cent,” according to the Collective against Seal Proliferation.

Some shrimp fisherman have even claimed they have come under attack from the marine mammals, while others say they wreak major damage to their nets.

“We’re not against seals per se,” Pierre-Georges Dachicourt, of the anti-seal proliferation group told Le Figaro. “But we are opposed to their proliferation. Animals are getting preferential treatment over humans. They’ve got to stop treating the seal as a royal species; it’s a predator and nothing more.”

His group is calling on authorities to impose quotas, either displacing surplus seals further along the coast or sending them abroad to countries like Finland. If that fails, he suggested controlled culls could take place, like those controversially sanctioned in the UK, where the seal population is far higher – around 140,000 animals.


But it received a stinging response from Miss Bardot, 78. In a letter to local newspaper, Nord Littoral, the French sex symbol-turned-animal welfare activist wrote:

“If one had to succinctly sum up human stupidity, cowardice and cruelty, the anti-seal collective would without doubt come top of the list.”

“As long as I’m alive, whether it be a miserable (anti-seal) group or a sad-case MP, nobody will lay a hand on the seals of France.”

Her foundation said that “numerous studies” have shown that “the presence of seals in a zone has no effect on the quantities of fish.”



Casting the net wide
Namibia expanding fish export market

By Felix Njini
The Southern Times
July, 29, 2013

Windhoek ‑ Namibia’s fishing industry is aiming for a sizeable share of the United States of American market as it intensifies efforts to broaden its exports markets, as opposed to solely relying on Spain as a key export destination.

Namibian fish products have started entering the US market, a pilot phase being undertaken by two companies to assess the profitability of that market.

Namibia, famed for its hake and horse mackerel, has over the years relied on Spain and the European Union, as key export destinations.

The fall in demand and prices of fish products since the global financial crisis in 2008, has resulted in concerted efforts towards diversifying the export market for fish products.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, told The Southern Times that the industry has been able to penetrate new markets.

He said that demand for hake from neighbouring South Africa has been picking up over the past few years.

“The industry is not necessarily feeling the effect of the slowdown in our key markets, the European Union and Spain particularly, as new markets have come up where there is decreasing demand in traditional markets.

“Demand for white fish (hake) from South Africa has been increasing,” Esau said.

“We have also been exploring the US market and there are two companies, still in the process of testing that market.

“Hangana Seafood has been packing fish for the US market, they started this season.

“The second company is Seawork Fish Processer, which also started exporting to the US this season,” Esau said.

“The US market is very big and we want to realise that potential. It’s a high income market and the industry will have to structure its pricing geared towards that particular market,” Esau said.

Namibia’s fishing sector is one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 13 000 workers and contributing around 4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

Harvesting for hake, popularised in key export market, the EU as white fish this season runs from May up to April 2014 while the harvesting for horse mackerel, which is only exported into the African market, runs from January up to December 2013.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources this year set the total allowable catch (TAC) for hake at 140 000 tonnes and 350 000 tonnes for horse mackerel.

Esau said that Namibia is keen to grow its African market for horse mackerel in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe as well as Nigeria and Senegal off the West African coast.

“Most of our fish has been going to the DRC but we have made decisions to grow the entire African market. We can’t put our eggs in one basket,” Esau said.

The Minister also said that Namibia started its annual harvest of seals this July; an exercise that often draws the ire of international animal rights activities, but which the government says is necessary to balance the eco-marine-system.

Seals feed upon fish, and if they are not culled annually, this might result in fish species being wiped out entirely, the government says.

Esau said that the seal harvest season has just started and 80 000 pups are going to be clubbed to death while 6 000 bulls will be shot.

The harvest of pups started this month and the season will come to an end in November 2013, Esau said.

The Minister acknowledged that Namibia is often subjected to international backlash from animal rights activists, but said the exercise is necessary to balance the marine ecosystem.

“Since we started harvesting seals, there are always groups of animal lovers who say we are not doing justice to the Cape Fur Seal by harvesting it.

“But we see this as a necessary exercise, which enables us to strike a balance within our marine ecosystem by harvesting some seals.

“If we don’t harvest the seals, this will result in an imbalance between fish and seals and eventually it will impact on the fish stocks,” Esau said.

Namibia’s seal harvest season attracts howls of criticism from international animal lobby groups whose complains centre on the manner in which seal pups are clubbed to death.

Adult seals, known as bulls, are shot at point blank range.

“There have been complaints in the manner in which we harvest the seals but we have always said if there is anybody out there who has a method that is ‘humane’ we are ready to test such a method.

“We have always appealed to those international organisations to come to us off season such that we do trials, we test the methods they think is humane,” Esau said.

He added that the reason for clubbing seal pups on the skull is ‘because that is the softest part of their body and they die quickly’.



Declining sea ice strands baby harp seals

Posted By News On July 22, 2013 - 3:00pm

Harp seal pup on thin ice - IFAW
Dwindling sea ice is leaving vulnerable baby harp seals stranded in greater numbers, according to an analysis by the Duke Marine Lab and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Photo: IFAW.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Young harp seals off the eastern coast of Canada are at much higher risk of getting stranded than adult seals because of shrinking sea ice cover caused by recent warming in the North Atlantic, according to a Duke University study.

"Stranding rates for the region's adult seals have generally not gone up as sea ice cover has declined; it's the young-of-the-year animals who are stranding (those less than one year old)," said David Johnston, a research scientist at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

"And it's not just the weakest pups -- those with low genetic diversity and presumably lower ability to adapt to environmental changes -- that are stranding," he said. "It appears genetic fitness has little effect on this."

