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The seal hunt makes a comeback

The Story

Despite a moratorium on fishing cod for the past three years, stocks have yet to recover. Authorities have already expanded the seal quota in hopes that fewer predators will mean more fish, and they're considering going a step further. Ottawa may allow large commercial vessels back next year; an idea that is supported by sealers who say it's long overdue. According to this CBC News report, there's a market for every part of the seal.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 18, 1995
Guest(s): Wayne Davis, Mike Hearn, Nick Jenkins, Brian Tobin
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Tonda MacCharles
Duration: 2:07

Did You know?

• In July 1995 the federal government estimated there were about five million harp seals in the North Atlantic, up from fewer than two million in the early 1970s.
• Despite the 1995 seal quota of 186,000, the seal catch that year was just one-third that number.
• Before the 1996 season the quota was increased from 186,000 - a number that hadn't changed since 1983 - to 250,000.

•  As the price for seal pelts failed to climb, governments introduced subsidies for seal meat that brought the industry back to life in 1996. But the most lucrative part of the seal was the penis, which was sold to Asian markets where it was believed to enhance sexual performance in men. Male carcasses were worth at least twice as much as females.
• After the introduction of Viagra in 1998, demand for seal penises declined sharply.

• In 1996 there were charges that sealing was not economically viable. An article in New Maritimes said that much of the industry depended on government support, including the seal meat subsidy and funding for the Canadian Sealers Association, an industry lobby group. Garry Troake, an outspoken sealer, said there was no need for an increased seal quota. He noted there were no facilities to process that many animals.

• Troake, whose family had been sealing for over a century, added: "But I don't think [then-federal fisheries minister Brian] Tobin is concerned about sealing being a viable industry...Tobin just wants seals out of the system because of pressure from fishing countries and from fishing communities here."


Pelts, Pups and Protest: The Atlantic Seal Hunt more