- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Jan 1998, p. 300-307
- Efford, The Hon. John, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Viewing the sealing industry in the context of Newfoundland and Labrador's entire fishing industry and its role in the economy. The profound impacts of the moratoria on principal groundfish stocks, especially northern cod, with some figures. Employment levels for Newfoundland and Labrador in comparison with the rest of Canada. The significant factor of out-migration. A detailed description of some of the fishing and sealing industry and communities. Revolutionary changes in the sealing industry. Growing markets. Omega-3 oil and other commercial products. Three principal cornerstones, around which the Newfoundland and Labrador government fully supports a seal harvest and are committed to its further development. Complementary management measures put in place by the Government of Canada to regulate the harvest. Seals as a healthy, renewable and abundant resource. A discussion of the seal herds and the commercial seal hunt. Claims and counters to them by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
- Date of Original
- 22 Jan 1998
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- The Hon. John Efford, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
THE SEALING INDUSTRY OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Chairman: Gareth S. Seltzer, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
The Hon. Barnett Danson, Consultant and distinguished Honorary Officer, The Empire Club of Canada; Duncan N.R. Jackman, Managing Director, Fulcrum Investment Company and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Julie Cohen, OAC Student, Northern Secondary School; The Rev. Duke Vipperman, Associate Priest, Little Trinity Anglican Church, Scarborough; John Hawco, President, The Friends of Newfoundland Association (FONA); Joshua Greenway, Baton Broadcasting Incorporated; and Christine Aquin, Account Executive, City TV and The New VR.
Introduction by Gareth Seltzer
It is the mandate of the Empire Club to promote the interests of Canada by the discussion of subjects and events relating to our nation. That was proclaimed in 1903--and the Club has been a forum for such discussion ever since.
And in the past 12 months we have hosted the leaders of nations, the most recent being the President of the Philippines just two months ago, of industry and social issues. In most cases, there is a rush to hear the views of those who are deeply entrenched in the issues that they address. But today is somehow different. For an issue that practically everybody has a strong opinion about, it seems that there is a reluctance to hear both sides; to obtain more information so as to make an informed opinion. Consequently, I am especially pleased that The Hon. John Efford, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador joins us today.
The seal harvest is a part of our Canadian heritage. The Empire Club, of course, takes no stand on the issue, only on the importance of the topic itself. Nevertheless, it does seem that there is no shortage of hostile misinformation regarding the hunt from many sources. Individuals like Farley Mowat have stirred the pot by suggesting the harvest is akin to the Holocaust, a potentially offensive remark in itself, especially from somebody whose own work is under scrutiny for its integrity. And we continue to see pictures of seal pups being harvested even though the legal seal hunt is now restricted only to adult seals. And we forget that the hunt is also carried out by the Inuit of Canada's Arctic, who not only use sealing as a means of income, but as a source of nutrition and material for clothing and crafts. This in addition to the many small maritime communities have relied on the annual cycle of sealing and fishing for hundreds of years.
And I suspect if Clayton Ruby, born, raised and educated here in Toronto, called another press conference on the annual hunt, he would draw a committed crowd to hear his well-constructed story.
Now we are especially fortunate to hear from a man who knows first hand what it means to be a fish harvester. He was born in the historical Newfoundland fishing community of Port de Grave and is equally concerned about the interests of his constituents and the wildlife upon which they so deeply rely. This is an exceptional opportunity for us all to absorb factual information upon which we can then formulate our views. Now, I am sure Mr. Minister, that when you tell your story, you are sometimes faced with strong opposition. And it has less to do with being a politician (since you have also been a very successful businessman) than it does have to do with your topic today. Even friends may challenge you. I am reminded of a quote from Oscar Wilde who said that Bernard Shaw has no enemies but he is intensely disliked by his friends. You are, Minister, a man whose popularity and reputation for excellence makes it difficult to imagine that all of those who have an opportunity to work with you, aren't impressed with your commitment to Canada and the Maritimes--friends and foes alike. Please welcome to the podium, The Honourable John Efford.
I want to thank the Empire Club, and Club President Gareth Seltzer in particular, for the invitation to speak to you today. I am delighted to be here.
My topic is the sealing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. To have a full appreciation for what this industry means to our province, however, it has to be viewed in the context of our entire fishing industry and its role in our economy.
The impacts of the moratoria on our principal groundfish stocks, especially northern cod, have been profound. People's livelihoods disappeared overnight. The shock waves were felt throughout Atlantic Canada, but the crisis was centred in Newfoundland and Labrador; more than 70 per cent of the impacts were in our province. Groundfish landings that had exceeded an annual average of 370,000 tonnes in the late 1980s, dropped by 93 per cent by 1996. The collapse of major stocks put 27,000 people out of work.
Since the first moratorium was announced in 1992, Canada's national employment level increased by almost 4 per cent. The employment level for Newfoundland and Labrador dropped by close to 8 per cent.
In 1996, our employment rate was double the national rate and almost three times the lowest recorded provincial rate in Saskatchewan. At least 75,000 full-year equivalent jobs are needed just to bring our employment and unemployment rate on par with the national average.
Out-migration is a significant factor in rural communities, particularly those impacted by the groundfish crisis. Pickup trucks leave the province filled with a life's worth of personal effects. The youngest and brightest leave in search of economic opportunity. Almost 10,000 people left the province last year, nearly 90 per cent of them less than 35 years of age.
Newfoundland and Labrador still has fisheries. There are many success stories showing how we are diversifying the industry, developing under-utilised species, and creating new market opportunities. However, the employment and economic activity generated by these does not replace what has been lost in the groundfishery. That is why the sealing industry continues to be so critical to our rural areas. The seal harvest takes place at a time of year when there are very limited opportunities for harvesters to earn income from other fisheries.
Income from the seal fishery is often the only way many harvesters have to raise money to get their fishing boats and gear ready for summer fisheries. The harvest is nowadays essentially a small-boat harvest, conducted by fishermen from coastal communities where employment opportunities are scarce.
Some of these communities have less than 100 families. There's no Irving Oil or Michelin Tire there as an employment alternative.
In 1997 the seal fishery provided income for more than 3,000 harvesters and 300 plant workers. The oil, pelt and meat products of the 246,000 animals harvested had an export value of about $20 million.
Changes to our sealing industry have been revolutionary. Tremendous research and development efforts have revitalised the industry since the early 80s when a strong anti-sealing lobby all but destroyed markets for seal products, mainly fur.
Now, markets are growing. New products have been developed: seal oil, protein concentrate, meat products such as pepperoni, pate, sausages and burgers. There is also growth in leather and fur products and companies are interested in setting up tanneries.
Omega-3 oil is valuable as a health supplement and is now available in stores. We are working on commercialising seal meat protein and investigating potential in Third World countries. The Newfoundland and Labrador government fully supports a seal harvest and are fully committed to its further development around three principal cornerstones:
A sustainable harvest based on solid science;
An industry based on the full utilisation of the animal; and,
Humane harvesting methods with zero tolerance for any inhumane practices.
Our provincial position is complemented by management measures put in place by the Government of Canada to regulate the harvest:
• Humane harvesting practices;
• Strict enforcement;
• A ban on commercial hunt of whitecoats; and
• The number harvested based on scientific information and sound conservation principles.
We have a healthy, renewable and abundant resource. Harp seals numbered around 1.5 million animals in the early 1970s. A 1994 scientific survey (the most recent one) put the population at an estimated 4.8 million with an annual pup production of 703,000. The 1994 population figures are outdated. A conservative estimate of the current harp seal population is around 5.1 million animals growing by 5 per cent annually (taking into account pup production, harvest and natural mortality). These figures do not include five other seal species in eastern Canadian waters.
Growing seal herds give rise to concerns about an imbalance in the marine ecosystem in eastern Canadian waters where a moratorium on fishing northern cod has been in place since 1992. Not one of the 27,000 people impacted by the groundfish moratoria is permitted to fish for northern cod but 5.1 million harp seals can harvest them putting at risk stock rebuilding efforts.
