Sealers, activists prepare for hunt

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Sydney, N.S. - Sealers are gearing up for a grey seal hunt on Hay Island off Cape Breton and so are the humane society activists who called last year's harvest a cruel slaughter.
Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen's Association, said 20 to 25 sealers - mostly Cape Bretoners and likely some from Prince Edward Island - hope to start the hunt this week, weather permitting.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is allowing a quota of 2,200 grey seals on the barren, rocky island.
Nova Scotia's Environment Department, which has jurisdiction over access to the protected wilderness area, has given its OK, setting a window of Feb. 2 and March 14 for the hunt.
Last year, Hay Island was briefly ground zero in an ongoing battle between sealers and their supporters throughout Atlantic Canada and humane society activists, who observe and film the harvest as part of an international anti-hunt campaign.
The sealers harvested 1,250 of a quota for Hay Island of 2,500 grey seals last year, selling the pelts for $22 each and some of the meat to mink farmers. They used clubbing hakapiks, which are allowed on animals less than a year old, rather than any kind of firearm, which would not be safe on such a rocky island anyway, Courtney said.
Courtney defended the hunt.
"No killing of animals is pretty no matter what you are doing," he said. "Go to a slaughterhouse or any place where animals are butchered or killed. None of it is pretty. But the reality is this is no more inhumane than any other harvest. It's probably more humane than most."
Courtney said the seal hunt has become more regulated and humane, if anything, but he doesn't expect opponents to ever agree with anything less than an end to the harvest.
The grey seal population - which has been estimated at about 300,000 - eats so much fish it is a threat to the survival of the fishery, he said.
"They have them living up to 38 years old and they eat two tonne a year," he said.
Rebecca Aldworth, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society International (Canada), said she and a number of others in the group plan to be on Hay Island to again observe and film the hunt.
"In the 10 years that I have been documenting commercial seal hunts, what I saw last year on Hay Island was one of the cruellest slaughters I have ever been witness to, and I intend to be there to document it and show the world what is happening in Canada," she said.
Aldworth argued no one has ever been able to scientifically show killing grey seals will ever bring fish stocks back.
Aldworth said the hunt is a violation of the province's Wilderness Area Protection Act, which only allows a cull to restore an indigenous ecosystem, which wouldn't include the ocean around Hay Island.
(Cape Breton Post)

Organizations: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Humane Society International

Geographic location: Hay Island, Cape Breton, Atlantic Canada Sydney Smokey Fishermen Cape Bretoners Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    the sealers have to earn a living, all the do gooders in this world most likley have never done a days hard graft life.

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    the sealers have to earn a living, all the do gooders in this world most likley have never done a days hard graft life.