No seal meat to be had on Northern Peninsula

James McLeod
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Hundreds of seals gather on the ice of the Port Saunders. — Transcontinental Media file photo

The seal hunt opened in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Tuesday, but  some residents on the Northern Peninsula are complaining they just can’t get seal meat for food.

Abel Taylor, living in Raleigh on the Northern Peninsula, said that if the area wasn’t so “maggoty” with fisheries enforcement officers, he would have just poached a couple of seals earlier this year.

“You can’t go and poach one because, I mean, it’s crawling with (enforcement officers),” Taylor said.

“If they spent the money that they’re spending on guarding the seals and put it into search and rescue, maybe we’d be better off today than what we are.”

Taylor has a commercial sealing licence, but at 70 years old he’s retired and doesn’t want to go out to the ice. Earlier this year, though, the ice came to him; the seals and the ice pans were right in on shore, and he said he could have just gone down to the beach and taken a couple animals.

“The younger people growing up today don’t want it. They’re too far into hamburgers and chicken and hot dogs and so on and so forth,” he said. “But we older people, I mean, we all depended on it for years and years and years, and we still like to have access to do it until we die.”

New Democrat MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said he’s been hearing from quite a few people who say they’ve been having trouble getting personal-use seal licences.

Commercial licences cost about $5 and allow a hunter to take an unlimited number of seals. Mitchelmore said new commercial use licences have been frozen.

The personal use licences cost the same amount, but a licence holder can only take six seals.

Mitchelmore said a lot of people don’t know that they can get a personal use licence, though.

“A significant number of people don’t realize they can get up to six seals under a personal licence,” he said. “It’s not being marketed or promoted at all by the department of fisheries and oceans at a level that is acceptable.”

Mitchelmore said that the enforcement and regulation is just too strict, and it’s keeping from people from getting seals.

“They wanted to have access to seal — no more than three seals — so they can have a fresh meal of seal and to also bottle some up for later use,” he said. “We do want to make sure that the resource is managed and it’s very sustainable, but we shouldn’t have restrictions and enforcement that are so stringent that it’s impacting seniors. It’s impacting people and their way of life.”

Ron Burton, area chief of conservation and Protection for DFO, said that all you need for a personal use licence is a firearms certification and to attend a DFO information session.

“These sessions include training in the three-step process for ensuring humane harvest. In 2012 Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we actually had 14 personal use seal information sessions throughout the province,” he said. “Any time we do these kinds of educational sessions, we advertise through various means — public notices, different media, sometimes in the paper, sometimes it’s on the Fisheries Broadcast or a combination of both.”

As far as enforcement, Burton said that shouldn’t matter.

“It’s illegal. If the season’s not open, it’s not open. Whether there’s an officer in the area or not, people should not be using that as their criteria for whether they go sealing or not.”

The folks on the Northern Peninsula have an unlikely ally on the issue, in Sheryl Fink, director of the seal program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Fink said the IFAW is opposed to the intenerational trade of seal products, but if the meat or fur is being used locally, that’s just fine.

“If the meat is being consumed locally or if the fur is being worn locally, that’s really more of a subsistence hunt,” she said. “Our concern comes into play when animals are being hunted and their parts are being put into the international wildlife trade because historically, we see that as where we run into problems with substantiality and conservation.”

Fink and a group from IFAW are in the province to observe and document the seal hunt, looking for fisheries violations and inhumane treatment.

Taylor, for his part, says he won’t be going out this year. When the seals are in close to the shore, he could basically just go down to the beach and take one, but he isn’t going to go out to the front in a boat.

And while the sealers who do go out will bring back flippers, Taylor said it’s just not the same.

“I mean, you go into a restaurant and yes, they’ll say ‘fresh cod.’ But, I mean, where do they get the fresh cod? It’s fresh to some people because they don’t know what fresh is,” he said. “The same way with seal. I mean, you go out and go to some of those commercial boats that are doing the commercial seal fishery, the flippers or whatever they bring in are all thrown in a vat or a tub of some kind on top of each other, not iced half of the time. You’re eating meat that’s not like fresh meat.”

Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: Department of fisheries and oceans, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Raleigh

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Recent comments

  • George from Northern Pen
    April 14, 2012 - 07:55

    I guess if you take what Mr. Taylor said verbatim then it is poaching. Maybe he could have used a better way to describe what he wanted to do, but basically the gentleman is asking for an opportunity at 70 years old to go and get a meal of fresh seal. Nothing wrong with that especially given that as Edmund says aboriginals can do it and there are no reprecussions. I guess Mr. Taylor didn't practise a traditional way of life prior to this and got his fresh seal at Foodland or the Co-op store unlike aboriginals. Sarcasism there folks!! With respect to the $5 fee that is not and should not be an impediment for anyone, but the level of enforcement is ludicrious!! Sure we need rules and regulations and the hunt should be conducted responsibly, but do we need several helicopters flying 7 days a week to protect this over adundant herd?? It is crazy. As someone said better to put that money into SAR. If a consistenet level of enforcement is applied to protect the dwindling moose population here on the Northern Pen as we forward, then we won't see the skies for helos!! And Peter: I know Abel Taylor... Think twice before you call him lazy and ignorant. He is anything but that. Shame on you to use these monikers to describe a very talented and energetic man!!!

  • N E
    April 13, 2012 - 09:50

    PETER, I take it you are not from the area because if you were you would understand. What Mr. Taylor is trying to say is he likes a meal seal and when they are in for easy access the season is not open, he is a older man who can't just jump abord a boat like he use too, I mean YOU go out in boat and jump over on a pan of ice to get a seal and tow it back to the boat at a young age and then tell me you could do it at the age of 70 and it's true that the younger people don't eat it as much as the older people do. Maybe they should open it for locals a little earlier and start charging the commercial hunters who just want the pelts and see what the big fuss is then. I believe the man who is ignorate is that man who thinks that Mr. Taylor, at his age, can jump aboard a boat and get a seal the way he use too.

  • Edmund
    April 11, 2012 - 09:37

    Too bad Mr. Taylor does not have aboriginal status. If he did he could go out and get as many seals as he wanted at the beach in front of his house and DFO and IFAW wouldn't be able to do a thing about it. My opinion is, let the people take the seals for food and clothing whenever they want, without having to pay a fee (another form of taxation). These folk have every right to be able to provide for themselves by living off the land or sea without interference, like those with aboriginal status. Maybe we should have the whole province declared as an aboriginal state. That would solve a lot of these useless and petty rules and regulations regarding harvesting our natural food resources.

    • PETER
      April 11, 2012 - 10:57

      It's the attitude of people like Mr. Taylor and EDMUND that give us a bad name, and give the animal rights groups ammunition. No, we should not all be declared aboriginals, and the hunt has rules for good reason, look it up EDMUND and Mr. Taylor. The $5 fees is no obstacle, Taylor just wants something for nothing, regardless of rules. It's obvious why there are so many wildlife officials around, too many people like them out there wanting to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Pay the $5 fee and get the seals, in season, there are lots of them out there and bottle them then. How lazy and ignorant can some folks be?

  • J F
    April 11, 2012 - 08:33

    I'm most certainly not against the seal hunt, but when you have people like the gentleman described above casually talking about "poaching" the seals and whatnot, people like him give the groups like PETA a leg to stand on!

    • Sal
      April 14, 2012 - 14:56

      People are very quick to comment when in fact they have no idea about rural Newfoundland and the way of life there. Mr. Taylor don't give the hunt a bad name, he has taken part in it for many years. He is a grandfathered hunter who has come to see a lot of changes take place in the seal fishery, where gone is the day when you could go and get a seal for a meal. It is highly regulated now, with the same laws applying both commercially and the locals who hunt one or two. That is the point he is making. Maybe the word "poach" wasn't the best word choice, but what he means since it is highly regulated, he can no longer just go and get one when it is easy access to have some for supper. I have to defend him since growing up in rural northern Newfoundland I know exactly what he means. Government have their priorities in the wrong place sometimes, with 4 and 5 helicopters flying around this time of year making sure someone is not killing seals out of season, when we can't get one to save a lost teenage boy. That is the point Mr. Taylor is trying to make. Government will go through great measure to please PETA but do nothing to save an innocent young boy. So for those who are too quick to add your comments to ridicule people who have known this way of life for such a long time, you need to understand the way of life of rural Newfoundlanders before you go pointing fingers, since after all it is YOU who are ignorant. As for laziness PETER, it just justifies that you have NO IDEA of life in outport Newfoundland.