The study, published online this week in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLoS One, is the first to gauge the relative roles that genetic, environmental and demographic factors such as age and gender may be playing in harp seal stranding rates along the U.S. and Canadian east coasts in recent years.

Harp seals rely on stable winter sea ice as safe platforms to give birth and nurse their young until the pups can swim, hunt and fend off predators for themselves. In years of extremely light ice cover, entire year-classes may be disappearing from the population, Johnston said.

The new study complements a Duke-led study published last year that found seasonal sea ice cover in all four harp seal breeding regions in the North Atlantic has declined by up to 6 percent a decade since 1979, when satellite records of ice conditions in the region began.

Dwindling sea ice is leaving vulnerable baby harp seals stranded in greater numbers, according to an analysis by the Duke Marine Lab and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

To expand upon the earlier study, Johnston and four colleagues at the Duke University Marine Lab compared images of winter ice from 1992 to 2010 in a major whelping region off Canada's east coast, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with yearly reports of dead harp seal strandings along the U.S. northeast coast that were grouped by gender and estimated age of the seal.

The analysis revealed a significant difference: In years when ice cover was reduced, stranding rates for younger seals rose sharply, even though stranding rates for adult seals remained relatively stable.

The researchers also compared DNA samples from 106 harp seals that had been stranded ashore with those from seals that had accidentally been caught by fishing boats in the region during the same period.

"We used measures of genetic diversity to determine if the dead seals that came ashore were less fit than the presumably healthy ones that had been caught by fishermen, but found no difference," said Thomas Schultz, director of Duke's Marine Conservation Molecular Facility. "The stranded animals appear to have come from a genetically diverse population, and we have no evidence to suggest that genetic fitness played a role in their deaths."

The analysis also showed that male seals stranded more frequently than females during the study period, and that this relationship was strongest during light ice years.

"Our findings demonstrate that sea ice cover and demographic factors have a greater influence on harp seal stranding rates than genetic diversity," said Brianne Soulen, who co-led the study while she was a master's degree student in marine ecology at Duke.

Kristina Cammen, a Duke Ph.D. student who also co-led the study, said the findings "provide more context for what we're seeing in high-latitude species in general. The effects of climate change are acting on younger animals; it's affecting them during the crucial first part of their life."

Source: Duke University



Protesters march against seal culling

Sunday 21 July 2013 - 3:15 PM

S. Africa protest agains Cape fur seal massacre in Namibia - enca.com
July 21 - Environmental protesters hit the streets of Johannesburg to demonstrate against Namibia’s annual seal cull, which began on Monday. It’s estimated that close to 100,000 seals are killed annually. The following visuals may upset some viewers.

JOHANNESBURG - Environmental protesters hit the streets of Johannesburg to demonstrate against Namibia’s annual seal cull, which began last Monday.

It is estimated that close to 100,000 seals are killed annually.

Each year the Namibian government approves the killing of thousands of seals, claiming it is an attempt to curb the animal’s impact on the country’s fish stocks.

But environmentalists argue that the cull is nothing more than an excuse to provide pelts to the international fur market.

"About 80,000 babies nursing seal pups are killed and the way in which they are killed has been proven scientifically to be inhumane and cruel. Nowhere else in the world are nursing seal pups killed," said Anneke Brits from Fur Free South Africa.

Tricia Davis from No More Suffering said, "Sometimes one blow does not kill or knock the seal unconscious, so it can take several blows for the seal to then be moved away to be skinned. So they are very traumatised, they try and get away and it’s very brutal."

Rights groups are calling for a complete boycott of Namibian goods, until that government calls off its annual seal cull.




Group releases video of seal killings in Namibia

Jason Straziuso
July 4, 2013 07:42 AM EST
Huffington Post

JOHANNESBURG — A conservation group has released graphic video of men clubbing seals to death in the southwest African nation of Namibia.

Earthrace Conservation said Thursday that the video, captured in 2011 by a covert filmmaker, shows dozens of seal pups being clubbed to death by men wielding pick ax handles.

An official with Namibia's Ministry of Information said he had no response to the video.

Earthrace Conservation says Namibia and Canada are the only two countries that allow seal culls. The group says Namibia argues that culls are necessary to protect its fishing industry. But the group says South Africa's ban on seal culls had no detrimental effect on its fishing industry.

Earthrace Conservation urged Namibia to halt the culls and urged people to boycott it as a vacation destination.



P.E.I. teens fined for brutal seal killings

The three teens who brutally killed 65 seals on a P.E.I. beach last January will not be going to jail.

Published Thursday, June 13, 2013 2:13PM ADT

Colton Clements
Colton Clements, 18 year old grey seal pup killer

GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. -- Three teenagers convicted of attacking dozens of seals in Prince Edward Island this past winter were sentenced today to probation.

An administrator with the Georgetown provincial court said they were all given two years probation.

During proceedings, court heard that a 15- and 17-year-old, along with 18-year-old Colton Clements, were responsible for bludgeoning 65 seals with a hockey stick, a club and a clam hack.

Many of the seals were killed while lying on the shoreline below a cliff in Beach Point in January, but some were still alive when discovered by students from the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College.

The teens, who complied with authorities during the official investigation after public tips gave them away, were charged under the federal Fisheries Act with cruelty to animals.



PEI teens to be sentenced in clubbing death of 65 seals

By Staff, The Canadian Press

June 7, 2013

Harp seal pup - photo Lee Brown - Canadian Press
A baby Harp Seal lies on a rocky beach. Englishtown, Nova Scotia. Lee Brown / The Canadian Press Images

GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. – The details of a seal clubbing attack that shocked Prince Edward Island last winter were unveiled in provincial court Thursday with three teenagers described as good kids who made a bad decision.

Court was told it was not an alcohol-fuelled attack of savage youth, but a senseless and stupid mistake made by a group of young men who were raised in a fishing village where opinion about the value of seals was less than positive.

The two youngest, a 15- and 17-year-old who can’t be named, and accomplice 18-year-old Colton Clements, were all present before Judge Nancy Orr, who was told 65 seals were bludgeoned to death by a hockey stick, a club and a clam hack.

While many were killed while lying on the shoreline below a cliff in Beach Point in January, some were still alive when discovered the following day by students from the Atlantic Vet College on an outing.

The youths, who complied with authorities during the official investigation after public tips gave them away, are charged under the federal Fisheries Act with cruelty to animals with a fine limit of up to $100,000.

The case was adjourned until next week for sentencing.

© The Canadian Press, 2013


EU court maintains seal fur ban

April 25, 2013

Protest against seal hunt in Nice by Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade - photo Valery Hache - AFP
Members of "The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade" demonstrate on May 7, 2011 in Nice (AFP/File, Valery Hache)

LUXEMBOURG — An EU court in a much-anticipated ruling Thursday upheld a 2010 ban on seal products, throwing out an appeal by fur traders including native Inuit from Canada and Greenland, and Scottish sporran-makers.

The Luxembourg-based EU General Court said EU law already protects the interests of Inuit communities which hunt seals "as an integral part of their culture and identity" by authorising the sale of seal products that "result from hunts traditionally conducted by such indigenous communities for the purpose of their subsistence".

As such, it rejected a campaign led by Canada to lift the ban on the trade in seal fur and products which was joined by the country's largest Inuit group as well as by Scottish suppliers of the sporran pouch made of seal pelt that is part of traditional Highland dress.

"The General Court dismisses the action," a statement said. "The General Court confirms the validity of the regulation on the marketing of seal products."

The ban has been highly effective in reducing the number of seals killed commercially, with 40,000 in 2011 against 354,000 in 2006. Likewise the price of a pelt has dropped from about 90 euros ($118) to nine euros in the same period.

However, the governments of Canada and Norway have mounted a separate legal challenge to the EU ban via the World Trade Organization.

The animal rights group the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) welcomed Thursday's court decision.

"The commercial seal hunt is a vestige of the 19th century. The inherent cruelty of commercially hunting seals is neither acceptable or necessary," said IFAW's Sonja Van Tichelen.

She said the next step was for the WTO to recognise the validity of the EU seal trade ban.

A second WTO hearing of the challenge by Norway and Canada to the EU seal trade regulation is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Geneva but no decision is expected in the short term.

In a joint statement, Canada's minister for the Arctic, Leona Aglukkaq, and Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield called the ban "a political decision that has no basis in fact or science," and vowed to continue fighting for "our legitimate commercial seal harvest."

Seals, they said, provide traditional sustenance for many coastal Canadians, and jobs for many families in rural areas.

Moreover they said seal populations in Canada have grown five to 70 times since the 1970s, depending on the herd, and the hunt is "well-regulated" and "humane".

"We firmly believe this ban is contrary to the EU's World Trade Organization obligations and will continue to defend Canadian interests in this regard on the world stage," Aglukkaq and Ashfield concluded.

Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved



The General Court confirms the validity of the Regulation on the marketing of seal products

The legislature has harmonised the rules to prevent disturbance of the EU market

April 25, 2013

The General Court of the European Union has issued its judgment in Case T-526/10: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Commission

Excerpts from the press release from the Court:

"EU law(1) protects the fundamental economic and social interests of Inuit communities which hunt seals as an integral part of their culture and identity. To that end it authorises the placing on the market of seal products only where those products result from hunts traditionally conducted by such indigenous communities for the purpose of their subsistence."

"The EU legislature took the view that, in the absence of action at EU level, obstacles to trade would arise. It therefore took action in order to harmonise the rules and thus prevent the disturbance of the internal market in seal products. Taking into account animal welfare considerations, it adopted measures to reduce the demand leading to the marketing of seal products and, hence, the commercial hunting of seals. Moreover, by reassuring consumers that seal products are no longer marketed in the EU (apart from those which result from hunts by Inuits for the purposes of subsistence), the legislature also eliminated obstacles to the free movement of alternative products (not derived from seals) which are impossible to distinguish from original products (derived from seals) which are similar."

"On those grounds, the General Court dismisses the action."

Read the full press release from the court here.



East Coast seal hunt continues in spite of legal battle over EU ban

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 1:18PM EDT

Sealers kill harp seal - photo Andrew Vaughan - Can. Press 2009
Hunters kill a harp seal during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine in this 2009 file photo. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

HALIFAX -- A ruling Thursday from a European court is expected to reignite an international debate over Canada's annual East Coast seal hunt, which started with little notice earlier this month off the north coast of Newfoundland.

A group led by the Canadian Fur Institute has asked the Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union to strike down a three-year-old EU ban on seal products.

The ban has dealt a serious blow to Canada's centuries-old commercial sealing industry, which landed only 38,000 harp seals in 2011, less than 10 per cent of the total allowable catch.

But the ban didn't kill the hunt.

Even though it was followed by Russia's 2011 decision to prohibit imports of harp seal pelts -- eliminating Canada's largest market -- the hunt has actually rebounded, taking more than 70,000 seals last year.

The revival came after a $2-million provincial loan to Carino Processing Ltd. of South Dildo, N.L., the world's largest seal processing company. The province has offered another $3 million this year, though Carino has not said who is buying its pelts and seal oil.

The federal Fisheries Department says 844 hunters have taken more than 76,000 seals so far this season, 98 per cent of them off Newfoundland.

