A call to arms for the seal hunt

Published on June 12, 2014

This article is dedicated to the first organization in this province to take on the anti-sealing groups in 1976, known as the St. Anthony citizens committee.  Members where Eric Chubbs, Donald Simms, Selwyn Strangemore, Francis Patey and Roy Pilgrim as chairman. Pilgrim also became a member of the Canadian Sealers’ Association formed in Baie Verte in 1982, and became a good friend of mine.

Early March of 1976, Brian Davies — under the banner of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — descended on St. Anthony with helicopters, celebrities and a contingent of reporters from around the world and was followed by Patrick Moore, Bob Hunter and Paul Watson of Greepeace (from the book, “A Battle Lost: An Unsuccessful Attempt to Save the Seal Hunt,” by Francis Patey of St. Anthony.)

Although Greenpeace is no longer campaigning against the seal hunt because they have realized that the hunt is sustainable and in no danger of extinction, the IFAW continues to protest and spread their lies and propaganda along with the organization called PETA. These people will not stop as long as they keep receiving money from the ill-informed and bleeding hearts that keep funding their salaries.

Although these groups are not so active interfering with the hunt as in early years, they are now doing it by social media and, as this article states, they have got the damage done.

But the other group causing the most problem for sealers is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada.

This group has allowed the protesters in the past to disrupt the hunt with helicopters and protesters on the ice and has done nothing to stop these groups from spreading their lies.

Now the fishery officers are doing the same as the protesters did a few years ago by harassing the hunters, doing autopsies on the seals to see if they have been killed three times, and if one sealer is found (to have broken regulations), take them to court where our non-

sympathetic judges are imposing heavy fines.  

Checking hakapiks and making hunters grind off 1/8 of an inch — (how childish); not allowing sealers to take anybody out in boat unless they are 18 years old and has a licence.  

In a few years, if we do succeed in getting our markets back, we will have no sealers left because we are not allowed to train our sons and daughters as our dads and granddads did with us. mMy question is why?

In 1976, the sealers and concerned citizens were trying to stop Brian Davies from leaving St. Anthony to go to the ice fields but the RCMP sided with the anti-

sealing groups and allowed them to fly their helicopters to the ice fields and spray the whitecoats with a green dye. DFO officers are doing the same now by providing the protesters with information of sealers getting charged with skinning live seals.

Nothing has changed since 1976.

As I am writing this article, the seal hunt is winding down and it has not been a very successful one. This year, with a total allowable catch of 400,000, we are only able to sell 54,000 seals — with no market for 346,000.  

With a seal population of between 8 million to 10 million, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the seals are going to take over the ocean and stop our fragile fisheries from rebounding. In 1848, 600,000 seals were harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am not blaming the seals for our fragile fisheries, but we have fished most of our fisheries to the limit and allowed the seal population to explode, and in doing so have upset the balance in the ocean.

You cannot catch most of the food of the predator without controlling the predator and expect everything to be OK.

In the April edition of the Navigator magazine, there was an article called “Sealing on the upswing” by Jim Wellman, interviewing Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers’ Association.

Pinhorn stated all 90,000 seal pelts purchased last year had been sold and that projections now were for a better year in 2014, with some people suggesting there may be markets for as many as 120,000 pelts, perhaps more. The fact is, in 2014, instead of a projected increase from a dismal harvest of 90,000 in 2013, we are harvesting ,this year, 36,000 fewer.

We are losing ground and we have to face reality, we have to stop fooling ourselves.

I am sick and tired of attending seal meetings where we are being told there is going to be a huge market for meat and pelts in China; we will have a huge market for seal heart valves to be used in humans; we will not be able to supply the market for seal oil capsules, etc.

And now that the Eurpoean Union ban on seal products is being upheld, we know nothing is going to change unless we do it ourselves.

I really don’t know how we are going to reverse this trend. We have to start today, and we have to get some intelligent minds together, people who are concerned about what’s happening.  

We have to have both levels of government on board to supply what funding is needed. We still have some of the original members of the two groups around who had good ideas but could get very little done because they did not get the support from governments that was needed.

Both governments, federal and provincial, had a opportunity last year to rectify this problem when they signed a deal with the EU for free trade and the then-premier Kathy Dunderdale and her government missed a golden opportunity by not having this ban on seal products lifted before ever signing this agreement. Instead we were sold out for 30 pieces of silver (same as Judas got for betraying Jesus) — $280 million from the federal government.

Maybe this money should be used to fight anti-sealing groups.

If we don’t do something now we will lose our very valuable seal hunt. Not only will we lose our seal hunt, but our oceans will never

sustain our rural communities because of the damage seals are doing to the ocean.

We have to decide if we want a future for this province, because when the oil is gone and our fish are no longer there, we won’t have a province fit to live in.

Show the people of St. Anthony that their fight in 1976 against great odds was not in vain and, hopefully, Francis Patey will be around to write the book, “A Battle Won.”

Let’s show our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren that we have the guts to fight for this province, the same as my two uncles did when they fought in the Second World War, to give us and the European countries the freedom we have today.

By the time you read this the seal hunt for 2014 will be over and I have a feeling, (but I hope not), we will not hear about sealing again until we are ready to go sealing in 2015 — that is, if we have a hunt left. Surely someone is out there with the guts and the fortitude to get the ball rolling.

(Retired) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett

writes from Green Bay South.