Taxpayers on hook for $2.5M seal hunt loan

James McLeod
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Seals gather on the ice off the Port Saunders. — Transcontinental Media file photo

It may have only been a fraction of the size of the seal hunt a decade ago, but compared to the last couple of years, Fisheries Minister Darin King is calling the 2012 seal hunt an unqualified success.

In total, hunters took close to 70,000 animals this year nearly double what was taken in 2011.

“It’s all positive from our perspective,” King said.  “I fail to find how you can call it a failure when we’ve grown it so much in such a short time and we see markets open up.”

This year’s seal hunt got off the ground in large part because the government offered up a $3.6 million loan to Carino, a seal pelt processor, in order to allow the company to buy pelts.

The money was to be used to buy up to 100,000 pelts; since only part of that was taken, the government is on the hook for around $2.5 million.

King said the money hasn’t been paid out to Carino yet, and he expects it will still be repaid “by Christmas” as he originally stated when he announced the loan earlier this spring.

“We have every confidence that there won’t be an issue with the repayment,” he said.

At the same time, he made it clear the money was for one-year only, and as far as he’s concerned, it won’t happen again.

“I can say with certainty that when cabinet made the decision, we made the decision in the context of this as a one-shot deal,” King said. “Hopefully once we get through this year, by next year this time, the markets will have opened up.”

Sheryl Fink, director of the seal program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), dismissed King’s optimism.

“We’re still seeing a hunt that is much reduced from what it had been in previous years, 25 times smaller than what it was in 2006,” Fink said. “I don’t think this is an industry that’s going to come back, and we need to help transition people away, make sure they’re properly and appropriately compensated for any loss of income.”

In recent years, the IFAW and some other animal welfare groups have pressed the government to bail out seal harvesters to end the hunt.

But politicians of all stripes said they believe things are turning around for the beleaguered hunt.

New Democrat MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said he believes more needs to be done to market seal products to people in the province, but he applauded the government for offering the loan to Carino.

“In terms of looking at it from last year, it is more successful than previous years,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction. I do think the minister cares about the seal hunt and I think we’re going to see some good things in the future.”

Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett said as far as he’s concerned, the primary focus should be on the size of the herd and ultimately used to control the seal population.

“The herd is way overpopulated and the first thing we need to do is decide on the size of the hunt,” he said. “What is sustainable and what is appropriate? And that needs to be done in conjunction with the scientists.”

PLEASE NOTE: This story has been changed to correct a spelling mistake.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare

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Recent comments

  • Sealer Jimmy
    June 02, 2012 - 20:48

    2.5 million dolars was probably raised this week by the animal rights gang on a bunch of lies about us! I'd gladly have the Gov pay $100 million to stick it in the face of that lot using their hatred propaganda campaign pointed at Newfoundland this past 50 years by the elites and celebs. Well done Min. King. All ready for next year.

  • Charles
    June 02, 2012 - 15:37

    Sorry DA BEJER...Weather i may have spell a word wrong...or so...don't really matter... you got the picture....But you sound like a sealer to me...Let me tell you a little bit about me. 1 - I was a sealer at one time. 2 - Work in fish plants 3 - Also work Inshore fisheries. Just that I needs something better for my FAMILY...And I done it...all on my own...With taxpayers dollars. Please don't try and tell me about NL history....I was a part of it.

  • CM
    June 02, 2012 - 15:36

    It has been proven time and again that seals don't effect the overall population of cod and other fish. You kill them all, watch the ocean surge with too many fish! I could care less if it's been done for 100 years. If it's barbaric, it needs to be stopped. There is so little demand for this in the world and yet Canada keeps shoving their seal hunt down international throats to make a buck. Buy a clue! No one wants your blood lust on their hands...or backs!

    • David
      June 03, 2012 - 12:37

      "....You kill them all, watch the ocean surge with too many fish!...." First, this clearly implies that you admit seals eat fish...a great start, since your ilk pathetically refuse to admit this obvious reality. (But then, reality on all levels is a basic challenge for them). Second, no one intends, desires, or could possibly kill all seals. Again, your words belie the genetic weakness of the mind that characterizes you and your propoganda comrades. You are extremely stupid, yet highly self-righteous.....that is very bad..

    • Fred Penner
      June 03, 2012 - 19:43

      "Seals don't affect the population of cod and other fish"!!...It has been proven?! What planet are you on? Obviously if a predator eats another animal as prey and if the population of the predator increases then there are more predators and therefore less prey! Translation: If the population of the seals goes up then the population of cod goes down. Its called the natural world.

  • Jeremiah
    June 02, 2012 - 12:59

    IFAW, maybe we should also put a stop to the ground fish industry. It is just awful how they put hooks into those "cute" fish. Then there is trouting, so cruel on the worms, imagine being skivvered on a hook! Then of course there is the cruelty of the slaughter houses, are cows cute? Then there is the whole matter of dunking live lobsters in boiling water. Are lobsters cute enough to get donations? Maybe not. But seals, whole different story. They look cute (the ones that are NOT hunted), but can still suck the money in. Never mind telling the truth, The money's the thing! Hypocrits!

  • Sean
    June 02, 2012 - 11:52

    We all pay taxes, but why does the government see the need to keep compensating the fishing industry with ALL of OUR tax dollars. I lost my job last fall, and I did not have any government subsidy to bail me out. I had to go and get another job. Government bail outs have been going on in the Fishery for way to long, and a lot in the industry have come to expect it.

  • da bejer
    June 02, 2012 - 11:20

    Well, Charles...i doubt if your'e from NL....given the way you spell English words...this is money well spent to continue harvesting a hunt thats been a part of our history for over a hundred years.....there are 9 million seals of the coast of NL....and they are not eating hot dogs....they are eating cod and other species that are a valuable resource to our to NBA and other critics of the seal hunt i say this.....visit a abbotior and see where your hamburger comes from.

  • Poor Fisherman HA
    June 02, 2012 - 09:29

    Why does the government throw money at fishermen to keep them in a job and does not treat the rest of us equally and give some to other industries like retail or service.

  • Charles
    June 02, 2012 - 08:53

    Very poor investment on part of the government...When next season roll around...Sealer will be on the open line show's...once more complaining...Concerning the hunt...It time for government let this one go...Invest the taxpayers money...In more productive way...By putting peoples to work...And i don't mean ...make work projects...We got 48 mha in this province...And not one of them...really know whats going on ..We has a people need Leadership...Not wind blower ...We need someone with foresight...

  • Feelin' skinned
    June 02, 2012 - 07:39

    In other words, taxpayers are in the hook for 40 bucks a seal. Unqualified success indeed.

    • David
      June 02, 2012 - 10:29

      "....At the same time, he made it clear the money was for one-year only, and as far as he’s concerned, it won’t happen again....." I guess we can't cope with the success.

  • nba
    June 02, 2012 - 07:35

    May I suggest it is important as a provincial newspaper that we get the spelling correct. It is herd not heard... even if Jim Bennetts pronouciation is heard.