Still, the hunt is a shadow of what it once was. Between 2004 and 2006, hunters killed more than 300,000 seals every year.

In an unusual move, the federal government has allowed this year's hunt to go ahead without setting the annual total allowable catch limit, which has been set at 400,000 since 2011.

"It's reprehensible," said Rebecca Aldworth, Canadian director of Humane Society International. "The public has a right to know how the Canadian government is managing any animal species."

The Fisheries Department declined a request for an interview earlier this week and Newfoundland's fisheries minister, Derrick Dalley, was unavailable for comment.

The head of the fur institute, Rob Cahill, said even if his group succeeds in having the EU ban overturned, the EU is expected to launch an appeal that would keep the ban in place until the appeal is heard. That could take years to settle.

"However, the precedent will be a strong legal one," Cahill said in an email. "Remember that the EU was never the largest market for seal products, but their policy position is globally influential ... Long and complicated process and battle for sure."

Aldworth said the sealing industry could hardly claim a victory if the ban is struck down.

"The European market has been removed for several years and any overturning of that ban would not simply re-establish a market," she said in an interview from Montreal.

"There are few places left on this planet for the sealing industry to sell its products."

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is moving ahead with its own bid to challenge the ban through the World Trade Organization. Hearings are slated for next week and a decision is expected later this year.

Aldworth, a Newfoundlander who has observed the hunt for 15 years, said her group would like to see the industry mothballed and all seal hunters offered compensation.

Animal welfare groups have long argued the hunt has left a stain on Canada's reputation because they believe the slaughter is inhumane and unsustainable.

Aldworth said her group recently returned from the floes off northern Newfoundland, where film crews recorded the usual gruesome scenes.

"(We saw) seals that were shot in the face but still crawling around on the ice in their own blood and had to be shot multiple times to render them unconscious," she said. "It's very much the kind of killing that we film every year."

Though Canada's sealing industry represents a tiny fraction of the East Coast's fishing industry, the annual hunt has loomed large on the region's political landscape since the 1700s.

Last year, the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature adopted a resolution that stated: "The seal hunt has been a staple of our history for as long as the codfish. These industries are the cornerstones of our predominant maritime economy."

Virtually all of the country's 11,000 registered seal hunters live in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government has maintained its support of the slaughter, saying the hunt offers crucial economic support for isolated communities and is carried out using humane practices.

The Fisheries Department says the harvest provides direct employment for over 6,000 people on a part-time basis, though the numbers regarding the economic impact vary widely.


NW chefs join boycott of Canadian seafood in protest of seal hunt

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 4:04 PM

HSUS animation

Chef Holly Smith of Café Juanita in Kirkland is one of dozens of local chefs that have joined “Chefs for Seals,” part of the Humane Society of the United States’ Protect Seals Campaign.

Thousands of restaurants and grocery stores across the U.S. are boycotting some or all Canadian seafood, promising not to purchase seafood from Canada until the annual seal hunt is stopped.

“I don’t like to get in the way of peoples’ choices very often, but this isn’t a matter of Inuit people eating seals. This is a matter of the government subsidizing a slaughter,” said Smith, who was approached by the Humane Society a year-and-a-half ago.

"It’s not to stop it 100 percent necessarily, if it’s a source for food," Smith said. "But it seems like it’s an out of control situation."

For years, the Humane Society has been working to end the seal “harvest," what they say is one of the largest slaughters of marine mammals on the planet.

Though the Canadian government says the seals that are harvested are "self-reliant, independent animals," the Humane Society says the vast majority of them are defenseless pups younger than 3 months old that are killed primarily for their fur.

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Markets are also participating in the boycott.

Celebrities who have spoken out against the seal hunt include Paul McCartney and Ke$ha, as well as “Top Chef” stars Richard Blais, Carla Hall and Jamie Lauren, and Chef Brian Malarkey of “The Taste.”

“The harp seal slaughter has gone on for far too long, and I’m going to do my part as a chef to put an end to this senseless killing," Malarkey said. "I had a ‘Save the Seals T-Shirt’ as a 5-year-old boy, and I can’t even for the life of me understand why something so horrible still goes on in this current age."

Sealers use guns, wooden clubs and hakapiks (ice-pick-like clubs) to kill the animals as they lay on ice floes.

Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International Canada says the seal hunt is inherently inhumane.

“It’s not that seal hunters are these evil people that want to inflict pain on animals," she said. "They are operating in an environment that doesn’t allow them to be consistent.”

Harp seal mother with pup - photo HSUS
Harp seal mother with pup. Photo HSUS.

“Seal pups are very agile. The sea ice itself is moving, so accuracy in clubbing and shooting is compromised,” she said. “Sealers cannot consistently kill the animals in a humane way because of the conditions they are operating under.”

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans says sealing is no less humane than a commercial slaughterhouse, which the public readily accepts, and they say the industry is closely monitored.

DFO says fishermen depend on the hunt for their economic survival, and the Government of Canada remains unequivocal in its support for the sealing industry. In fact, last month, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provided $3.6 million is subsidies to the sealers.

“We remain committed to supporting jobs and growth, which includes the economic benefits to northern and coastal regions of the country provided by the sealing industry,” spokesman Frank Stanek said.

But the Humane Society says promoting those areas as ecotourism sites would be far more lucrative than the annual harvest.

“This is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on the planet,” said Aldworth. “This is a huge opportunity to develop this.”

“Seal watching brings in more money than the seal hunt - seals bring in more money alive than dead.”

The Humane Society says the chefs and grocery stores participating in the boycott are sending a clear message to Canada: "We won’t buy while seals die."

