End to seal hunt would be economic disaster for fishery, says sealing association

Daniel MacEachern
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Ryan Cleary — File photo

The executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association (CSA) says the end of the seal hunt would be an economic disaster for rural Newfoundland.

Frank Pinhorn was reacting to comments made by St. John’s MP Ryan Cleary, who told CBC News it’s time to decide if the provincial seal hunt should end.

“We know that the world appetite is not there for seal meat, but the world appetite for seal products, I don’t know if it’s there,” said Cleary. “And you know what? I may be shot for talking about this, and for saying this, but it’s a question we all have to ask.”

Cleary said the province receives a lot of negative publicity for the seal hunt, and the $1 million in annual revenue it generates might not be worth it.

But Pinhorn — saying the New Democrat MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl “doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about” — said the reason the hunt is worth just $1 million a year is because the federal government isn’t doing enough to promote the industry or fight product bans in European markets.

“The CSA has al­ways maintained that the federal government’s attitude and efforts on sealing is extremely weak, and that’s why it’s only worth a million dollars,” he said. “The prices are low, and the Americans ran over the federal government in ’72 (when they brought in the Marine Mammal Protection Act), for no apparent reason. Then the Europeans walked all over Canada three years ago when they were over there dealing with the free trade agreement and they put seals on the back burner. And then they banned the importation of seals in Europe, and now the Russian federation is doing the same thing, so everybody internationally is walking over the federal government, and that is why there’s no market for seals.”

The seal hunt is also necessary to keep harp seals from decimating the commercial fishery, Pinhorn said.

“Each seal consumes on average 1.4 tonnes of fish per year. They consume around 12 million tonnes of commercial species a year,” he said. “If you keep letting the seal population go unchecked, it will be economic disaster for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”


Anti-hunt ammunition

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne said he doesn’t think Cleary wants the seal hunt to end, but he does worry Cleary’s remarks will give ammunition to the hunt’s critics.

“I don’t believe for one second that Ryan Cleary’s actually calling for the abolition of the seal hunt. But what he has done is inadvertently, most likely mistakenly, fuelled the flames,” Byrne said.

Opponents of the seal hunt, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), will twist and distort anything to their own ends, said Byrne, MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte.

“You can bet your bottom dollar that right now there is being spread around Europe and the U.S. word that a high-ranking Canadian politician, quote-unquote, is second-guessing the future of the Canadian seal hunt and suggesting that the efforts of fill in the blank, IFAW, fill in the blank, American Humane Society or whomever, are directly responsible for it. And they’re actually going to use it in their fundraising campaigns to show their pre-eminence in this effort.”


Debate needed

Cleary was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but in a statement released by his office, he reaffirmed his and the NDP’s support for the seal hunt, but added he won’t back down from debate on the subject.

“The debate about the future viability of the industry is a worthy one and it needs to happen. It can only be a good thing as we chart a future course for our overall fishery,” he wrote. “Having this debate does not signify in any way an end to the hunt — we simply need to start talking. For too long, simply raising the seal hunt issue has been taboo. It shouldn’t be.”



Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Canadian Sealers Association, CBC News, International Fund for Animal Welfare American Humane Society NDP

Geographic location: Europe, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador U.S.

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Recent comments

  • pam coombs
    March 24, 2014 - 11:09

    it's amazing how people who make their living from entraining the public would stoop so low as to try to intimate people in believing the seal hunt is a bad thing. will I think those people should know what it's all about before they make judgement on people and the ways of our culture and LIVELY HOOD! the seal count is way to high and destroying our fishery. You would think everyone would want us to put this hunt in full gear , not only would we the people of newfoundland and Labrador be making a living but we could also feed the starving people in the world. Just to let the people out there in the world know that seal meat is good meat. we (our family) eat it all the time and even bottle it so we have stock all year around. So let's as people of the world be more concerned about war and starvation and not about destroying our fishery and the livelihood .

  • david swank
    January 31, 2012 - 22:54

    About the seals eating the fish real scientists have found that the cod is only 3% of the seals diet. But they just needed an excuse so people would just go along with it.Google it its there

  • Dave swank
    January 31, 2012 - 22:45

    Only one thing. If the seal hunt only brought 1 million in profits how on earth can it be a disaster? Or is the disaster the fact that you cant kill baby seals just because you like it. Very sad canada very sad indeed.

  • Bridget Curran
    January 26, 2012 - 15:35

    Point to ponder -- when people demand the govt do more to help the commercial seal hunt, keep in mind that "help" will come in the form of millions - nay, billions - of dollars coming from the Canadian taxpayers, the majority of whom oppose the commercial seal hunt and object to their tax dollars being used to prop up the crumbling industry. How much more of our money does the government need to squander before seeing sense? As for the claim that AR groups have more money to fight than the pro-sealing forces, that's ludicrous. Remember, as stated above, the federal govt and pro-sealing forces have a never-ending supply of dosh with which to defend the commercial seal hunt, all courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer. To those claiming seals are killed humanely and "most are shot", I urge you to review video from the last few years. Hakapiks are indeed still used and I can assure you after witnessing it firsthand, shooting seals is *not* any more humane than the brutal clubbing. Unless you consider being shot in the face and left to crawl around spraying blood and bits of your face all over the ice to be "humane." People, people...Ryan Cleary is not lobbying the govt to end the seal hunt. He's not opposed to the annual slaughter. He's gone to great pains to make it clear he supports the commercial seal hunt. So why is everyone so bent out of shape? Could it be because the NDP official stance is that the party supports a "humane, market driven and sustainable commercial seal harvest" when realistically we all know the commercial seal hunt is NONE of those things?

  • The Seal Fishery cannot be banned because of the low biomass of fish stocks brought about by extra pressure put on the stocks by Ottawa to create International Trade
    January 26, 2012 - 10:37

    The low biomass of fish stocks, which many countries of the World are allowed to predate on because of the quotas handed out to them by Ottawa to garner International Trade for the Surplus Agriculture and Manufactured good produced in Central Canada will prevent a ban on the Seal Fishery. According to certain sources, the fish biomass is presently at about 5 per cent of what it originally was before the pressure was put on it by Ottawa to garner International Trade.

  • wayne harvey
    January 26, 2012 - 08:04

    I once knew a family from Bay Bulls who , in accordance with the dictums of the church of ROME, ate seal meat every Good Friday under the impression that it was part of the fish family. It was only after a great number of their brethern had gone to their firey reward that some noble soul pointed out that SEAL IS NOT FISH. IT'S A MAMAL. There is no seal fishery. I'm surprised that the animal rights groups haven't picked up on it---not to mention the crew in Ottawa.

    • grammar
      October 27, 2015 - 16:50

      you spelt 'mammal' wrong

  • ed power
    January 26, 2012 - 06:23

    Well said, Mr Cleary, and long overdue. I listened to Minister Penashue blather about how it "must be the market that decides the future of the industry" and wondered how much harder "the market" would have to beat him about the ears before the message sunk in. The same with the stream of outraged callers to the Fisheries Broadcast and the Open Line Shows, all who state the "sealing is not a dead industry"and that it's future is assured if the "government will only do more to sell seal products". What, exactly, is the government supposed to do? No one in the rest of Canada, the US, Western Europe and now Russia will touch seals with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Very few of us in Newfoundland will eat the meat - no one else anywhere will touch it, and especially the fur that formerly graced the meat - yet we are told by the handful of people who risk their lives, and their flimsy fibreglass boats, to hunt seals that this is, to quote the former Only Living Father, the "Next Great Industry". China, touted as the Next Great Market isn't interested, is somewhat interested in the furs, but have no taste for the meat. The sale of fur coats and mukluks in India, Africa and South America seems a bit of a stretch. It is time to recognize that this industry is dead, and any money spent trying to prolong it is money well wasted. By all means, licence fishermen to hunt seals for their own use, to sell privately to those who want the odd feed of flippers or make handicrafts, but end the expensive public support to this moneypit.

  • Gary
    January 25, 2012 - 22:21

    Good for Mr Cleary. It's nice to see a politician speak his mind when what he says is not the official Party Line. He should be commended for this and not vilified. He didn't come out against the hunt. He only suggested that a dialogue take place. The vitriolic responses that have greeted this sensible viewpoint are counterproductive. Thank you Ryan Cleary!

