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 and slideshow. Click here for graphic videos from IFAW, HSUS and SEA 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.

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 prosecution resulted.

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.

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 worse.

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 supplies.

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, fish, oxygen.

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 microbes!

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.

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

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 and and

Email 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 display.

Click here to view poems written by menkit: I Am The Harp Seal and Dark Night.

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 and donations.

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:


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