Ahead of the Heard. FILE PHOTO

Iconic industry almost gone but there is hope

Newfoundland’s sealing industry, and its decline.

Will Verboven

Ahead of the Heard

A highlight of recent travel to Newfoundland was a visit to the “Sealers Interpretation Centre,” dedicated to the province’s sealing industry. It was an enlightening look at the impact this primary industry had on the well-being and culture of the people who risked their lives to support their hard-pressed families. In its heyday the harvesting of seals for pelts, oil and meat involved thousands of men, dozens of ships and millions of dollars. The industry evolved with technology and efficiencies into a significant part of the Newfoundland economy. But in the spring of 1977, Brigitte Bardot arrived at the ice floes off the coast and overnight began the decimation of a traditional industry that now barely survives.

If the fading film career of this aging actress needed a boost she sure got it after close-up photos of her and an ever-so-cute seal pup were featured on the front covers of newspapers around the world. Animal rights lobby groups had discovered a sure-fire gravy train straight from the pockets of gullible donors everywhere. They also set the pattern for other lobby groups to exploit the use of publicity-hungry celebrities eager to promote their disparate causes. It’s an incredibly successful propaganda tool used to this day that has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of these nefarious groups.

The involvement of celebrities in discrediting the seal harvest actually only had a marginal impact on the industry – regulations were fine-tuned to address concerns but the annual harvest continued. The real damage was done in Europe where those same lobby groups launched impassioned campaigns about the morality of the hunt – always focusing on the cute little white seal pups. unbeknownst to most folks the harvest of newborn white pups was banned in 1984. Expedient European politicians in their haste to appease lobby groups quickly banned the importation of all seal products – easy to do for products that, outside of Norway, were not produced in Europe.

That impact devastated the seal harvest and the industry quickly collapsed along with the millions it provided in income to Newfoundlanders. The fact that the barely surviving industry is now of minor relevance doesn’t stop lobby groups – in 2016 another Hollywood starlet was flown in for a photo shoot with a cute pup and a new tirade was launched against an industry which hardly exists anymore. Ironically their success in destroying the seal industry has resulted in a diminishing cash flow. A classic case of biting the hand that feeds you.

As it happens, there is a perverse consequence to not harvesting seals, and not just in Newfoundland. The seal population, particularly of the Harp variety, has increased seven folds; there are now an estimated seven million on the east coast. Each adult seal eats approximately 1.2 tonnes of fish a year – mostly cod fish. Those are the same cod fish that the federal government placed a moratorium on fishing 25 years ago. The idea was that the moratorium would allow the cod fish numbers to recover, but it seems that the increasing number of seals are consuming any increase in cod fish numbers. At this rate, the fishery will never recover and the feds seem paralyzed as to what to do. Here is a hint – put a bounty on seals.

Ironically the explosion in seal numbers has also occurred in European, British and Scandinavian fishing grounds and has decimated local fisheries. To address this calamity the EU has decreed that seal culls will be allowed in order to preserve their commercial fishery. That would be the same EU that condemned the seal harvest in Canada and banned the importation of seal products. The hypocrisy of their action is astounding. Will EU politicians and bureaucrats admit they made mistake and lift their ban of Canadian seal products? Of course not, but there is a new situation on the horizon that could severely reduce seal numbers on the east coast and we will have climate change, in the form of global warming, to thank.

Harp seals give birth mainly on ice floes in the spring of each year. Over the past number of years those ice conditions have been disappearing because of early and warm spring weather conditions. Without the ice floes, newborn seal pups are being born in the water and drowning. Some seals will survive, but the population could be reduced by as much as 90 per cent, thereby potentially dramatically improving the cod fish recovery. Ironic isn’t it – all thanks to global warming.

Just Posted

Stettler secondhand charity looks for new home

Superfluity lease not being renewed; will move by Sept., 2018

First auction of 2018 has solid numbers: auction market

Stettler Auction Mart sees 700 head move through Jan. 9

Lars Callieou to entertain in Halkirk on Feb. 10

Volunteer appreciation supper held on Friday night

What to do after online accounts are hacked

Facebook, email and other accounts hold vital information

PETA picking wrong bone with meat tax

Science shows vegetarian diet doesn’t lessen cancer risk

Erskine Professional Motocross Athlete appears in Edmonton

Chad Bauman performs as part of ‘Ground and Gravity’

Bad timing: Shutdown spoils Trump’s one-year festivities

Trump spends day trying to hash out a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Provincial park no more

The province transferred Sylvan Lake Provincial Park to the Town yesterday

Protect pets from canine flu

Sylvan Lake veterinarian spoke to the Sylvan Lake News about the canine flu

Las Vegas shooter acted alone, exact motive still undetermined: Sheriff

Stephen Paddock was behind the gunfire that killed 58 people including two Canadians

Botox, bomb shelters, and the blues: one year into Trump presidency

A look into life in Washington since Trump’s inauguration

New County of Stettler reeve, new councillor to go to conference in Maritimes

County of Stettler selling off ATCO trailers from shop site

B.C. out of the running for Amazon’s next headquarters

Toronto is the only Canadian city left in the running despite the province backing Metro Vancouver’s bid for new Amazon headquarters

Suspected Toronto serial killer targeting gay community arrested

A 66-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in disappearance of two Toronto men

Most Read

Weekly delivery plus unlimited digital access for $50.40 for 52 issues (must live within 95 kilometers of Stettler) Unlimited Digital Access for one year for $50.40 Prefer to have us call you? Click here and we’ll get back to you within one business day.