Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Opens Despite No Quota, No Demand

Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Opens Despite No Quota, No Demand
Tuesday, 9 April, 2013

Canada’s commercial seal hunt opens off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador today, despite a lack of demand for seal products and restrictions on seal products in 34 countries. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW questions why the Canadian government insists on wasting millions of tax dollars supporting an industry that is clearly obsolete.

“For the second year in a row the commercial seal hunt has required a financial bailout from the Newfoundland government.  The reality is that over 15 years of government subsidies, resulting in the waste of tens of millions of dollars, have failed to create a viable sealing industry. This is not some short-term marketing challenge; the fact is that in the 21st century, seal products are unnecessary and, increasingly, unwanted” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Campaign.

In 2012, the landed value of the commercial seal hunt was $1.6 million CAD, yet required $2 million in government support in order to proceed.  A $3.6 million loan was granted to the sealing industry yet again this year in the face of deep cuts to other industries in Newfoundland and Labrador, including $4 million from tourism and 1200 government jobs.

Although the hunt is opening in the absence of an allowable catch or quota, market demand for seal products remains poor and there may be little interest in this year’s hunt from sealers.  Although the sealing industry claims there is demand for up to 100,000 seal pelts this year, the price being offered to sealers is expected to only be about $25 per skin. 

“For a government to prioritize financial support to a poorly-paying, increasingly obsolete industry while cutting thousands of jobs in other important areas, just doesn’t make economic sense” said Fink. “If the funds currently being used in a futile attempt to keep this dying industry alive were redirected to provide financial alternatives to help sealers to get out of the sealing business, it would be a far better use of taxpayers’ dollars” concluded Fink.

The Numbers*

Number of commercial sealing licenses      14,000
Number of sealers who participated in 2012 commercial seal hunt  763
Number of companies who process seals in Newfoundland   1
Landed value of seal pelts, meat and oil in 2012    $1.63 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.

About IFAW
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) was established in 1969 and its founding campaign was in opposition to Canada’s commercial seal hunt. IFAW has more than 40 years of experience raising awareness, documenting and opposing the cruel commercial hunts for seals in Canada and around the world.

For more information on the campaign read IFAW’s blog, visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

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Sheryl Fink (IFAW CA)
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations