The Deal with Seals

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Cast your eyes on this blog entry on swiles and take it in — because I promise it is the very last time you will see me writing about the seal FISHERY (see what I did there? I didn’t say “hunt” – I said “fishery.” Suck on those apples).

As March approaches you will see a series of things happening leading up to the seal fishery.

Politicians will mount their soapboxes and holler aloud about how important the seal fishery is and all they are doing to protect it (they aren’t).

Activists will begin campaigns on the backs of the famous/rich and uninformed (from musicians to actors to cosmetics moguls) and say they are doing it to protect the animals (they are not. They are a convincing, well-resourced lot to be sure. But at their root, they are zealous, rebel-without-a-clue lunatics turning a buck and travelling the world in the name of an ill-informed morality “cause”).

And we media/journalist types will pontificate about the hunt — with columns and programs and reports slanted for or against the fishery — because we think it will get us some extra ratings, readers or attention (sigh… and it usually does).

A famous Newfoundland writer called it “March Madness” and as a working journalist I can tell you, that ridiculous train full of tempting hyperbole and seal-laced rhetoric is never late. Every damned year we have to go through this bulls--t over and over and over.

Please, I beg of you all — enough.

Look, we may wax poetic and whine and bawl that the seal fishery needs to be supported, or, adversely, that it needs to be stopped until we go blue in the face. But the truth of it is this: we NEED to have a seal fishery and for three reasons.

One, it’s a traditional industry — it’s part of our culture, history and heritage, it’s entirely sustainable and done professionally by people with the latest training in humane harvesting, and it’s the first piece of work for a lot of harvesters after the long winter down season. If the markets are weak, then we do what other industries do: we try to improve them. If it fails in the end, then so be it. But you don’t give up on something completely because it’s struggling.

Secondly, the seal population needs to be properly controlled so there is an ecological responsibility to adhere to. If you don’t believe me, you should go have a look at the effect grey seals have had on fish stocks around southwest Nova Scotia. It’s staggering.

And finally, we need the seal fishery because it provides us with a crucial buffer. What? Do you think that if we abolished the seal fishery today, that would be the end of it? Do you think there are no other species or fisheries the moralistic looney tunes would target?

People, we live in a world where restaurants are installing electrocution tables for lobsters so the animal cuddlers don’t get their faux-fur, petrochemically-manufactured knickers in a twist when they’re ordering the surf and turf with garlic butter.

I wonder, how long it would take after the seal fishery is closed down before there’s a campaign to end the pain of cod fish being filleted alive? Or how long before we see the start of a movement against the intolerable cruelty of boiling shellfish alive?

Oh, you think that’s just me being extreme and alarmist? Consider that the anti-sealing campaign saw everything from a Beatle on the ice hugging seals; to damned fools out with combs trying to harvest hair off live animals; to leggy models going naked in protest.

The seal fishery is a fishery like any other (yes, I’m aware it has some differences, but I’m talking collectively here) and deserves no more or no less attention.

And on that note, I close the book on talking about seals — that is, unless it’s a legitimate topic that is not steeped in pure rhetoric and nonsense, or specifically geared to get kudos for politicians or extra attention for smart alec media types.

Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com

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