  • georgie
    January 25, 2012 - 20:46

    seems like the same person commenting over and over again on this site....saying how mr. cleary was justified in taking such a simple position on such a complex issue? Lets have a debate about an issue because the world is looking down their nose with disgust at us? He just showed a complete inferiority complex to me and shouldn't be trusted. I wouldn't be surprised to find out cleary had a personal visit from ms. anderson herself in order for this to have gone down . for years the central goal of anti-seal hunt crowd was to find one, just one newfoundland politician willing to put their neck out and criticize political support for the seal hunt--then use the statements precisely as they are right now. Cleary is the first. id say cleary's staff are hand over fist trying to effect some damage control on here too.

  • Hank Parsons
    January 25, 2012 - 20:00

    Mr. Frank Pinhead would like the government to spend money promoting the consumption of a mammal that on the food chain is on par with Domestic dogs. I think he belongs in the 14th century. The posters on this site need to move to the 21st century too.

  • Skeptical Cynic
    January 25, 2012 - 18:04

    Pinhorn, if you think the taxpayers will believe the sealing industry is in trouble because the federal government isn't doing enough to promote your industry, you're living in a dream world. That bloody hunt should have been shut down when the Americans turned against it; because it wasn't the animal rights crowd made more money off it than sealers could ever dream of.

  • Skeptical Cynic
    January 25, 2012 - 17:30

    That crowd at the CSA still spouting that BS about seals eating all the fish... well, the seals must be eating red herring because there wwere lots of fish around when John Cabot came over and the seal were here then. Bravo to Ryan Cleary for having the nads to raise this issue. Close this bloody money-losing government-subsidized spectacle down... a bunch of oilskin-clad sealers running around on the pack-ice like all the devils of hell are after them... stabbing, bludgeoning, blowing the guts'n brains out of nursing seals for a few lousy dollars, in this day and age. It's as pathetic as it is abhorrent.

  • Mermaid
    January 25, 2012 - 17:25

    Seals never have and never will decimate fish stocks this is done by humans, period. Whoever uses this as an argument is ignorant and knows nothing of marine dinamics.

  • David from Paradise
    January 25, 2012 - 15:52

    The last thing the IFAW want is for the seal hunt to end. They would be out of business.

  • MP Ryan Cleary's strategy could create a Win Win scenario for the seal fishery
    January 25, 2012 - 14:46

    I think what Ryan Cleary is doing is trying to stop the orbit the seal fishery has been circling in for the past 40 years. I think it is a strategy by Ryan, that while he wishes it works in the positive and that the seal fishery becomes stronger from his strategy without any interruptions, he is willing to put up with the negative consequences as well. He knows that if the worse scenario should be the result and the seal fishery closes down, it will only be for a short term, because with two large populations feasting on the low fish biomass, in our offshore waters, matters will come to a head very quickly when the seals are winning out over humans. I think when the foreign countries come across the ocean to fish and find that they cannot make their commercial fishing expeditions worthwhile economically, they will be the ones making the noise for a seal cull. Also when Canada loses International Trade because the fish quotas it uses, at present, as the conductor to garner International Trade Contract for Canadian Surplus Goods loses its effectiveness, it, too, will be singing out for a seal fishery to return.

  • KD
    January 25, 2012 - 12:28

    Mr cleary along with jerry byrne,jim morgan and randy simms are completely full o0f hot air I am not sure if either one of these people ever venture outdoors or ever remove their heads from the sand to be so ignorant of provincial affairs just leave me to wonder

  • Nick
    January 25, 2012 - 12:05

    Ryan Cleary is right; if we are earning only $ 1 million in seal hunt but spending: - millions of dollars in providing coast guard rescue services to them, - few million dollars in paying employment insurance to them, - a million dollar in promoting seal products and - few million dollars cost from negative image of Newfoundland and Labrador in tourism market - tens of million dollars in providing government services to communities where mainly seal hunter lives May be it will be wiser to end seal hunt and retrain those workers to work on lower Churchill or offshore projects. Then they will actually make triple salary and pay tax to Newfoundland and Labrador community.

  • MBC
    January 25, 2012 - 11:31

    Wonder why this idiot politician is not a Liberal or PC ???? Only the desparate NDP party would accept a desparate person such a Cleary! I think from going to a low income person to a overpaid politician has fried his brains. He should talk to Merv Wiseman as to how the Mink Industry was restored.

