IFAW: Supporting the commercial seal hunt makes no economic sense

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Toronto, Canada
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) warns that election candidates and political parties should think twice before they speak out in support of the commercial seal hunt. The animal welfare group points out that the commercial seal hunt costs taxpayers more money to support than it earns, making it an industry that fiscally-responsible politicians should want to phase-out.

IFAW questions why promises of federal support for Canada’s commercial seal hunt continue to increase, when cuts of $84.7 million to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and $31.9 million to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) are being proposed by the Conservatives.

According the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ own data, the landed value of the commercial seal hunt was only $1.3 million in 2010, with exports valued at a mere $2.1 million. Yet taxpayers will spend an estimated $10 million to challenge the European Union ban on seal products at the World Trade Organization, an estimated $1 million is spent each year on attempts to monitor the commercial hunt, and hundreds of thousands are spent annually to develop seal products and promote them overseas.

“Even those who ignore the fact that the commercial seal hunt is cruel and unethical cannot deny that it is a total waste of money,” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Program.  A 2010 study by Professor John Livernois at the University of Guelph found that ending the commercial seal hunt would save Canada at least $7 million each year.

“The numbers just don’t add up.” said Fink, “In these tough times, Canadians’ tax dollars should be spent wisely, not squandered on an industry that benefits fewer and fewer individuals each year and has increasingly bleak prospects.  Not only are markets for seal products disappearing, but the lack of ice due to climate change will make it impossible for anyone to rely on this industry in the future.”

The commercial seal hunt was raised as an election issue when Conservative candidate Loyola Sullivan attacked Liberal MP Hedy Fry for stating she is opposed to the commercial seal hunt and the Liberal Party of Canada subsequently re-iterated its support for the hunt.

“It seems inconsistent for a Conservative candidate to support such an economically unviable industry, while at the same time promising fiscal responsibility. The Conservative party seems more than willing to sacrifice their basic principles in pursuit of seats in Newfoundland” concluded Fink.

The Numbers*

Number of commercial sealing licenses 6,000
Number of sealers who participated in 2010 commercial seal hunt 390
Number of companies who process seals 4
Landed value of seal pelts in 2010 $1.2 million
Landed value of “other” products including meat and oil in 2010 $60,000
Export value of seal products in 2010 $2.1 million
Annual cost for Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor the hunt** $1 million
Cost to fight the EU ban on seal products at the WTO*** $10 million
Cost to tourism, other trade areas and Canada’s reputation Unknown, but likely significant

*Unless otherwise indicated, source is Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ 2011-2015 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Atlantic Seals
**Estimate based on information received through Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP).
***Estimate based on McCarthy Tétrault trade lawyer Simon Potter, published in the Globe and Mail, 28 July 2009.

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