Pat Briand surveys one seal while another is hauled out of the Little Kaitlynn after the first hunt on Hay Island, a protected wilderness area off Main-a-Dieu, last February.
Animal rights activists, enforcement officers will be watching
C.B. seal hunt begins - Nova Scotia News - TheChronicleHerald.ca (external - login to view)
SYDNEY — The seal hunt officially opened Wednesday with a limited hunt on Hay Island off Cape Breton’s eastern shore.
Capt. Robert Courtney told The Chronicle Herald Tuesday his 20-man crew is getting ready to sail but may be delayed by winter weather and a northerly gale expected over the next day or two.
Provincial regulations don’t permit the use of guns on the island because of its sensitive ecology and the presence of other wildlife species.
"The terrain don’t allow for too much of that," Mr. Courtney said of gun-use on the small island, located about two kilometres east of Main-a-Dieu and Louisbourg.
His crew, like last year, will club the seals before harvesting their pelts. Both this year and last the provincial Fisheries Department requested the seal cull to protect fish stocks around the ecologically sensitive island, which the province has designated a protected wilderness area.
"It’s pretty much business as usual," he said of this week’s opening hunt. "We’re going to have the animal rights people there and whatever happens is going to happen. Hopefully we’ll be able to go about our business and go ahead and have a productive harvest."
Capt. Courtney is expecting to be closely monitored again this year by federal fisheries officials as well as provincial Natural Resources enforcement officers. Last year, the Cape Breton sealers managed to hunt only 1,200 of the 2,500 quota allowed.
This year’s quota has been cut to 2,200 animals. The seals are about eight weeks old, weigh about 45 kilograms and have shed their white coats when they’re harvested.
"The only thing we can wish for is more support from the fishing industry when conducting our harvest," he added, noting fishermen are not saying enough to counter the animal rights activists who portray the hunt as inhumane.
He said the hunt is conducted according to regulations, and although it looks brutal, is considered by scientists to be a humane and effective method of killing.
"There’s a few of us who are trying to do a job and we have all these people against us, but all the people who are in support of us aren’t showing their feelings or contacting politicians to let their feelings (be) known and we need that," Mr. Courtney said.
International and provincial anti-sealing activists confirm they are en route to the hunt.
Bridget Curran, spokeswoman of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, will be among the activists who will document the hunt.
She was there last year when the hunt first opened on the island and left horrified.
"It was the most horrific event I’ve ever witnessed," she said, noting moulted pups were killed and their pelts harvested in front of their mothers.
"We’re appalled at the decision to allow another slaughter of grey seal pups in a protected wilderness area that’s held in trust for the people of Nova Scotia," she said.
"Clearly the environment minister has ignored science and bowed to the sealing industry to allow this illegal, ecologically irresponsible and inhumanely conducted slaughter."
The mothers watched their young die in front of them?
What do you think the Polar Bears do? Twit.
"Seals are notorious for being full of diseases and parasites," she said,
noting the market is drying up. "Seals targeted yield very little recoverable meat."
Federal Fisheries and Oceans are only allowing three observers to actually step foot on the island with hunters, and they must stay 10 metres away from the hunt. Capt. Courtney’s licence permits 20 sealers on the island at a time.
According to the federal government, an estimated 5.5 million seals are swimming in Canadian waters. Up to 6,000 Canadians derive their income from the hunt, most living in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.
In 2006, the landed value of the harp seal hunt was $33 million with an average pelt price of $97, according to the federal government.
In 2007, the hunt was worth $12 million, with "an average price per pelt received by sealers of approximately $55," reads the federal management plan for this year.
It noted that in 2008 the sealers received an average pelt price of $33.