Chef Smith, who opened the award-winning Cafe Juanita in 2000, says she hopes the boycott will raise awareness and encourage Canadian officials to change policy.

“I signed on because from everything I’ve read it seemed like a poorly managed slaughter that is primarily for fur,” she said.

Smith's Cafe Juanita is one of 60 restaurants in Washington that are participating in "Chefs for Seals."

A new app helps diners find restaurants that are participating in the boycott.

The app for iPhone or Android allow you to
Search for “seal friendly” restaurants and grocery stores by current location, name, ZIP code and more
Share seal friendly establishments with your friends
Use tools to recruit your favorite restaurant or grocery store to join the boycott
Take action on important issues related to ending Canada’s seal hunt

There is also an online Protect Seals restaurant locator, so you can search for a restaurant that is participating in the boycott.



EU ban on trade in seal fur set to be overturned

European court expected to back attempt by pelt traders and sporran makers to reverse 2010 ruling

Paul Gallagher
The Independent, UK
Sunday 21 April 2013

harp seal pup - Getty image
A cruel trade: Jude Law is urging the WTO to uphold the seal fur ban. Getty Images

A Europe-wide ban on the trade of seal fur and products is expected to be overturned this week, in a move that will reignite one of the world's most contentious wildlife issues.

The actor Jude Law has written a letter calling for the ban to be upheld, which he says would be "in line with the wishes of compassionate people all around the world". He sent the letter to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on behalf of the animal rights group Peta a week before the WTO's final hearing on the issue in Geneva and days after the start of Canada's annual seal pup slaughter.

Fur traders, including Inuit from Greenland and Canada and sporran makers in Scotland, are among those appealing against the 2010 EU ban in a European court. The legal battle is being led by the Fur Institute of Canada, which says that the ban has had an impact on the Canadian seal trade. Fishermen from several countries also allege that seals have become a menace, with growing populations reducing fish stocks.

But environmental groups say fish stocks will not be boosted by a seal cull and that it is not possible to conduct one humanely. Campaigners also criticised Inuit groups for aligning themselves with commercial organisations.

The Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union will hand down its decision on Thursday. If it upholds the appeal, the ban on importing seal products will effectively be struck down.

Seals are hunted mainly for their skin, fat and meat, but there has also been a market for omega-3 capsules containing seal oil. In 2007, seal pelts sold for £60, but that has dropped to about £6.

Concern is growing in Europe about the need to cull seal populations to protect fish stocks, even if seal products can no longer be used. Scottish fishermen are keen for a ban to replenish cod stocks around the Orkney and Shetland islands. One Scottish fisherman, who has a licence to shoot seal, spoke to The Independent on Sunday on condition of anonymity. "People think seals are nice and cuddly, but they'll have your hand off if you get too close. I'm fishing salmon from April to mid-September and seals are a problem every day. They attack my fish and they attack me."

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director at Humane Society International (HSI), said the basis for the legal challenge is "irrational and absurd". She dismissed arguments that seals are to blame for declining fish stocks. "The largest predators of fish are other fish and the last thing anyone should be doing is promoting a seal cull," she said. "More species in the sea are only better for the ecosystem."

The governments of Canada and Norway are also conducting a separate legal challenge to the EU ban via the WTO, with further hearings taking place next week before a decision is expected in the autumn.

Since the EU ban came into effect there has been a dramatic drop in the Canadian commercial catch, where most seal hunting takes place: more than 40,000 seals were killed in 2011, down from 354,000 in 2006.

Rob Cahill of the Fur Institute of Canada said: "It is not about eradicating seals but about maintaining a balance between seals and fish."

William E Scott & Son is one of the plaintiffs challenging the EU ban and is one of Scotland's largest suppliers of sporrans, which are traditionally made from seal pelt. Owner Malcolm Scott said: "I've seen my staff cut in half and many of those now working for me are part-time because of the ban. The sporran-making industry has been completely turned over by the EU."



Actor Jude Law asks WTO to uphold EU ban on seal fur

Published: April 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Jude LawLONDON, April 20 (UPI) -- British movie star Jude Law has written the World Trade Organization asking the body to uphold a ban on trade in seal skins, an animal rights group says.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted the letter on its website Saturday.

Canada has asked the WTO to overturn a European Union ban on seal fur.

"As an actor who will always consider Britain home, I was proud to learn that the European Union has banned seal-fur imports," Law said. "In light of next week's seal-products dispute hearing, I'm writing to urge the panel to uphold this ban, which is in line with the wishes of compassionate people all around the world, including the majority of European citizens."

Canada holds the world's largest seal hunt. It has been controversial for decades because of film showing seals, including young ones, being clubbed to death.

Russia and the United States have banned seal imports. Most of Canada's exports go to Norway, which is not an EU member and also holds a seal hunt.

PETA has recruited a number of celebrities to oppose the seal hunt, including Pamela Anderson, the former "Baywatch" star who was born in Canada. The WTO has scheduled a hearing in Geneva.



New data from DFO suggests seals eat twice as many cod

Published on April 5, 2013
By Mark Anderson
Special to The Cape Breton Post

Fisherman killed grey seal pup - photo Steve Wadden - Cape Breton Post
A fisherman hauls a dead grey seal on Hay Island off Cape Breton in this February 2011 file photo.

INGONISH — No one is sure yet whether grey seals are continuing to threaten recovery of the cod stocks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the seals are there and the fish are not. And new data strongly suggests seals aren’t helping the cod.

A Senate committee report released in October 2012 recommended a cull of 70,000 grey seals over four years in the southern Gulf, which includes the west side of Cape Breton Island. Whether or not this will happen is an open question.