The Scientific Council of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization this year reported that harp seals consume every year 108,000 tonnes of juvenile northern cod less than 40 cm in length. Given that the preferred cod size for seals is actually less than 25 cm, this would mean they are munching on 300 million baby northern cod per year. Annually seals consume 340,000 tonnes of turbot, also a valuable commercial resource in Newfoundland and Labrador. As early as three years ago, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans indicated that harp seals were consuming 6.9 million metric tonnes of marine species annually. More than 50 per cent of that came from Canadian waters. The Atlantic Salmon Federation has expressed concern that seals may be a factor in the failure of salmon to return to rivers in the numbers anticipated. Seals have been observed in some areas swimming up rivers after trout and salmon. In short the marine ecosystem on Canada's east coast is out of whack. It is unbalanced. Over-fishing of stocks by man may have started the problem. Now, man must fix it. Nature alone cannot restore species balance to our marine ecosystem.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is against the commercial seal hunt. Its misleading propaganda campaigns have been economically devastating for aboriginal people who have a profound dependence on seals. The President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference said recently: "Although Inuit were never directly a target of the anti-sealing campaigns, we became perhaps their biggest victims ... With the collapse of the world markets for seal skins in the 1970s and 80s, our world changed forever. This loss had devastating and enduring impacts on the Inuit of Greenland and Arctic Canada." The IFAW propaganda campaign has become an annual circus of deceit. This year it's enlisted the support of 25 members of the Canadian arts community--a group calling themselves Canadians Against the Commercial Seal Hunt.
Renowned author Pierre Burton is clearly not among them. In a letter to the Globe and Mail, Mr. Burton said he was appalled that a group of people in the Canadian arts community had signed an IFAW newspaper ad demanding an end to the Newfoundland seal hunt. "Do these members of the arts community," he asked, "who put their names on that advertisement realise the legacy they are leaving behind? In the Arctic the former seal hunters are living on welfare and lapsing into alcoholism, suicide, family break-up, and drug abuse. That, not the killing of seals, is the ultimate immorality."
The IFAW claims that Canadians subsidise an industry that kills baby seals. This is false. The commercial harvesting of whitecoats has been banned since the 1980s.
They claim 500,000 seals were taken in the 1997 hunt. This is also false--246,000 were taken.
They claim the harvest provides few economic benefits. False again. The '97 fishery had an export value of about $20 million. It provided income for more than 3,000 sealers and 300 plant workers.
They claim Canadians paid $3.4 million in subsidies in 1996 for a seal harvest. False: The total federal and provincial subsidies in '96 were $1.7 million. This was reduced to just over $1 million in 1997 and will be reduced again in 1998 and '99. By the year 2000 it will be zero. The subsidy was for meat alone, while we were developing meat products and markets. The seal oil and other products are already self-supporting.
They claim the harvest is cruel. The fact is that commercial licenses are limited to professional fishermen. Humane practices are supported by the industry and strictly enforced by DFO. Penalties are among the toughest in the world.
The IFAW keeps trying to give the impression that more than 100 sealers were charged with cruelty. What these sealers were actually charged with was selling blueback hood seals. It is not illegal to hunt blueblacks.
The IFAW campaigns distort. They are deceitful. In the process; they inflict injury upon humanity. They use graphic details to get an emotional response that will bring cash to the IFAW's coffers. The seal harvest is not a pretty sight. Neither is the killing of chicken or cattle or pigs or anything else in a slaughterhouse. The only difference is that the seal harvest is conducted in a public arena--an open-space abattoir.
The commercial harvesting of seals on Canada's East Coast is more tightly regulated than ever before; humane practices are strictly enforced, with penalties for violations among the toughest in the world.
Seals are an abundant, renewable resource. The harp seal population is one of the healthiest mammal populations in the world. It is a resource that allows people in our coastal communities to pursue their livelihoods with dignity. It provides a significant resource for aboriginal people.
With the commercialisation of new seal products such as Omega-3 oil and protein concentrate and the expansion of markets for both new and traditional seal products, the seal resource offers significant economic benefits in coastal communities where other employment opportunities are very limited.
The industry is expanding and is providing a measure of hope to individuals who have seen their lives shattered by the collapse of the groundfish sector. The Newfoundland and Labrador government fully intends to continue expanding solid market opportunities so we can increase the economic benefits from the seal industry. The misguided activities of the IFAW will not weaken this resolve.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Duncan N.R. Jackman, Managing Director, Fulcrum Investments Company and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.