Honourable Senators, our Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is studying sealing, particularly the situation of the grey seal in Atlantic Canada
We have just begun our study – and I don’t want to prejudge the conclusions – but we have learned many interesting facts. Mature grey seals eat about two tonnes of fish each year. There are now about 400,000 of them in Atlantic region. Sealers tell us that they don’t eat the whole fish, often they just take a bite out of the tenderest parts, leaving the rest to die. Although overfishing was responsible for the decline of our Atlantic cod stocks, commercial fishing hasn’t been allowed since 1993. Now the seals are gobbling up what cod are left and they will be eating other commercial fish species and shellfish next after the cod are gone if we don’t do something about it.
Since we started our study, we have been besieged by intemperate emails from all over the world – from people who believe the untruths that the Canadian seal hunt is cruel and inhumane. They threaten never to visit our country and say that the seal hunt is Canada’s shame.
With permits given by our Department of Fisheries and Oceans, they film seal hunting and use the videos they make to raise a lot of money to pay themselves well and campaign against the seal hunt. Magdalen Island sealers told us four anti sealing groups raised $250 million to campaign against the Canadian seal hunt. They persuaded the European parliament to ban the sale of seal products in Europe based on these lies.
In truth, Canadian sealers know how to hunt and kill seals quickly and humanely. They use a three step process which insures that the seal is quickly stunned and bled, and that the brain is dead before it is pelted. But anti sealing groups perpetuate lies that we are still killing whitecoats – even though that has been banned since 1987 – and that seals are skinned alive – and they raise money from gullible, ignorant people all over the world to condemn our hunt and damage Inuit and their renewable resource economy in the process.
We also learned that five European countries are authorizing the killing of grey seals because their fish are being gobbled up by seals as are our fish in Canadian waters. In fact, the same European countries who have banned Canadian seal products in Europe are killing millions of muskrats and grey squirrels and wasting the meat and the fur – treating them like pests to be exterminated. This is not the Canadian way.
The grey seals in our waters can be harvested humanely and effectively as a source of valuable and nutritious protein, omega 3 oil, attractive and valuable leather and fur and, in future, medicinal products like replacement heart valves. Although they are chewing up tonnes of our valuable and threatened fish stocks, I do not believe grey seals should be culled and wasted. They are not a pest, but a valuable resource that has been undervalued, and if protest groups have their way, they will be of no value – only a cost to us to manage them.
I am proud that our government supports Canadian sealers, but I believe we must translate that support into doing a better job at educating the world about our humane and sustainable harvesting practices, our ability to responsibly manage our renewable resources, and giving Canadian sealers access to these rich resources so we can utilize them to contribute to global food security. We must responsibly, respectfully and humanely manage and not waste this abundant renewable resources.