The report states that grey seals are preventing the recovery of Atlantic groundfish stocks, and are now threatening shellfish populations. Harvesting of the seals is presented by the report as being preferable to a cull. In Cape Breton, this year's Hay Island seal hunt was called off because of a lack of market for seal products.

Whether this will have an effect on the management of the southern Gulf population remains to be seen.

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings of Dalhousie University, a member of the Senate panel of experts for the 2012 report, is openly critical of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ cod recovery plans.

“After 21 years there is still no target for recovery,” he said recently. “In this Canada lags behind every fully developed nation in the world. We are seeing ad-hoc management in the absence of a plan.

“The problem is that our recovery targets — the amount of fish we need to recommence a sustainable cod fishery — have not been established. Theirs is a qualitative motherhood statement; in other words, the DFO can't say they failed to meet objectives if they set no objectives.”

The concept of a “sustainable” fishery also needs to be addressed. In the current southern Gulf fishery, there is a “sustainable” low catch that is preventing the larger recovery, Hutchings said.

“Instead of having cod being allowed to recover in the absence of fishing, we had cod basically kept at a very low level because of these fisheries. Even though they were described as small-scale fisheries, they were small in the sense that the absolute amount of cod was relatively low, but they were high in terms of the percentage of what was available to be taken.”

Hutchings said if DFO followed its own stated rules, there would be a cod fishery currently operating on the Eastern Scotian Shelf. The other three areas would be under a moratorium until they recovered to a sustainable level.

He would only endorse the seal cull from a species-at-risk perspective, to prevent cod extinction, and if new data indicated that consumption of adult cod is higher than previously believed.

Until now, current data has not been sufficient to tip the scales one way or the other.

“There is a great deal of pressure on management and they are in kind of a gridlock,” said University of British Columbia marine biologist Rachel Neunhoff. “There is pressure on all sides; from fishermen's groups and advocacy groups. Right now it's policy by inaction. That's where the DFO will be until the datasets improve.”

New data, however, might convince officials that a cull could help.

Dr. Mike Hammill, a DFO scientist, studies grey seal consumption of cod in the southern Gulf population, having recently completed his fourth contract. Currently, the herd is wintering north of St. Paul's Island off the northern tip of Cape Breton.

Scientists determine what the seals have been eating by analyzing feces and stomach/ intestine contents, using bony remnants to determine what is being consumed. Belly-biting is a problem for researchers. Simply put, to find the cod, you need the head.

Seals, eating the softer belly meat and leaving the heads, could be consuming much more cod than figures indicate.

Previous data suggested a male grey seal's diet was up to 24 per cent adult cod. Hamill’s new data suggests adult cod could be up to 60 per cent of the male grey seal's winter diet. That’s more than double the number that was available to the Senate committee when it recommended a cull.

While the grey seal hunt opened March 1 in the southern Gulf and runs until Dec. 31, there has been no hunting yet this year.

The total allowable catch in the Gulf region for 2012 was 60,000 grey seals, although only eight were killed, according to DFO.

Ingonish fisherman Cory Williams, who fishes lobster and halibut out of Ingonish, said there seems to be more seals in the area.

“When we are out, they are always around, hanging off the boat, waiting for scraps,” he said recently. “Sometimes they get into the nets and tear them to pieces.”

Gordon MacLeod, a veteran Ingonish fisherman, has had similar experiences with grey seals.

“We've had nets torn up, holes ripped through the twine of lobster traps,” he said. “Seals go for both the bait and the lobster in the traps now. Last year we had grey seals biting the bait off the longline gear. That's the only time I've ever seen that in 25 years.”

MacLeod also worked with the Sentinel program in the 1990s. After the collapse of the cod fishery, the government recommended the establishment of Sentinel programs to monitor cod stocks.

“With the Sentinel fishery, we would put out weight points and hooks to see what the cod stocks were like. We'd put out 2,000 hooks. I did this over the course of nine years.

“I remember one set of hooks, out in the middle of Aspy Bay; all 16 of the 16 bait fish were taken by grey seals. The heads were left on. There was no doubt as to what was doing it. We even hooked one of the seals, but he was too big to bring in.”

In her brief to the Senate, Debbie Mackenzie of the Grey Seal Conservation Society emphasized the importance of marine mammals to the ecosystem. Seals aid in the transport of nitrogen, which works as fertilizer when brought from deeper waters to the surface. She suggests that this way, grey seals are actually helping cod stocks recover, a proposition that seems counterintuitive.

“Fishermen with any length of experience can cite numerous changes that they have seen, ranging from the lack of little critters that used to grow on their wharf pilings, that get caught in their lobster traps, that they find in the stomachs of the fish they catch, etc, etc.,” she said recently.

“Ask them what they think these changes mean and fishermen with any experience will tell you they think it means there is no future in fishing as a commercial occupation and they are encouraging their children to pursue other options.

“As for the direct conflict between grey seals and certain fishing gear, I tell them that due to the current level of ecological stress and the beneficial impact of seals on ocean productivity, that for the larger good, fishing should give way in these cases. I know they don't like to hear that, but I don't like the ecological devastation that fishing has caused, either.”

While it is clearly undesirable to cull animals who are simply taking advantage of a natural food source, it is also a difficult pill for fishermen to swallow; for fishing to “give way” to a grey seal population that continues to proliferate.

Indeed, the seals did not create this problem, but unfortunately they are now a part of it. Animal populations are routinely managed in North American society. If we use the analogy of a ranch in Alberta, we grant ranchers the right to defend their livelihood — their stock — against natural predators. Perhaps fishermen deserve the same consideration.

Mark Anderson is a freelance writer living in Ingonish.



