SEALS IN TROUBLE
by Menkit Prince
What is it about seals that captivates our attention
and endears them to us? Seven years ago I spent an idyllic
summer afternoon at Bodega Bay, California with a friend.
We lay on the warm sandy beach, soaking up the sun. Off
in the distance, blending with the sound of the crashing
waves and seagulls a new sound - "ahoouuu, ahoouuu
ahoouu". Binoculars revealed the presence of a healthy
colony of seals sunbathing on a rock at the end of the
promontory. When it was time to leave I wept, heartbroken.
I wanted to spend the rest of my life here on this beach
listening to the seals. They had cast a spell on me!
A Canadian friend of mine spent a holiday on the coast
of Quebec and every day a lone seal would appear in the
water at a distance in the same spot staring at her for
hours. One day it came very close - within 12". Soon
it brought 3 family members and they all just sat staring
at her! It was bewitching for her.
Perhaps the seals are calling us? Perhaps they know their
existence on this earth is in peril. Right now off the
coast of Newfoundland fishermen (not native Inuits) are
planning to kill 350,000 harp seals in the largest mass
slaughter of marine animals in the world. Over 96% are
defenseless babies aged 12 days to 12 weeks of age who
can barely swim or feed themselves
According to the Department of Fisheries & Ocean (DFO)
this hunt is humane. Sealers come to the ice nurseries
and club them with spiked clubs, crushing their soft skulls
so they hemmorhage and convulse. The lucky ones die before
the sealers return to skin them. Up to 42% are still conscious
while being skinned.
How sad for the helpless mothers who watch. Photos show
them grieving over a pile of bloody flesh that was once
their baby. Male adults are mutilated for their penis
bone and left to die. Seals are shot in the water and
die slowly under the ice. See photos
Click here for graphic videos from IFAW,
SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY websites.
At the "hunt" in the Gulf of Newfoundland in
2005 all three activist groups at the ice (IFAW, HSUS
and Sea Shepherd) had unarmed crew members, all within
10 meters of seals being killed, assaulted by angy sealers
with clubs and hakapiks. Female crewmembers were punched
multiple times in the stomach. No charges have been laid
against the sealers. Sea Shepherd videos
clearly document this which just goes to show that if
you can commit violence to a helpless animal and get away
with it, you can do it to a human being too.
WELL REGULATED HUNT
The DFO claims this is a well regulated hunt. It is an
offence to witness or photograph a sealer killing a seal
without a permit punishable by 6 months in jail yet there
is no punishment for sealers who kick pups in the head,
mutilate them or commit any breach of the code including
exceeding the quota or killing whitecoats (seals under
12 days old). The International Fund for Animal Welfare
presented 660 documented cases to the DFO yet not one
The DFO claims that there are anywhere between 2.5 and
6 million seals but there hasn't been an official
count for over 6 years. How can the Government be so sure
they are not driving the seal to extinction? For the last
3 years a total of 1 million seals will have been slaughtered
which excludes those that die under the ice or left alone
without parents (an estimated two to three times more).
Seal pelts are banned in the U.K., the U.S. and Europe.
Because the demand for seal pelts, meat, penises and oil
is so low, the Canadian Government spends over $20 million
of taxpayers money trying to create markets that don't
exist except for a few countries. Also they employ Coast
Guard tankers, helicopters and crew to cut through the
ice for sealers, locate seals and answer distress calls
like protecting them from being photographed by animal
rights activists. Since the total income from sealing
is only $16 million, the seal hunt is a loss to the economy.
Sealers make 95% of their income from fishing eight months
of the year. The remaining 4 months they are on the dole
supplemented with extra cash from sealing.
REAL REASON FOR KILLING SEALS
Why is the Canadian Government subsidizing a hunt opposed
by Canadians and the international community including
scientists, when it is financial drain on the economy
that threatens to make seals excinct and destroy the ecosystem?
A few hundred years ago cod were so extremely abundant
and seals numbered 30-40 million. Due to human greed and
mismanagement of the cod industry, the DFO allowed overfishing
with drag trawler nets and heavy gear industrial fishing.
Now the cod industry is less than 1% of what it was. After
a 10 year cooling off period, cod have failed to recover
so the DFO needed a scapegoat to appease the frustrated
fishermen and cover up their own mismanagement.