  • Blair Brookfield
    January 25, 2012 - 11:16

    Cleary is a brave man for bringing this up and I commend him. He's got a point. Is a million in revenue really worth Newfoundlanders being branded a bunch of barbaric seal clubbers, because this is what we are known as on the international scene. As for the seals decimating the commercial fishery, I don't buy it. Those seals were there long before there was even a Newfoundland.

  • Justin
    January 25, 2012 - 10:44

    Cleary is right--it is something that needs to be strongly considered, as much as I hate to acknowledge it. While the whole movement regarding the banning of Canadian Seal products is incredibly stupid and ill-informed, the point is the movement has actually garnered a lot of global support and the demand isn't really there for seal-anything right now. I don't believe in kowtowing to stupidity, but looking at it on an economic level is wise because whatever it costs to acquire the seal products--if there's no income on it, then is there a point? Again, I hate to acknowledge it because I know that this is affecting peoples' livelihoods, but it's an important question. That, and "what is our contingency plan".

  • JT
    January 25, 2012 - 10:29

    "For too long, simply raising the seal hunt issue has been taboo. It shouldn’t be." The majority of the responses he seems to be receiving validate this statement. No debate is allowed. Everything must continue as it is. Whether or not there is a viable market for seal products is not important. Major markets in the world are shutting the door while Newfoundlanders are busy wasting their time shushing and attacking each other instead of doing what's needed and tackling the issues. This is almost as pointless as telling a Calgarian that there may be negatives to oil sands development.

  • ChrisF
    January 25, 2012 - 10:20

    Isn't the REAL issue on how seals are killed? If they were quickly killed with a bullet to the head (or wherever would work the fastest) with minimal suffering, I would not have a problem with seal hunting. I love all wildlife but would gladly like to try seal meat. I am human and am a meat eater. Just kill the animal humanely please.

    • Justin
      January 25, 2012 - 10:40

      The majority of them are. The hak-a-pik (or the "club") was being pushed toward banishment under Danny Williams, and Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik years ago. While they were still used to an extent, most seals are shot. People are just hanging on to the image of baby whitecoats getting clubbed as fuel for the movement, when it's not really the case.

    • Ford Elms
      January 25, 2012 - 11:56

      They ARE killed humanely, or they used to be. The hakapik had bad optics, but it is a quick humane method of killing. The animal is rendered unconscious practically instantly. Furthermore, the regulations require sealers to strike the animal at least three times, palpate its skull to ensure it is crushed, make an incision under a flipper and bleed the animal, then administer a blink reflex to ensure the animal is not conscious before pelting it. At least 70% of seals are shot, however, with the risk of the animal being wounded and slipping into the water to die in misery. This is not at the choice of sealers, it is a measure that was supported by the animal rights industry, believe it or not. Now, the queswtion is, why do you think the traditional method of killing is inhumane? I suspect it is because you have believed the lies of the animal rights industry. It was an animal rights company, IFAW that originally paid a man to skin a seal alive so they could falsely accuse sealers. iI is the animal rights industry that repeatedly releases staged "cruelty" video. You are ebing lied to by a dishonest amoral industry that unjustly attacks innocent workers in an effort to garner praise and donations. They are unscrupulous, and will stop at nothing, even torturing animals to deathy for propagand, to manipulate you into supporting them. All this has been repeatedly documented in courst in Canada and other countries. They are now turning the same tactics against famers, creating an image of animal farming as cruel, and they use the same lies and staged video "evidence" as they did with sealing. IFAW, HSUS, PETA, Sea Shepherd, Mercy for Animals and, believe it or not, Greenpeace, to name just a few, are dishonest propagandists, and not to be believed. Even their video "evidence" is staged or otherwise manipulated to create a fAsle image of animal cruelty for their victims,. Don't be mislead!

  • Tommie Ozburn
    January 25, 2012 - 10:18

    Question for MP Cleary. Who did you contact in the sealing industry to even come up with your theory we need to rethink the viability of the seal hunt? Did you call anyone at the CSA? Yes or no? Hold town hall meetings with sealers? Yes or no? Met with processing operators? Let's see your study first and how you are going to fight to protect the industry instead of wishing it away.