Demonstrators oppose seal hunt

By Catharina de Waal
Peninsula News
March 16, 2013

Barry Crozier protests seal hunt
Barry Crozier holds up his protest sign as he takes a stand against the Canadian government spending tax-payer money to subsidize the seal hunt. (Catharina de Waal photo)

Halifax demonstrators gathered on the International Day of Action for Seals to protest against the Atlantic Canada commercial seal hunt.

Bridget Curran, the co-founder and director for the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, organized the event. It took place at the main gates of the Halifax Public Gardens on March 16.

“Canada’s cruel and unsustainable commercial seal hunt is unacceptable,” says Curran, whose mandate is to educate the public about how harp seal and grey seal pups are clubbed or shot to death in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Alicia Hodder (left) and Melanie Eisnor protest seal hunt
Alicia Hodder (left) and Melanie Eisnor are partaking in the International Day of Action for Seals demonstration in Halifax. (Catharina de Waal photo)

“The majority, almost 99 per cent of the harp seals killed in the commercial seal hunt, are younger than three months,” says Curran. “When the pups are killed, they are not even eating solid food yet and they are not able to swim away.

“This is a large slaughter of wildlife on a commercial basis.”

Curran says not only is the seal hunt inhumane, but each year the Canadian government invests millions of taxpayer dollars into an industry with a dying market. This occurs through programs like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which provides subsidization to Canadian seal processing plants.

“The industry is failing. The Canadian government would be better to use that money to help sealers transition out of this unreliable industry,” says Curran. “It is also very good to see demand for seal products dropping and global markets closing.”

Seal hunt protest in Halifax
On the International Day of Action for Seals, Bridget Curran (far left) leads a group of demonstrators who are opposed to the Atlantic Canada seal hunt. (Catharina de Waal photo)

Not everyone agrees

Robert Courtney, a spokesman for Hay Island’s seal hunters and the president of the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association, has been hunting seals for more than 40 years.

“The seal hunt is very important to me,” he says. “Not only is it financially a large part of my livelihood, but it also helps protect the fishing industry by making sure the seals don’t deplete the halibut, cod, lobster and crab populations.

“There is still a large market for seal products. The only problem is that foreign governments, such as Taiwan and the European Union, will not allow the trade of these Canadian products,” says Courtney.

“People want to buy the products but it’s just the lack of access to these markets that gets in the way.”

Courtney says the government subsidizes many industries in Canada, including the automobile industry. Many industries are going through a hard time right now “so why should the seal hunt be treated any different and not be subsidized?”

Numbers support the hunt

Pierre-Yves Daoust, a professor in anatomic and wildlife pathology at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, supports Courtney.

“For several years now, the number of seals harvested has been substantially below the quota established for the seal hunt,” says Daoust.

For example, in 2012 the harp seal quota was 400,000 while only about 70,000 harp seals were culled.

“With such limited harvest relative to the total seal population, it would be doubtful that the hunt could have an affect on the environment,” says Daoust.

Daoust says seal biologists within the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have actually shown an increase in harp seal and grey seal populations in Canada since the 1970s. Therefore, “it seems clear that the seal hunt has had no negative effect,” says Daoust.

“A lot of effort has been spent to provide information workshops to sealers on best seal harvesting methods from an animal welfare perspective,” says Daoust. “I sincerely believe that the sealing industry has been in full support of these initiatives and a lot of progress has been made in promoting a professional attitude on the part of sealers.”

Daoust says, “I do not understand the constant emphasis on the seal hunt when there are so many more serious issues affecting the animal world, such as the harvesting of shark fins being among the worst as far as I am concerned.”

“My only explanation is that it is easy for anyone with lots of money to observe the seal hunt and obtain as many graphic images as needed for her own agenda.”



Geneva: WTO hearing puts sealing in spotlight


Sealers gather pelts - Andrew Vaughan - Canadian Press 2009
Hunters gather pelts as the annual East Coast seal hunt starts in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on March 23, 2009.
(ANDREW VAUGHAN /Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

CALGARY — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Feb. 18 2013, 10:26 PM EST

Last updated Monday, Feb. 18 2013, 10:33 PM EST

The battle over Canada’s controversial seal hunt has reignited as a powerful panel in Geneva began hearing arguments over whether the European Union’s ban on seal products is legitimate.

Canada and Norway, two seal-hunting allies, in 2010 turned to the World Trade Organization to contest the EU’s seal ban. Oral arguments started Monday and the hearing has once again put Canada’s seal-hunting industry in the international spotlight.

Sealing may be a small slice of Canada’s economy, but the fight could have broader implications. The latest round of sparring comes as Canada and the EU hammer out the final details of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a deal more than 100 members of the European Parliament said they will vote against unless Canada drops its WTO challenge. That pledge came before the WTO kicked off the seal proceedings.

The EU in 2009 banned commercial seal products, arguing hunting methods are cruel. Ottawa argues hunts are humane, sustainable and well-regulated.

“East Coast seal hunt can be, and is, conducted in a humane fashion,” Canada’s representative said by video link to the hearing in Geneva, according to Agence France-Presse.

Rob Cahill, executive director of the Fur Institute of Canada, argues the EU’s position is hypocritical and inconsistent. While the EU condemns the seal hunt in Canada and Norway, some of its member countries permit seal hunts in order to protect fisheries. Further, Mr. Cahill says that if the ban is backed by moral arguments such as animal welfare, then there should be no exceptions. However, Canada’s Inuit are exempt from the EU’s ban.

There are about eight million Northwest Atlantic harp seals off the east coast of Canada, according to the FIC. Canadian seal hunters were permitted to kill about 400,000 of these last year, but only took 65,000, Mr. Cahill said.

