The 2013 commercial seal hunt – a success?

A majority of Canadians want to see an end to the commercial seal hunt.According to media reports, today is the day that the sole sealskin processor – Carino Ltd - will stop purchasing seal pelts from sealers for 2013, bringing an end to yet another year of Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

The word “success” is being used by the industry to describe this year’s hunt.  But clearly that depends on how one defines success…

While the numbers are not yet final, let’s take a look at where the 2013 seal hunt got Canadians:

About 89,000 seals have been killed so far, at an average price of $32 / skin.

The entire landed value of the hunt was about $2.9 million.

On the other side of the equation, the monopolistic, Norwegian-owned sealing giant Carino, received a $3.6 million dollar loan from Canadian taxpayers for the second year in a row – prompting questions as to why this one particular company continues to benefit from government handouts while other fish processing plants in Newfoundland – ones employing far more people - are forced to close.

Although the sealing industry is optimistic with the increased kill this year, there is still little sign of demand for seal products and little to indicate that the millions of dollars being spent by the Government of Canada to challenge the EU ban on seal products at the WTO will ever pay off.  

Opinion polling has consistently shown that a majority of Canadians want to see an end to the commercial seal hunt, and despite decades of financial support from provincial and federal governments (over 34 million since 1995) the markets and demand for seal products is shrinking, not growing. 

But it is increasingly apparent that the seal killing industry in Canada is not about jobs or markets, it is about votes.  Every political party - with the exception of the Green Party of Canada – continues to blindly support commercial seal hunt, regardless of whether it makes financial sense, or even whether their own MPs, party members, and voters support it or not. 

Indeed, the sad and misguided belief persists amongst politicians that supporting the seal hunt is a vote-winner.

Yet in a recent by-election held in a sealing region, one political party took every opportunity to proclaim their candidate’s support for the seal hunt; he was duly crushed by the opposition.

It may well be that supporting the seal hunt is not the sure-fire vote-winner it once was.

In Canada, “standing up for the seal hunt” now equates to standing up for fiscal waste and irresponsible use of tax dollars, which are being funnelled into one, foreign owned company.

Increasingly in Canada, accountability and fiscal responsibility are taking a back seat to politics.

If you look at the numbers, it’s clear that spending taxpayer dollars on the commercial seal hunt isn’t exactly providing a good return on the investment. 

Although the Norwegian sealing giant Carino was certainly “successful” in relieving taxpayers’ pockets of another $3.6 million, it is doubtful that Canadians would use the word “success” to describe a hunt that continues to require government support, to slaughter wildlife to provide products that most of the world does not want nor need.

As another seal hunt dwindles to a close, and amidst all of the questions being raised about responsible government here in Canada, one can only hope that Canadian politicians will reflect on whether the commercial seal hunt should continue to benefit from government support.

If the industry is indeed as “successful” as it claims, shouldn’t it be time to cut the government funding and allow it to succeed - or fail - on its own?

--SF

For more information on our efforts to end the 2013 Canadian commercial seal hunt, visit our campaign page.

Post a comment

Experts

Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union