Ignoring advice from scientists, the Canadian government
is pointing to the seal as a scapegoat and fishermen are
swallowing it hook line and sinker. Killing seals won't
make the cod come back. If anything it will make the problem
THE ECOSYSTEM NEEDS SEALS
Seals are beneficial to cod (who comprise only 3% of seals'
diet) and have co-existed harmoniously with cod for over
25 million years. Seals give back more than what they
take (unlike man):-
a) Seal excrement and voluminous worm eggs feed phytoplankton
and zooplankton which turbocharges the food chain and
provides oxygen for fish to breathe.
b) By killing sick and dying fish seals ensure the survival
of the fittest and reduce competition for dwindling food
c) By eating sick and dying fish, since there are few
sharks left to do this, seals help avoid dead zones. If
fish die and are not recycled in the food chain, they
rot at the bottom and the process of bacterial decomposition
removes valuable oxygen from the water causing hypoxia
- dead zones which harbour no life - no plankton, worms,
d) As air breathers they can dive to the bottom and move
nutrients (eggs/spawn) to the surface for plankton.
The seal hunt not only destroys these benefits but creates
problems in the ecosystem which will destroy fishermen's
livelihood in the future. Every year sealers leave 1,000
tons of seal carcasses on the ice which fall to the bottom
and rot, creating a 1,000 sq.k. dead zone in the Gulf
of St Lawrence. Better to have excess seals than excess
The DFO should be more concerned about deficient plankton
than excess seals. Cod is smaller, thinner and sicklier
than ever. That is not the fault of the seal. It is because
of adverse environmental conditions largely caused by
the seal hunt and commercial/industrial fishing. If DFO
implemented what their scientists knew, they would stop
killing all predators, including seals, now. But it seems
they are much more interested in covering up their mismanagement
of the cod fishery.
In 2003 the Pew Institute for Ocean Science issued a report
saying that 90% of the "big fish" (whales, dolphins,
sharks, seals, walruses, turtles) are gone and the rest
of the oceans are seriously overfished. There is a symbiotic
relationship between predators and fish (seals and cod)
and between fish and aquatic plants that has worked beautifully
for millions of years.
With fewer fish in the sea now there is a crisis with
plankton all over the world (40-70% decline). As a result
all the fish are hungry including big fish like seals.
WE NEED TO SAVE SEALS NOW
As a "big fish," seals perform a crucial role
in the ocean's health. The fewer we have, the faster
the ocean will die. How will that affect humans besides
having fewer fish to eat?
The ocean is the largest producer of oxygen in our atmosphere
but a dying ocean (without aquatic plants and animals)
will no longer produce oxygen. Also it will begin offgassing
more CO2 from carbon locked in shells than it uptakes
from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This offgassing
will far exceed CO2 produced from fossil fuel burning.
Humans will have no air to breathe and we will perish
WE CAN DO
Since the Canadian fishing industry is worth $3 billion
and the sealing industry only $16 million, by boycotting
Canadian seafood we can deliver a clear message to the
Canadian Government. Over 25 countries around the world
are boycotting all Canadian fish Some are also boycotting
tourism, all Canadian goods and 2010 Olympics. At any
rate, a $3 billion seafood industry is not worth sacrificing
for an uneconomical, unscientific and unpopular seal hunt.
Since Canadian media is pro-sealing, it's up to the
international community to do something.
Tradition is always used to justify brutality. Tradtions
like sealing, head-hunting, whale killing, cock-fights,
etc have no place in the 21st Century. Violence, brutality,
or cruelty of any kind should never be justified on the
basis of tradition. It's time for this tradition
to die and people around the world demand it!
Sealers are causing nothing but death and wholesale destuction
to not only the seals and the delicate ecological balance
in the sea, but also their own future livelihood as fishermen.
Do you hear the seals calling? Time is running out.. For
more information visit www.seashepherd.org
us for more information on how to boycott Canada and
have the seal 'hunt" banned. Check back soon for
our new Boycott Canada t-shirts, bumper stickers and library
Click here to view poems written by menkit:
I Am The Harp Seal and
1) Sign the online petition
here or download
a hard copy and circulate.
2) Check out Sea Shepherd's suggestions.
3) Set up an information table in your town - educate
people with fliers, collect signatures for the petition
4) Write to Red
Lobster Restaurant chains and let them know how you
feel about them importing Canadian seafood. They refuse
to boycott Canadian fish. Tell them you will not eat there
and you will tell your friends also.
4) Organise radio interviews for Captain Paul Watson.
5) Read "Seal Wars" by Captain Paul Watson, founder
of Sea Shepherd. A most fascinating book! It will have
you laughing, crying screaming and shaking - what a thriller!
More action and drama than any James Bond movie - click
here for the review. Available from Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society
6. Visit other websites: http://www.geocities.com/canadaseals