There are between 350,000 and 400,000 grey seals, he said, with the Canadian quota reaching 60,000. Canadians also hunt ringed seals in the north, with the quota ranging around 10,000 to 15,000 and harvested primarily by Inuit hunters, Mr. Cahill said. Rifles are used to kill about 95 per cent of the seals in Canada’s hunts, he noted. Alternatively, hunters mainly in Quebec also use hakapiks, Mr. Cahill said.

About 15,000 Canadians hold seal-hunting licences, he said, but only a few hundred participated in last year’s hunt.

Humane Society International suggests Canada could end the seal hunt without financially hurting these fishers.

“With the globally condemned Canadian sealing industry running out of places to sell its products, HSI/Canada calls on the Canadian government to implement a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry,” the HSI said in a statement Monday. “This plan would involve ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation for sealers, and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved.”

An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the HSI says sealers in Newfoundland and Labrador are split on the issue. Among sealing licence holders expressing an opinion, half supported an industry buyout plan, said the poll, conducted in December, 2009, and January, 2010.

Mr. Cahill shot down this suggestion, using the same argument EU members use when they allow sealing in their boundaries. “A buyout is not going to address the fact that seal populations are increasing and going to have to be managed,” he said in an interview from Geneva.

Ipsos polled 267 people for its study, with 181 of those holding sealing licences. The maximum margin of error associated with a sample of 181 respondents at a 95-per-cent confidence level is 7.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.



Pamela Anderson seeks WTO seal-fur ban

Published: 14 Feb 2013 11:17 GMT+01:00

Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anedrson at PETA's 25th anniversary gala. Photo: PETA

Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson is wading into a debate set to kick off in Geneva over Canada’s bid to overturn a European Union ban on seal-fur imports.

The World Trade Organization, based in the Swiss city, is set to begin public hearings into the issue on Monday just ahead of the annual spring hunt of seals in the Canadian province of Newfoundland.

Anderson, a Canadian citizen and honorary director of PETA, the animal rights group, fired off a letter on Wednesday to the WTO’s legal affairs department calling on the body to uphold the seal-fur ban.

“As a proud Canadian, I’m saddened that Canada is trying to use the WTO to delay the inevitable demise of the cruel commercial seal trade by challenging the EU’s ban on seal-fur imports,” Anderson says in her letter, released by PETA.

The 45-year-old TV and movie actress pointed out that the US, Mexico and Taiwan, as well as Russia — which was importing 95 percent of Canadian seal pelts — “have all banned seal fur and will not tolerate this annual slaughter.”

The harvest of seals as “inherently cruel,” she said.

“Sealers shoot and bash in the heads of helpless seals when they are just weeks old.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian department regulating the seal hunt, has approved a method of killing the seals, endorsed by veterinary experts, that it says ensures the animals die humanely.

However, this conclusion has been disputed by other scientists.

Seal harvest has long been defended as a way of life for fishermen in Canada’s poorest province.

The sealers depend on Norway for their biggest market.

But Anderson said the Canadian government “should devise a practical exit strategy: a government buyout of the sealing industry, which would benefit both seals and sealers.”

Anderson noted that the commercial slaughter of seals had nothing to do with aboriginal practices and involved “no tribal communities”.

The Inuit First Nation conduct a subsistence hunt for adults seals in another part of Canada that is protected by Canadian laws and an exemption from the EU ban, she said.

Anderson said she became active in animal issues “well before my Baywatch days” and is now active with PETA.

The actress is following in the footsteps of another famous actress — France’s Brigitte Bardot — who has campaigned against the seal hunt and otherwise used her fame to promote animal rights.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)



Taiwan joins club, bans seal products

Published on January 9, 2013
Chris Hayes
Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Taiwan has banned the import, export or sale of seal and other marine mammal products except for foreign aboriginal people who are allowed to conduct the hunt for a living.

The China Post reported the ban on its website. It was passed by Taiwan’s legislative yuan as changes to its Wildlife Conservation Act covers marine mammals like seals, sea lions, sea otters, manatees and sea elephants, which are also known as elephant seals.

Taiwan had become the third-largest Asian consumer and the fourth in the world in terms of the consumption of marine mammals and their products, the newspaper reported.

Cape Breton sealer Robert Courtney saw the ban as more bad news for the industry, but it was hailed by the Humane Society International/Canada’s executive director Rebecca Aldworth.

“It is going to create more problems,” Courtney said.

“Hopefully it can pick up somewhere else and get through it.”

Courtney said seal products from Cape Breton hunters went to buyers in Newfoundland and some likely ended up in Taiwan.

He described the seal hunt as one of the most humane harvests of any animal in the country.

Aldworth said in a release the compassionate actions of the Taiwanese legislature will save countless seals and other marine mammals from “a horrible fate.”

She said the momentum to end trade in marine mammal products is growing and the sealing industry’s days are numbered.

“Instead of providing more pointless subsidies to artificially prop up this shameful practice, Canada should prohibit the slaughter and invest in a transition program for sealers."

Seal products have already been banned in the United States, European Union and Russia, she noted.

Lawmakers in Taiwan who were quoted by the China Post said the Taiwanese people believe in the special medical or health effects of marine mammal products, but their use has helped cause the rising volume of cruelly slaughtered marine mammals, according to the China Post.

Taiwan imported 430,000 kilograms of seal oil from Canada between 2003 and 2009, an equivalent of taking the lives of 120,000 seals, according to the lawmakers.

The new rules say importers can bring the products into Taiwan only after getting permission from the government with documents proving the products come from foreign aboriginal people who are permitted by the authorities to continue the hunting operations for a living.




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