  • Paul
    January 25, 2012 - 09:24

    Cleary is an idiot! Then again what did people expect when they voted for tne NDP?

  • Turry from town
    January 25, 2012 - 09:08

    Way to go Cleary...... Open mouth and insert foot!

  • Turry from town
    January 25, 2012 - 09:07

    Typical talk when a rookie,inexperienced politition marches up to Ottawa to take the fight of the NL fishery and demand an inquirery.Playing with our hearts just to get elected.Been done before Cleary,not going to change.But to get on the international stage and suggest we look at abolishing the sealing industry does alot of damage to the industry and our province.He should try and spotlight the industry to support it and develope new products and markets,and start a manufacturing industery here,fur,meat,oil, etc... Enjoy your lunches in the cafeteria in Ottawa Mr.Cleary,I think they are going to become fewer.Too late to backtrack on your statements now!

  • brett
    January 25, 2012 - 09:04

    So stop selling the seals, and just cull them when necessary. That'll shush up the animal rights activists. If the world over doesn't want the product, we can't make them buy it. It's a small industry, and quite frankly the animal rights activists have far more money at their disposal than we do to fight it. So cull the seals. It'll end up being cheaper.

  • Brenda Armour
    January 25, 2012 - 08:42

    Our government has pumped millions into this fiasco. It is estimated that the WTO court battle will cost $10 million. We spent thousands for the Minister of Fisheries to promote seal products in China. The Telegram ran two articles on taxpayer’s money paid out to processing plants. Subsidies are paid out to sealers. Your office received $20,000 from the provincial government. Oh I think the government has done more for sealers than any other group of fishermen or farmers in Canada. When man drives a species to near extinction, the species may never recover. Hence this is why Newfoundland has no dinosaurs.

  • Henry Jefford
    January 25, 2012 - 08:41

    The Fisheries should get the Film that the NTV should have of seals hunting like a pack of wolves driving cod fish upon the beach and people picking up cod fish on the beach like capelin. The small cove where this was filmed was said to be 5 to 6 feet deep with dead fish with their belly torn open

  • Jeremiah
    January 25, 2012 - 08:20

    Right or wrong, it was a stund comment for Cleary to make. Shows he is out of touch with NL especially rural NL.

    • Eli
      January 25, 2012 - 11:35

      Ryan committed THE cardinal sin; a politiaian is one who thinks twice before saying nothing. But everyone has the right to be stupid, and I think he abused that priviledge here.

  • pat
    January 25, 2012 - 08:11

    i agree with raelity the seal hunt is dying regardless of the animal rights its dying anyway less people are huntig less people are eating seal less people want to use the fur

  • Sean
    January 25, 2012 - 08:10

    All Cleary is doing is asking for a discussion on if the hunt is economically viable....as a business. He is not asking for the abolition of hunting seals. This is an emotional topic for some, and I understand that. But we need to have a discussion as to if it is costing more money than it is generating. And comments by Mr Pinhorn that the internation community is "walking all over the federal government" are not helpful. What does he propose they do? Order the rest of the world to buy our product? Spend $10 million in advertising to double the business to $2 million? It is past time to have an honest discussion without rhetoric as to how much the people of Newfoundland want to subsidize the industry. I have no moral or ethical issues with hunting seals, the question is how much is everyone in Newfoundland willing to pay so that we can keep the hunt going. And for being brave enough to ask that question, I applaud Mr Cleary.

  • Starr
    January 25, 2012 - 07:04

    Time for Cleary to go. We need someone from our planet not from the one he lives on. The seal hunt is a perfectly good renewable resource! What is his problem? Cleary: if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

    • speedy
      January 25, 2012 - 08:59

      And Starr I suppose that by this little rant of yours you are a part of the solution, I think Mr Cleary is at least addressing the problem to search for a solution.

    • dave swank
      January 31, 2012 - 22:58

      Um.... They are not renewable at the numbers your taking them at.

  • Reality bites
    January 25, 2012 - 06:57

    Cleary is right. We can all bury our heads in the sand and deny the obvious, but the cold economic facts are for whatever reason, the commercial hunt is anything but viable. The animal rights groups make far more off the industry than the harvesters and processors ever will. Instead of attacking him for pointing out the obvious, the conversation should be on how we can best exploit this resource profitably.