It isn't a huge chunk of money, but the provincial government's plan to pump just under $40,000 into Carino Processing Ltd. to identify and target Asian markets is drawing its share of both applause and ire.

The province announced Friday that $38,700 would be spent for the South Dildo-based seal company to "carry out an international branding and marketing strategy for its seal products," with a particular focus on China.

"This funding will help produce a variety of marketing materials that will convey important information about the humane and sustainable nature of provincial sealing activities, and the many high quality products produced," said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Hutchings.

Hutchings said the marketing campaign by Carino will include a website and brochures translated in Mandarin and other languages. The materials will be focused on promoting meat, oil, fur and leather products.

'Markets failed to materialize'

Animal rights groups said the amount of money being invested constitutes a drop in the bucket when it comes to international marketing.

Rebecca Aldworth, with the Humane Society of the United States, told The Fisheries Broadcast that the funding is "yet another futile subsidy to a dying industry."

"More than $30 million was invested in the sealing industry to develop new markets in places like Asia throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and those markets failed to materialize," Aldworth said.

"What the provincial government thinks Carino can do with $39,000 to develop seal markets in China, I'm not sure. China has never materialized as a primary market for the sealing industry, and it never will."

Industry growth

While Aldworth and others suggest the industry is petering out, the numbers seem to tell a different story.

According to DFO landing numbers, just under 90,000 seals were taken this year, up significantly from the 67,000 seals taken in 2012.

The overall value of the industry climbed even more. The combined value for pelts, meat, oil and flippers in 2012 was just about $1.7 million in landed value. This year, the overall worth was north of $2.8 million, almost double the landed value of 2012.       

Aldworth acknowledges the numbers have increased in the past couple of years, but she said that's a direct result of the government investment in the industry, including a series of loans provided to the company by government in recent years to purchase products from harvesters.

"This is artificial life support," she said of the government investment.

"The increase in prices is because the provincial government is putting more money into subsidizing this industry, hence allowing Carino to offer higher prices for those products."

Carino CEO Dion Dakins was not available for an interview on the plan.